084_Global13_CWN

Global 13

commonwealth network The Long View 1965: the Commonwealth comes of age For many, the modern Commonwealth dates from the London Declaration of 1949. This opened the gates of Commonwealth membership to many countries emerging from decolonisation. But it was 16 years later, in 1965, that the crisis over Rhodesia triggered convulsions in the Commonwealth that were almost its undoing, even as an independent Commonwealth Secretariat struggled into life, writesStuart Mole With the break-up of the Federation of pressure from other governments, he re- be treasonable, though he rejected using Rhodesia and Nyasaland in 1963, the way minded them that Rhodesia was self-gov- military force against England’s “kith and was clear for the independence of two of erning as regards internal affairs, and that kin” in Africa. its component parts, each under black ma- the granting of independence was solely a The debate was opened by Arthur Bot- jority rule. In 1964, the territory of North- matter for the British parliament. tomley, the British government’s Common- ern Rhodesia became Zambia and that of The 1965 CPMC, in Marlborough House, wealth Secretary. He sought to counter two Nyasaland formed the state of Malawi. London, saw 18 governments around the key arguments of his predominately African Both joined the Commonwealth. The re- table. Newcomers included Dr Kenneth critics. First, on the call for an immediate maining colony of Southern Rhodesia, led Kaunda of Zambia, Dauda Jawara of The constitutional conference, he argued that by representatives of 200,000 white set- Gambia, Dr Borg Olivier of Malta and Dr “Mr Smith would not come and some Af- tlers, balked at the notion of black major- Hastings Banda of Malawi. The new Brit- rican leaders were restricted so none could ity rule. They feared that enfranchising a ish Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, took the effectively take place.” Second, on the use black population of four million would risk chair. Other notable figures were Sir Rob- of force, he said the Rhodesians “had the plunging the country into chaos. This put ert Menzies, of Australia; Prime Minister loyalty of powerful armed forces”. To use them on a collision course with the British Shastri, of India; Tunku Abdul Rahman, of force “would be a major military undertak- government. Although prepared to grant Malaysia; Field Marshal Ayub Khan, Presi- ing” and, even if successful, chaos might formal independence, British policy be- dent of Pakistan; Dr Milton Obote, Prime result. Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah came “No Independence Before Majority Minister of Uganda; Lester B. Pearson, of riposted: “Essentially, the problem was that African Rule” (NIBMAR). Canada; Dr Kwame Nkrumah, President there existed under the British flag a regime This approach was anticipated by Sir of Ghana; Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, of that did not differ in essentials from the bru- Alec Douglas-Home, then British Prime Nigeria; Sir Albert Margai, of Sierra Leo- tal regime in South Africa.” Minister, at the Commonwealth Prime ne; and Dr Eric Williams, of Trinidad and Emboldened by Britain’s public rejection Ministers Conference (CPMC) in London, Tobago. Rhodesia was the dominant issue, of the use of force and after the failure of in July 1964. “Southern Rhodesia,” he de- with Ian Smith’s Rhodesian Front govern- last-ditch talks, Ian Smith moved quickly. clared “would attain full sovereignty as ment threatening to assume their own sov- On 11 November 1965, Smith and his Rho- soon as her governmental institutions were ereignty without British consent. Harold desian Front cabinet gathered in Salisbury sufficiently representative.” In response to Wilson had warned that such action would to sign the instrument of independence. “The mantle of the pioneers has fallen on our shoulders to sustain civilisation in a primitive country,” declared Smith. The move was quickly denounced by Harold Wilson as an “act of rebellion against the Crown”. Declaring that “the world has tak- en a step backwards”, Wilson announced a limited range of sanctions against Rhode- sia. Further embargoes followed on 1 De- cember; and oil sanctions were introduced on 17 December. At the same time, the Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in consultation with the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Arnold Smith, invited Commonwealth Heads to Lagos for a spe- cial summit on the Rhodesian crisis. At first, the prospects looked unpromising. The Australian Prime Minister, Sir Rob- ert Menzies, refused to attend. So too did the Ghanaian and Tanzanian presidents, with both countries breaking diplomatic relations with Britain. Wilson feared that Robert Mugabe as the Secretary-General of the Zimbabwe African National Union at an early session of the he would be “put in the dock” and had to Rhodesian Constitutional conference at Lancaster House in London be persuaded to come by the Canadians. 84 lwww.global-briefing.org first quarter 2013global


Global 13
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