Zimbabwe celebrates National Unity Day on December 22 to commemorate the signing by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo of the Unity Accord in 1987. The signing of the document ended a nationwide conflict that had existed since 1963 between the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) parties.
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History of National Unity Day
During the Rhodeisan Bush War, the ZAPU was the liberation party, but divided into two groups in 1963. The second group became the ZANU. When Zimbabwe gained independence, the two armies refused to integrate due to mistrust. This led to violence throughout Zimbabwe. In 1980, ZANU won the majority of the seats in an election. The leaders of the two groups, Mugabe and Nikomo worked to end the war, and the signing of the Unity Agreement merged the two parties into one known as ZANU PF. On April 18, 1988, an ordinance was issued that gave a full pardon to dissidents who surrendered before May 31.
Prior to the agreement, many Zimbabwe citizens were suppressed and a few hundred disgruntled members of the former People’s Revolutionary Army waged attacks against civilians in Matabeleland, destroying government installations. This led the Fifth Brigade to execute an estimated 20,000 civilians. The signing of the agreement ended the violence for the most part although disturbances continued into the 1990s. However, the signing of the agreement broadly impacted the entire country as it included churches, leadership, civic groups and other aspects of Zimbabwe.
Traditions and Customs
In celebration of unified Zimbabwe, political speeches from government officials are common. There are also many sporting events held on National Unity Day throughout Zimbabwe as sports are an important part of the culture. The winner of a soccer championship that day receives the Unity Cup.
Political figures also gather at the Great Zimbabwe National Monuments for a celebration. There is often a concert featuring popular musicians and singers to encourage citizens to attend. Political figures also gather at the Great Zimbabwe National Monuments for a celebration. There is often a concert featuring popular musicians and singers to encourage citizens to attend.
Many citizens of Zimbabwe ignore the government sponsored events, believing they are nothing more than propaganda. There are still many difficulties in Zimbabwe, including poor health, poverty and a deep-rooted suspicion of government officials due to significant corruption that existed prior to the signing of the agreement.