Lessons from the Anglo-Boer War Concentration Camps

Anglo-Boer war, SA history. File pic

Anglo-Boer war, SA history. File pic

Published Jan 13, 2024


“Boer children and women are quickly dying in the concentration camps under the cruel British control,” reported the Ottoman military observer Aziz Bey from the Transvaal during the Second Boer War.

Lieutenant Aziz Bey noted the concentration camps as a war crime committed by the British army and submitted his report to the Ottoman Sultan in Istanbul in 1902.

The Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) was more than a conflict between the British Empire and the Boer republics of South Africa; its impact reverberated worldwide at the beginning of the 20th century.

As the Anglo-Boer War escalated, British forces faced difficulties in suppressing the guerrilla warfare tactics employed by Boer commandos. In response, British authorities decided to forcibly relocate Boer civilians into concentration camps. The camps were intended to separate the civilian population from Boer fighters, a strategy that ultimately led to catastrophic consequences.

Amid the brutalities of war, a dark chapter unfolded as civilians, particularly women and children, found themselves confined to concentration camps. Tents provided insufficient shelter, and basic necessities such as food, water and medical care were often inadequate. The harsh South African climate exacerbated the challenges, leading to outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and dysentery.

Children, being the most vulnerable, suffered immensely in the camps. The lack of proper medical facilities and nutritional support resulted in alarming mortality rates among young camp inhabitants. Many children were left orphaned or experienced long-lasting physical and psychological trauma.

The legacy of the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer War is a sombre one. The high mortality rates, especially among children, left a lasting impact on the affected communities. The trauma endured by survivors echoed through generations, shaping the collective memory of the war and contributing to a complex historical narrative.

In contemporary times, the concentration camps of the Anglo-Boer War are recognised as a dark episode in history. South Africa and the global community reflect on this period, acknowledging the human cost of war and the necessity of preserving the memory of those who suffered in the camps.

Efforts to educate future generations about the consequences of conflict aim to prevent the repetition of such tragedies. More informative documents and photographs can be seen at the Anglo-Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein.

This reminds me of the current situation of children and civilians in Palestine, which has been a long-standing issue, shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its various dimensions.

The suffering endured by children and civilians in these camps highlights the human cost of conflict and emphasises the importance of safeguarding the rights and well-being of non-combatants during times of war.

One must ask: Do the children in Palestine grow up amid a protracted conflict, exposed to violence, displacement, and loss? The psychological toll on their well-being is substantial, manifesting in anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

And now, the British are committing another crime 120 years later by fully supporting Israeli genocide in Palestine.


** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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