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Rhodesia’s UDI shocked Britain and the world in 1965

Posted in Africa, Historical articles, History, Politics on Thursday, 8 December 2011

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This edited article about Africa originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 871 published on 23 September 1978.

UDI in Rhodesia, picture, image, illustration

Ian Smith signing the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (inset) as leaders of the Patriotic Front listen to this unwelcome news, by John Keay

Death toll mounts in Rhodesia . . . guerrillas in the streets . . . raiders wipe out village . . . gloom and doom as white power dribbles away. These have been the newspaper headlines recently about a sunny and once happy country in southern Africa. Bordered by Zambia, Mozambique and Botswana, Rhodesia is officially a British colony with internal self-government.

Once it was part of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In 1964, Northern Rhodesia became independent as the Republic of Zambia, and in the same year Nyasaland was granted independence under the name of Malawi.

Most of the people of Zambia and Malawi are black and they are ruled by people of their own race.

However, although most of the people in Rhodesia are black also, the ruling class is white. This was the stumbling block against granting Rhodesia its independence, for the government gave the black people little say in the running of their country. Out of a population of four-and-a-half million, about 300,000 people are white. If all black people were given a vote, the white people would lose their control of the country.

To prevent this, the Prime Minister, Ian Smith, took up his pen on 11th November, 1965, and signed a unilateral (one-sided) declaration of independence, since known as UDI. This was against the wishes of the British government and of the United Nations, which ordered all trading with Rhodesia by outside nations to stop.

Considerable unrest followed with some of the black people starting undercover movements to take control of their country by force. Eventually, efforts were made to evolve a constitution which would give the black people some say in the running of their country.

Leading the guerrilla movement are Joshua Nkomo of the nationalistic Patriotic Front and Robert Mugabe, also of the Patriotic Front. They are determined to continue the struggle until everybody has the right to vote and, hopefully, strife is at an end in Rhodesia.

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