Zimbabwe, country, Africa: Rhodesia, Independence, and White Supremacy

Rhodesia, Independence, and White Supremacy

In late 1922, settlers voted in a referendum to reject proposals for incorporation into the Union of South Africa, electing instead to make Rhodesia a self-governing colony under the British Crown—a status that became effective on Sept. 12, 1923. In 1953, Southern Rhodesia became a member of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (see Rhodesia and Nyasaland, Federation of), despite African objections to a European-dominated federal structure.

In the early 1960s, a new constitution was adopted that provided for limited African political participation; however, the Africans remained unappeased. In 1963 the federation broke up as African majority governments assumed control in Northern Rhodesia and in Nyasaland (renamed Zambia and Malawi, respectively). After the federation's demise, conservative trends hardened in Southern Rhodesia (which now became known simply as Rhodesia).

The government of staunch conservative Ian Smith, who had become Rhodesian prime minister in 1964, proclaimed a unilateral declaration of independence on Nov. 11, 1965. Britain called the proclamation an act of rebellion but refused to reestablish control by force. When negotiations in 1966 failed to produce an agreement, Britain requested UN economic sanctions against Rhodesia. In 1969, Rhodesia voted to become a republic as of Mar. 2, 1970. In 1971, Britain and Rhodesia reached an accord that provided for gradually increased African political participation, but without any guarantee of eventual black majority rule. However, after a British commission's hearings revealed widespread African opposition to the terms, Britain refused to recognize Rhodesian independence on the basis of the accord.

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