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The Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence

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The Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on November 11th 1965 was a highly controversial event which inspires strong sentiments from many perspectives. Unfortunately, the facts are often not presented in a balanced and unbiased fashion. As a result students of Rhodesian/Zimbabwean history often do not fully understand the arguments both for and against UDI. This solution provides an expanation of both positions in an unbiased analysis.

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On November 11th 1965 the Rhodesian Government headed by Ian Smith signed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) from Great Britain. The path chosen by the Rhodesian authorities divided contemporary world opinion with most nations condemning what they viewed as an illegal usurpation of power and outraged supporters of decolonization in Africa. However the Smith regime was not without its supporters on the international stage, several countries including Israel, Portugal and South Africa offered both economic and military support to the new nation. In addition many other countries including the US continued to trade significantly with Rhodesia despite a United Nations embargo.

Even in the 21st century historians with the benefit of hindsight are still debating the justification for UDI. For some it was an attempt by a white supremacist administration to consolidate their hold on power, for others it was a brave act of a people prepared to determine their own destiny and save their nation. My intention in this assignment is to first investigate the justifications advanced in defense of UDI and then compare them with arguments critiquing the decision. In so doing I hope to be able to draw an accurate and balanced conclusion over the events of 1965 in Rhodesia.

I will first examine the principal arguments that have been advanced to defend UDI and the Smith regime in Rhodesia. The first of which is that the declaration of independence from Great Britain protected all Rhodesians regardless of skin color from the chaos and bloodshed that had engulfed many other African nations. Beginning in the early 1950s the British Government pushed forward a policy of decolonization in Africa which caused a great deal of anxiety among the white Rhodesian population.(1)

According to defenders of UDI the fears and angst stemmed not from white supremacy but from the brutal conflicts and totalitarian regimes that arose as a result of in their view a misguided policy. The repressive dictatorships in Ghana and Zambia, religious conflict in Nigeria and the horrific genocide in the Belgian Congo provided tangible examples of what could happen if decisive action was not taken to safeguard democracy in Rhodesia.(2) Ian Smith himself commented that; " The record is clear to observe: British policy for Africa led to one man one vote-once. Thereafter dictatorship ensued, with the resultant chaos and denial of freedom and ...

Solution Summary

An analysis and discussion of the Rhodesian decision to secede from British jurisdiction through the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965.