02:00 GMT07 August 2020
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    The president of Zimbabwe has called for UK authorities to repatriate skulls belonging to freedom fighters killed by British colonizers, which he said are displayed as “war trophies” at the Natural History Museum in London.

    The leaders of the uprising known in Zimbabwe as “First Chimurenga” were killed and beheaded by British troops in the 19th century, and their heads were later transported to London as “war trophies” to “signify victory over and subjugation of the local population,” President Robert Mugabe said during a Heroes Day commemoration in the capital Harare.

    He believes the skulls, which include those of spirit mediums Mbuya Nehanda and Sekuru Kaguvi who were hanged in 1898, are now displayed at the Natural History Museum in London.

    “[K]eeping decapitated heads as war trophies, in this day and age, in a national history museum, must rank among the highest forms of racist moral decadence, sadism and human insensitivity,” Mugabe declared.

    British Embassy representatives in Harare confirmed that the repatriation of Zimbabwean remains had been on the table for discussion for around six months, but did not reveal whether a final decision had been made. The Natural History Museum said it can’t confirm whether any remains in its collection are the skulls Mugabe referenced.

    According to an official diplomatic statement, there are 20,000 human bones in the museum’s collection, and identifying the remains’ origins may take a lot of time.

    “It is not yet clear whether these remains are related to the events, places or people referred to in the president’s speech this week,” a statement released by embassy reads.

    “We await the appointment of the required Zimbabwean experts in order to take this forward.”

    The museum also confirmed it was “considering a request,” the Telegraph reported.

    Mugabe also said that as soon as remains arrive in Zimbabwe, state authorities would ensure they’re buried at sacred shrines across the country.

    Robert Barrett, a leading Zimbabwean historian, says there’s no proof that any skulls belonging to freedom warriors were ever sent to the UK, the Telegraph reported.

    Moreover, some experts say that Zimbabwe officials’ accusations are unreasonable, as that country’s museums hold a few foreign heads of their own.

    "Zimbabwe has a couple of Aboriginal skulls and a Bushman head and these, in many people's belief, should be sent back to Australia and Botswana," the Telegraph quoted one expert as saying.

    The repatriation of human remains to their places of origin is relatively common practice in Europe. For instance, both Germany and Austria have returned human remains used for “research” during the colonial era, to Namibia and South Africa, respectively.

    Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain in 1980.


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    colonization, colonial rule, Robert Mugabe, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Africa
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