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THE government is “frantically working” to repatriate from Britain skulls of indigenous people killed in a 1890s anti-colonialism war, said a Cabinet minister.
However, Robert Barrett, one of the country’s leading historians and archeologists, told the Telegraph that there was no proof that any skulls of Zimbabwe’s early liberation fighters ended up in the UK after they were executed during the first rebellion against British rule in 1896.
Again, there are reportedly no qualified pathologists in Zimbabwe and historians say they wonder who would be sent to the UK to find and validate the so-called Zimbabwean skulls in the UK.
“This is just a diversion. We have been through this several times before now,” said a historian who preferred not to be named.
“Some of us believe that the two most famous people from from 1896, Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi, whose last rites were heard by Jesuit priest Father Rickartts and were then hanged in Salisbury, were buried in secret, so that their graves did not become shrines.”
Still, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo told state media that Zimbabwe will talk to its former colonial ruler over the skulls reportedly held by Britain’s Natural History Museum.
“A team of experts to engage the British on the repatriation process is being constituted and will shortly leave for London to start the ball rolling,” Chombo said.
“The British government … is now eager to have the remains identified for subsequent repatriation to Zimbabwe.”
President Robert Mugabe last Monday described the museum display of the skulls as being “among the highest forms of racist moral decadence.”
Mugabe said the skulls are of veterans of an uprising against British colonizers.
Known as the First Chimurenga, or First Liberation War, the 1893-1896 war pitted locals using spears and bows and arrows against white settlers with guns.
“We will repatriate them, but with bitterness, questioning the rationale behind decapitating them,” said Mugabe in a speech on Heroes’ Day, which honours fighters against white minority rule.
The president’s wife, Grace, on Thursday said the display of human skulls is more objectionable than the recent trophy killing of Cecil the lion.
“They were beheaded and their heads are displayed in Britain as war trophies. These people who displayed trophies are mourning Cecil. They are hypocrites.
“Who are they to come and tell us about our animals?” said the first lady on state television.
Britain’s Natural History Museum, in a statement Friday, said it has 20,000 human remains and has carried out “significant repatriations” adding “it is not yet clear whether any remains in the museum collection are related to the events, places or people referred to in President Mugabe’s speech.” by Associated Press