Gukurahundi Research Project

Dr Cameron is PI of an ongoing research project, which explores the history of state perpetrated mass atrocities in the newly independent state of Zimbabwe between 1982-1985. The target of the gross violations of human rights were the minority ethnic group known as the Ndebele in the Provinces of Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands, a sequence of events commonly referred to as Gukurahundi.


Relevant publications

Cameron, H. (2017). The Matabeleland massacres: Britain’s wilful blindness. The International History Review, 40(1), 1-19

Abstract: This article explores an episode of post-colonial state violence in the newly independent Zimbabwe, namely state-sanctioned atrocities by the army unit known as Fifth Brigade, perpetrated against the Ndebele of Matabeleland and Midlands region. This episode of political and ethnic violence that occurred between 1983 and 1987 is referred to as both the Matabeleland Massacres and Gukurahundi. Members of the British government in Zimbabwe, which included a British Military Advisory Training Team (BMATT) on the ground, were intimately aware of the violence that resulted in the death of between 10,000 and 20,000 people. This article analyses official British and US government communications between the British High Commission, Harare, and the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Cabinet Office, the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Defence, London, as well as between the US Department of State and the US Embassy in Harare. Analysis of the documents dated between January and March 1983 sheds a critical new lens on Gukurahundi, establishing what knowledge was available to the British and US governments about the persistent and relentless atrocities taking place; the diplomatic approaches pursued by both governments in response; and their rationale for same. The hitherto unavailable material presented here was obtained by Freedom of Information requests to various British Government offices and to the US Department of State. Analysis establishes that the British High Commission, Harare, had detailed knowledge of events unfolding in Matabeleland from an early stage of Gukurahundi, yet senior members of BMATT and the British diplomatic team in Harare, in contrast to their US counterparts, were consistent in their efforts to minimise the magnitude of Fifth Brigade atrocities. That the British government chose to adopt a policy of wilful blindness towards the atrocities undoubtedly constituted naked realpolitik.

Link to full article HERE

Cameron, H. (2018). State-organized starvation: a weapon of extreme mass violence in Matabeleland South, 1984. Genocide Studies International, 12(1), 26-47

Abstract: This paper explores an episode of state led extreme mass violence in Zimbabwe, commonly referred to as Gukurahundi, with a specific focus on the second phase of the campaign in Matabeleland South in early 1984. During this phase, the state targeted both the political structure of the main political opposition party of ZAPU, as well as the minority Ndebele ethnic group from which ZAPU drew much of its grassroots level political support. Between February and April 1984, the Govern- ment of Zimbabwe used food as a political and military weapon of coercion, torture, punishment, and death against the Ndebele people of Matabeleland South. Analysis of (a) transcripts of inter- views with survivors and witnesses, and (b) official government communications, between the US Department of State and the American embassy in Harare during 1984, obtained by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, sheds a critical new lens on the policy of starvation and punishment. The original sources compiled in this study provide evidence of: (1) the suffering of the innocent Ndebele victims of state crime, (2) the knowledge that was available to the Western diplomatic community, (3) the response of the US government to the atrocities, and (4) the response of the Government of Zimbabwe to the atrocities. This study concludes that the deprivation of food supplies, which formed a significant element of this state campaign, deliberately brought between 350,000 and 400,000 people to the extreme edge of starvation in contravention of international law. Corroborating reports from credible sources evidences that these Zimbabwean state crimes resulted in the death of men, women, and children from starvation and dehydration as well as through injuries and illness exacerbated by hunger and malnutrition induced by the government’s strict curfew and forced starvation.

Link to full article HERE

Cameron, H. (2023). Operation Gukurahundi: A Policy of Genocidal Rape and Sexual Violence in Zimbabwe 1983–1984. State Crime Journal, 13(1).

Abstract: The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda’s historic judgment in the Akayesu Judgment established that rape and other forms of sexual violence can be an actus reus of genocide as defined by the United Nations Convention on Genocide Article II. The Akayesu Judgmenttherefore provides a logical framework to analyze a hidden episode of extreme post-colonial state violence in the newly independent Zimbabwe, namely a state policy of mass atrocities in Matabeleland and parts of the Midlands, targeting the minority Ndebele ethnic group during Operation Gukurahundi. The specific foci of this study are the patterns of mass rape and sexual violence in the military operation between 1983 and 1984 in Matabeleland. Drawing on 36 in-depth interviews with survivors from throughout Matabeleland, this study provides a critical new lens on Operation Gukurahundi through its identification of uniform systematic patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence across Matabeleland. The article concludes that the patterns of rape and other forms of sexual violence identified in this study are indicative of a state policy of systematic genocidal rape between 1983 and 1984, deployed with the intent and effect to destroy, in part, a specific ethnic group, namely the minority Ndebele of Zimbabwe, thereby fulfilling every condition of the Genocide Convention principles of genocide.

Link to full article HERE