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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Organised violence and torture and its effects on children
    Research and Advocacy Unit
    July 26, 2013

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    Executive summary

    The shift away from undemocratic methods of gaining and maintaining political power has led many African autocrats to seek electoral strategies for keeping power. Recent research indicates that one-fifth of elections in Africa are violent, and, in many cases, this violence occurs before elections take place (usually by incumbents): Zimbabwe, for example, has shown this for the 2000 Parliamentary elections, the 2002 Presidential election, and the 2008 Presidential re-run. In other cases, violence that occurs after elections, is generally more violent than pre-election violence, and is mostly precipitated by the challengers.

    Thus, our understanding about political violence becomes more nuanced. There is violence that takes place in countries but falls short of so-called “armed conflict.” Such violence will be more short-lived than would be necessary to be defined as “armed conflict”, but can have very profound effects on citizens and a country as a whole.

    One of the more disturbing features of elections in Zimbabwe has been the use of schools as both places where political campaigning takes place and even their use as so-called “bases” for militia activity. By implication, the use of schools as places of political activity (and even worse as places of violence) will involve children in witnessing events harmful to their psychological and moral development, and there is worrying evidence to this effect in Zimbabwe.

    The concerns about schools as places that become targets in armed conflict has now attracted international concern with the establishment of the Global Campaign to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). This campaign, to which the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) is a participating member, has been raising international opinion about the dangers faced by children and teachers during armed conflict. This initiative is strongly bolstered by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1998 of 2011.

    This desktop study is an attempt to at least quantify the risks using data from the past decade in Zimbabwe. It was not possible to provide any estimate of the consequences of these risks for children, but at least specifying the probable risks does allow some estimate of the scale of the needed response for Zimbabwean children.

    The Political Violence Monthly Reports of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum were examined for cases of political violence where children were involved. This involved looking at all the reports produced between July 2001 and December 2008. Three categories of cases were developed:

    • Those where children were specifically identified as being victims of or direct witnesses to political violence;
    • Those cases where violence occurred at schools, involving violence against teachers, violence taking place at schools, or schools being used as “bases”;
    • Those cases where violent attacks took place at citizens’ homes, where the implication is that children may have been involved, but children are not mentioned specifically.

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