Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Rhodesian UDI

The descendants of colonialist settlers in what is now Zimbabwe, led by the self-mythologising Ian Smith, declared independence unilaterally fifty years ago today. It was to be another 24 years, followed by a vicious civil war, before majority African rule was established.

In a Liberal Assembly of 1966, the then leader Jeremy Thorpe said:

"Fellow Liberals, we are now writing the last major chapter in a long Imperial history: are we to allow it to be said, that at that stage we destroyed the multi-racial Commonwealth which we have created, that we have appeared to reverse our beliefs in a non-racial society, that we abdicated our responsibilities to the 4 million Africans living in Rhodesia, all because we were too weak in resources and determination to prevent 2000,000 people from setting up illegally a political system, based on racial discrimination in its every aspect? I cannot believe that that is the role of Britain and I would only say this, if we fail to end this rebellion, if we are set on that course, then we shall not only lose the respect of the world but far worse, we shall lose our own self respect as well."

He went on to recommend to the Labour government instigating high-level bombing of Rhodesian railways and, if I recall correctly, connections to the Kariba hydro-electric scheme. The sobriquet "Bomber Thorpe" attached to him as a result by prime minister Harold Wilson and the media took a long time to shed. Wilson chose to take the sanctions route. This did not bring the speedy end to UDI which he proclaimed.

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