Unilateral Declaration of Independence (Rhodesia)

From Academic Kids

The Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) was declared on November 11, 1965 by the white minority regime of Ian Smith, whose Rhodesian Front party opposed moves by the United Kingdom towards black majority rule in the then British colony. It was a declaration of independence from the United Kingdom. The move was condemned as illegal by the British government, as well as the Commonwealth and the United Nations (UN). Rhodesia reverted to de facto British control for a brief period in 1980, before becoming fully independent as Zimbabwe in the same year.


After the Declaration the UN moved to impose sanctions on the rebel colony. The Governor of Rhodesia, Sir Humphrey Gibbs, formally dismissed Smith and his cabinet for what was deemed "an act of treason against the United Kingdom". This action, not the UDI, was the only internationally recognised action by an official in Rhodesia at the time.

The apartheid regime in South Africa continued to give economic support to Rhodesia, but did not extend official recognition to the new state. Portugal, then the colonial power in neighbouring Mozambique, gave economic support, including access to Mozambique's sea ports, but following the change of regime in Lisbon, Mozambique became independent under the Marxist Frelimo regime of Samora Machel. This was a severe blow to the Smith regime, militarily as well as economically, as Machel was an ally of Robert Mugabe and allowed ZANU a base there to mount incursions into Rhodesia.

Smith sought to make Rhodesia a Commonwealth Realm, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state, but Sir Humphrey Gibbs, still internationally recognised as the only legal authority in Rhodesia, refused to recognise Smith's authority. Smith responded by ignoring Sir Humphrey and appointing a government minister, Clifford Dupont, as "Officer Administrating the Government", as an interim head-of-state position. However, in order to distance Rhodesia from its colonial master, Smith declared Rhodesia a republic in 1970, with Dupont as the first President, and Sir Humphrey was expelled from Rhodesia. It was hoped that by severing constitutional links with Great Britain, the country would end any ambiguity about its status, gain diplomatic recognition, and economic sanctions would cease, but this did not materialise.

Missing image

President of Rhodesia Flag 1970-1979
Rhodesian Flag 1968-1979

A new national flag was adopted in 1968 to replace the British colonial ensign, but Rhodesia had no national anthem until 1974, when it adopted one called Rise O Voices of Rhodesia, to the tune of the Ode to Joy of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Following the declaration of a republic in 1970, the following words were written, but no tune was ever composed:

Onward Rhodesia
Go forward with pride
Glory your beacon and honour your guide
May you shine brighter yet,
May your star never set,
Onward, onward, Rhodesia

The 1969 Constitution created a bicameral parliament, with a Senate and a House of Assembly, both of which had white majorities. Unlike South Africa, Rhodesia's black African majority had representation in parliament, but the separate franchise was restricted to those who owned property, and also tribal chiefs, many of whom were regarded as puppets of the white regime.

In 1978, an Internal Settlement was signed between the Smith regime, and the African nationalist parties, the United African National Council (UANC), led by Bishop Abel Muzorewa, and ZANU Ndonga, led by Ndabaningi Sithole. However, this did not involve the two main parties in exile, Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led by Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU), led by Joshua Nkomo. Consequently, it was rejected by the international community.

In April 1979, the first multiracial elections were held in Rhodesia, which saw Abel Muzorewa become the first black Prime Minister of what was now called Zimbabwe Rhodesia. However, under the Internal Settlement, whites retained control of the country's judiciary, civil service, police and armed forces, as well as having a quarter of the seats in parliament reserved for them. While this was welcomed by the British government of Margaret Thatcher, opposition from the rest of the Commonwealth, meant that Britain did not recognise the new state.

In December 1979, following multi-party talks at Lancaster House in London, Britain resumed control of the rebel colony, and with the help of observers from other Commonwealth countries, saw the first free elections. The Republic of Zimbabwe came into being on April 18, 1980.

Full text

Whereas in the course of human affairs history has shown that it may become necessary for a people to resolve the political affiliations which have connected them with another people and to assume amongst other nations the separate and equal status to which they are entitled:

And whereas in such event a respect for the opinions of mankind requires them to declare to other nations the causes which impel them to assume full responsibility for their own affairs:

Now therefore, we, the Government of Rhodesia, do hereby declare:

That it is an indisputable and accepted historic fact that since 1923 the Government of Rhodesia have exercised the powers of self-government and have been responsible for the progress, development and welfare of their people;

That the people of Rhodesia having demonstrated their loyalty to the Crown and to their kith and kin in the United Kingdom and elsewhere through two world wars, and having been prepared to shed their blood and give of their substance in what they believed to be the mutual interests of freedom-loving people, now see all that they have cherished about to be shattered on the rocks of expediency;

That the people of Rhodesia have witnessed a process which is destructive of those very precepts upon which civilization in a primitive country has been built, they have seen the principles of Western democracy, responsible government and moral standards crumble elsewhere, nevertheless they have remained steadfast;

That the people of Rhodesia fully support the requests of their government for sovereign independence but have witnessed the consistent refusal of the Government of the United Kingdom to accede to their entreaties;

That the government of the United Kingdom have thus demonstrated that they are not prepared to grant sovereign independence to Rhodesia on terms acceptable to the people of Rhodesia, thereby persisting in maintaining an unwarrantable jurisdiction over Rhodesia, obstructing laws and treaties with other states and the conduct of affairs with other nations and refusing assent to laws necessary for the public good, all this to the detriment of the future peace, prosperity and good government of Rhodesia;

That the Government of Rhodesia have for a long period patiently and in good faith negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom for the removal of the remaining limitations placed upon them and for the grant of sovereign independence;

That in the belief that procrastination and delay strike at and injure the very life of the nation, the Government of Rhodesia consider it essential that Rhodesia should attain, without delay, sovereign independence, the justice of which is beyond question;

Now therefore, we the Government of Rhodesia, in humble submission to Almighty God who controls the destinies of nations, conscious that the people of Rhodesia have always shown unswerving loyalty and devotion to Her Majesty the Queen and earnestly praying that we and the people of Rhodesia will not be hindered in our determination to continue exercising our undoubted right to demonstrate the same loyalty and devotion, and seeking to promote the common good so that the dignity and freedom of all men may be assured, do, by this proclamation, adopt enact and give to the people of Rhodesia the constitution annexed hereto;

God Save The Queen

Given under Our Hand at Salisbury this eleventh day of November in the Year of Our Lord one thousand nine hundred and sixty five.

(Signed by Prime Minister Ian Smith, Deputy Prime Minister Clifford Dupont, and the other Ministers of the Government of Rhodesia)


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