Potential Hot Spots: October 28, 2002


Another genocide may be brewing, this time in Zimbabwe. At issue is a century old grudge the majority (73 percent) northern Mashona tribes have against the Matabele (16 percent of the population) in the south. In the 19th century, the Matabele were a splinter Zulu group that fled to the north while the Zulu empire was forming. The Matabele were better fighters than the Mashona and pushed them north until European colonists arrived and put an end to the fighting. But the grudges remain a Mashona politician could always get attention by talking about "sending the Matabele back where they came from" (South Africa.) In the 1980s, the Mashona run government imported North Korean military advisors and weapons and undertook a "punitive campaign" in the south. The Matabele had been protesting how the Mashona politicians were running things. After up to 7,000 Matabele activists had been killed, things settled down. 

But president-for-life Robert Mugabe (a Mashona) wants to hit the Matabele again, and this time with a final solution. Some of Mugabe's Mashona followers have been urging, for years, that the Mashona drive the Matabele out of Zimbabwe. Mugabe is in the process of driving white farmers out of the country (which has already caused a major famine in a nation that has fed itself and exported food for decades) and needs another crusade to avoid having to face up to the damage already done. Mugabe's government has been corrupt, and the Matabele are unhappy because they get nothing while the Mashona do. Driving the Matabele out would enable Mugabe to distribute their land to his followers. 

However, the Mashona might not do all that well against the Matabele without outside help, and the North Koreans are busy with their own famine at the moment. And the South African Zulus across the border might feel obliged to help out their kinsmen. Who's going to stop them? The South African government (run by non-Zulus who don't particularly like the Zulus) is showing little interest the growing catastrophe in Zimbabwe, even though more starving refugees are fleeing across the border into South Africa. 

Unlike Rwanda, where the Tutsi minority lived among the majority Hutu, the Matabele have their own territory which they might be inclined to defend vigorously. 


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