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Global 13

General, the Canadian diplomat Arnold Smith, his wings even before they had begun to beat. agreed. commonwealth networkThe Long ViewChairman. The Jamaican Prime Minister readilySmith had to endure other attempts to clip Taking the minutes The first-ever Commonwealth-Secretary had been in office for only a few months. His There was a move to diminish his diplomatic Smith won the early battles and gradually election, at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers status; the attempt to persuade him to accept established the Secretariat. But periodic tensions Conference of June 1965, had also seen the a Letter of Appointment from between governments and their birth of the Commonwealth Secretariat. No the British Prime Minister; the Secretary-General remained. longer would the Commonwealth be run out proposal that his office should Smith’s successor as Secretary- of the British government’s Commonwealth be in an obscure corner of General was Shridath Ramphal. Relations Office (CRO). At last, there would be a Marlborough House, rather than In 1977, the Commonwealth genuinely independent intergovernmental body, above its splendid Fine Rooms. summit was in London, with the responsible for Commonwealth coordination Now Smith contemplated Retreat for Heads at the Scottish and consultation, and administering its growing his very first Commonwealth golfing resort of Gleneagles. It programmes. Or so many thought. meeting as Secretary-General was, Ramphal admitted, “my first But old habits die hard. At the 1965 conference, – Finance Ministers in Jamaica excursion into quiet diplomacy”. Britain had tried to block Smith’s election, in September 1965. Worried But quiet it was not. There proposing the appointment of a British ex-colonial Jamaican officials were in touch. Arnold Smith were bruising exchanges with governor on an interim basis. At the same CRO officers had advised Jamaica the pugnacious New Zealand meeting, the Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert to place the SG at a small table in the middle of Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, over the vexed Menzies, warned: “If the Secretariat sought to the larger horseshoe table at which ministers question of apartheid in sport. But Ramphal gave invade the field of policy and executive action or would sit. Smith demurred. He had no intention as good as he got, drawing from an exasperated trespass on the rights of individual governments, of being treated like “a steno-typist”. He Muldoon the memorable response: “Your job is it would do great harm to the Commonwealth.” insisted on sitting at the main table, beside the to keep the minutes!” President Kaunda of Zambia did not attend, prevent the shipment of oil, plentiful sup- Arnold Smith admitted that it was “a severe and his representative hinted that a Zam- plies were beginning to flow across the Beit testing time for the Commonwealth”. In the bian withdrawal from the Commonwealth Bridge between South Africa and Rhodesia. end, a bargain was struck. Mandatory sanc- was possible. The next CPMC was scheduled for tions were pursued though to little ultimate In such fraught circumstances, 18 Com- London in June 1966, if the rebellion had effect (with British companies themselves monwealth governments gathered for two not ended by then. However, Wilson (re- later revealed to be complicit in sanctions- days of talks in the Federal Palace Hotel in elected in March with a substantial Labour busting). Britain made a number of fruitless Victoria Island, Lagos. Leaders condemned majority) hoped to show greater results by attempts to reach a negotiated settlement the Rhodesian Unilateral Declaration of In- postponing the meeting until September. with Smith, while Commonwealth gov- dependence (UDI), founded as it was on a ernments sustained the focus on majority “political system based on racial discrimi- The colony of Southern rule. “Holding the line against sell-out,” nation”. Notwithstanding their acknowl- remarked Arnold Smith, “was as difficult edgement that the primary responsibility Rhodesia feared that as pulling on a greasy rope in a tug of war.” they insisted that the matter was of “wider enfranchising a black before the Lancaster House AgreementIn the end, it was to be another 13 years for ending the rebellion lay with Britain, concern to Africa, the Commonwealth and population of 4 million gave birth to Zimbabwe in 1980. The use of the world”. They clashed once more on force – by Africans rather than Europeans – Britain’s failure to use force, but having would risk plunging the became inevitable and cost many lives and been assured by Harold Wilson that sanc- much blood. It opened the way for an even colony into chaos. This tions would topple the regime in “weeks greater struggle for the ending of apartheid rather than months”, they resolved to es- put them on a collision in South Africa. tablish a Sanctions Committee to monitor But the events of 1965–66 were a pro- progress (with a view to seeking manda- course with the British found test for a Commonwealth that no long- tory UN sanctions if necessary). They also government er could be the wholly owned subsidiary of agreed a special programme to help train the British government. With its Secretary- Rhodesian Africans. General and Secretariat, its consultations This last proposal arose out of a recom- With yet more new members around its outside London and its belief that – despite mendation tabled by the Secretary-General. elegant conference table, Marlborough Britain – the organisation could advance, the The use of this procedure was a first for the House was beginning to burst at the seams. Commonwealth had come of age. SG, as was the role of the Secretariat in co- Rhodesia consumed four days of plenary organising the summit. discussion and five restricted sessions (with Stuart Mole is Senior Research Fellow of Despite Wilson’s assurances that sanc- only Heads and the Secretary-General the Institute of Commonwealth Studies tions would quickly take effect, it soon present). Tempers flared. The Zambian For- at London University and former Director became apparent that this was woefully eign Minister branded Wilson a “racialist”, of the Secretary-General’s Office in the optimistic. Even as Britain enforced a na- while Wilson complained that “Britain is Commonwealth Secretariat val blockade of Beira, in Mozambique, to being treated as if it were a bloody colony.” globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l85


Global 13
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