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07 Jun 2007 07:30
Edinburgh University stripped Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday of his honourary degree after reviewing evidence of a tribal massacre soon after he took power.
The decision by the university’s Senate comes after years of campaigning by students and Scottish lawmakers.
Three senior professors recommended that the degree be revoked after reviewing evidence about Zimbabwe in the early 1980s, including the massacre of at least 20Â 000 people in Matabeleland, which the university says was not available when the degree was conferred.
The Zimbabwe army’s North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade are accused of slaughtering the civilians, who were accused of harbouring rebels of the minority Ndebele tribe loyal to former opposition leader Joshua Nkomo.
Most Fifth Brigade soldiers were of Mugabe’s majority Shona tribe.
“The university has been acutely aware of ongoing developments in Zimbabwe,” a spokesperson for the university said while speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the institution’s policy. He described the move as “unprecedented”.
Mugabe (83) will be told of the decision in writing and be requested to return the certificate he received for “services to education in Africa” in 1984.
“When he was given this degree, the West thought he was a saint, but all the time his people knew he was a monster, a tyrant and a killer,” said Jaison Matewu, organising secretary for the United Kingdom branch of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Zimbabwe’s opposition party.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons earlier in that day that he “fully endorsed” the decision to revoke the degree.
Police arrest demonstrators
Meanwhile, police in the city of Bulawayo on Wednesday arrested 15 rights
activists demonstrating for wider civil society representation in South African-brokered talks on Zimbabwe.
The demonstrators, all of them members and supporters of Women of Zimbabwe Arise (Woza), were arrested in central Bulawayo shortly after their march began.
One group were beaten and dispersed by riot police.
The other group managed to march for two blocks before being met by riot police and beaten, Woza said in the statement.
A group of between 15 and twenty people was rounded up and taken to the central police station, it added.
Several people are being treated for beatings they received at the hands of police, Woza said. Police have not confirmed the arrests.
Members of Zimbabwean civil society are demanding inclusion in any talks that take place between Mugabe’s party and the MDC.
In March, South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki was appointed by the Southern African Development Community to try to resolve political problems in Zimbabwe following an escalation in political tensions ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary polls. - Sapa-AP, Sapa-DPA
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