Friday, May 16, 2014

African terrorists kidnapping schoolkids - 1973 version

In "Nigerian schoolgirls: we've seen this movie before -- literally!", I said the saga of the kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls by Boko Haram -- did I mention they're militant Islamists? -- reminded me of an incident depicted in The Gods Must Be Crazy.

Agent 3, who lived in that part of the world for some years, tells me I could have done much better. The plot of the 1980 movie, he says, drew heavily on an actual kidnapping on the night of 5 July 1973. ZANLA terrorists fighting for the "liberation" of Rhodesia abducted 292
people -- almost the same number as were taken in Nigeria -- mainly children, from St. Albert’s Mission near Centenary.

Click here to read the Wikipedia article on the Rhodesian Bush War. Under what the black terrorists called the "white settler regime", Rhodesia was the second-most prosperous country in sub-Saharan Africa, after the Republic of South Africa, which coincidentally was also run by the white minority. Many Rhodesians were concerned that "majority rule" would bring chaos, as resulted when the Belgian Congo was decolonized in 1960.

The Bush War involved counter-insurgency operations by the Rhodesian Security Forces against two rival terrorist gangs, the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and the Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA). In July 1973, ZANLA cadres, trained and supported by the Maoist Frelimo forces in Mozambique, attacked the school at St. Albert's Mission between Centenary and Mount Darwin in July 1973 and abducted 292 pupils and staff, whom they force-marched north into the Zambezi valley towards their base in Mozambique. This true story is almost exactly that told in The Gods Must be Crazy.

The terrorists were intercepted by the Rhodesian Security Forces, albeit without the assistance of the movie's bumbling but brave biologist. All but eight of the children and staff were recovered. Similar abductions were repeated over the following years and the security forces found themselves increasingly unable to prevent them.

The captured schoolchildren would be marched to ZANLA bases in Mozambique where they would undergo "political 're-education'" and guerrilla training. No mention is made of the girls being forced into marriage with the guerrillas, or worse, but unlike in Nigeria, the ZANLA terrorists were not Islamic fundamentalists.

Further reading: The St. Albert's Mission kidnapping is mentioned along with other incidents which occurred in Rhodesia in the months of July, 1890 through 1978, in the July 2013 edition of Contact! Contact!, a publication of the Rhodesian Services Association Inc. The online newsletter has all kinds of interesting factoids, photos, and Rhodie stuff for sale, so if you (like Agent 3) have some connection with the great country that has now become the far-from-great Zimbabwe, check it out.

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