The Enduring Effects of Forced Resettlement:
Zimbabwe’s Protected Villages

During civil war, governments and rebels alike use forced resettlement as a strategy of social control. Through large-scale villagization programs, governments aim to deprive rebels of support and undermine local informal governance structures that aid guerrillas. Similarly, rebels use forced displacement and resettlement to create ethnic majorities and solidify civilian support in key territories. How do such strategies of forced displacement affect civilian political life after the conclusion of conflict?

This paper examines the use of Protected Villages (PVs) in the Zimbabwe Liberation War, which took root in the early 1960s as a political movement before escalating into a civil war between 1972 and 1979. Protected Villages — a Rhodesian counterinsurgency strategy of villagization — were fenced and guarded villages built across the eastern parts of rural Zimbabwe between 1974 and 1978. Using archival data, I map pre-war to current-day administrative divisions to determine populations affected by PVs during war. I then leverage both the temporal and geographical variation of PVs to identify the ways in which such forced resettlement programs affect a community’s socio-political life even decades after the end of conflict.

Digitized map of pre-war administrative divisions, post-war administrative divisions, and location of wartime Protected Villages.

Digitized map of pre-war administrative divisions, post-war administrative divisions, and location of wartime Protected Villages.