West should come clean on atrocities committed in Africa

Tirivanhu Kateera

The last week of May, 2021 opened a new chapter in the history of Africa-West relations. Some Western countries seemingly admitted that somehow they wronged Africa at some point, hence there was need to be forgiven and to compensate victims or those they wronged.

French President, Emmanuel Macron recognised his country’s responsibility in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide; while Germany Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas announced on 27 May, 2021 that his country will give Namibia 1.1 billion euros (US$1.3 billion) over a 30-year period for projects to help communities of descendants of the people that Berlin massacred between 1904 and 1908, when Germany callously ruled the Southern African country.

Germany also asked the victims for forgiveness and some in Windhoek showed interest to accept the apology.

In a visit to Kigali on 27 May 2021, French president told journalists that the country requested Rwanda for forgiveness over its role in the 1994 killings, but without offering an official apology.

In 1994, about eight hundred thousand (800 000) ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slayed by Hutu militias in 100 days of bloodshed that began in April of the same year. The annihilations ended in July 1994, when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), fronted by the current President Paul Kagame, seized control of the country in a “coup.”

Since then, most people in Africa and elsewhere are convinced that France and other Western countries such as Belgium fuelled the Rwanda Genocide in one way or the other or at least they had everything at their disposal to stop the genocide, but instead chose to publicly fold their hands and watch as the exterminations unfolded.

Macron acknowledged that France did not listen to the country’s intelligence that warned it about the impending massacre in Rwanda and stood de facto by a “genocidal regime”.

“Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities,” he said, adding that, however, France “was not an accomplice” to the genocide.

President Kagame commented: “His (Macron) words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth”.

In Namibia, the settlement reached by the Namibian and German governments over the latter’s 1904-1908 holocaust of 75 percent of OvaHerero and Nama people  in  the 20th  century has “divided opinion” in SADC.

Be that as it may, history has been made and observers are keenly watching the space to see if other Western countries that committed heinous atrocities in African countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa will be remorseful and do the right thing.

Examples of massacres that quickly come to mind where thousands of Zimbabweans lost lives are the Nyadzonya (August, 1976) and Chimoio (November 1977) Camps both in Mozambique; Mkushi and Freedom Camps, both in Zambia (October 1978). All the massacres were carried out by Rhodesian forces fronted by Ian Smith and his allies.

At the four camps, thousands of Zimbabweans including refugees, children and women died and buried mostly in mass graves in the respective countries.

Other atrocities were committed on Zimbabwean soil. According to the National Museums and Monument of Zimbabwe, Chibondo Genocide in Mt Darwin is one example where thousands of innocent Zimbabweans were maimed and thrown in a mine shaft by Rhodesian forces.

In any case, atrocities in Zimbabwe continue to this day in the form of illegal sanctions that were imposed on the country.

The passage of time will tell whether those responsible for the above massacres will own up and ask for forgiveness; return skulls of our heroes such as Mbuya Nehanda, Sekuru Kaguvi, Chingaira Makoni, Chinengundu Mashayamombe, Mapondera, Mashonganyika and Chitekedza Chiwashira and offer compensation to the genocide victims’ descendants.

The skulls, mainly taken as trophies, are believed to be lying in British History Museum.

It is hoped that they will also return artefacts such as the Zimbabwean bird forcibly taken from the country.

The debate whether compensation and apologies are enough will be a subject for another day, for now let us wait to hear what Britain and its cronies will say about the atrocities committed both in and outside Zimbabwe.