Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)

Zimbabwe (Rhodesia)

Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) Present day Zimbabwe was referred to as Southern Rhodesia within the British colonial system, and in 1953 became a part of the Central African Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. This Federation under British rule came to an end in late 1963 when the territory was broken up into three: Northern Rhodesia (which became Zambia in 1964), Nyasaland (which became Malawi in 1964) and Southern Rhodesia, which legally remained within the British Commonwealth.

In the era of decolonialization, Britain adopted a foreign policy called NIBMAR, or No Independence Before Majority African Rule, mandating democratic reforms that placed governance in the hands of the majority black Africans. The governing white minority of Rhodesia, led by Ian Smith, opposed the policy and its implications. In 1965, Smith's regime made a unilateral declaration of independence, or UDI, from the British Commonwealth and held on to its white supremacist ideology. The international community condemned the UDI and the illegal Rhodesian government was the first to experience UN authorised economic sanctions. The sanctions were not however universally adhered to and South Africa most notably continued its economic dealings with Rhodesia.

In Rhodesia, black liberation movements were beginning to arm as a response to UDI. The Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) was founded in 1961 by Joseph Nkomo. However, under Nkomo ZAPU was never sufficiently militant to satisfy its more radical members and this led to a split in 1963 when Rev. Ndabaningi Sithole left it to form the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), the group later led by Robert Mugabe (who took over in 1976). Both groups were banned by the Smith regime and the leadership was either imprisoned or conducted their struggle from exile. The conflict was first active in 1967-1968, followed by a period of low activity. The conflict then became active again from 1972. ZANU and ZAPU fought separately, but for the same goal, namely black majority rule, until 1976 when they formed the joint political and military council, Patriotic Front (PF).

As the conflict between black nationalists and the Smith regime unfolded, the threat of a sub-regional conflict became increasingly eminent. Prior to PF, ZAPU militarily allied itself with the ANC of South Africa and the presence of ANC members in Rhodesia prompted the South African government to send paramilitary troops and mercenaries to aid the Rhodesian government. Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania provided safe havens and financial support to the liberation movements.

The Smith regime began to crumble when South Africa, Rhodesia's ally, was forced by the world powers to exert heavier pressure upon Rhodesia to accept majority rule. In April 1979, following a white referendum which accepted the principle of majority rule, elections were held and the country got a black moderate for prime minister and the name of the territory was changed to Zimbabwe-Rhodesia - yet international recognition was withheld. The PF had not participated in the elections and had continued the armed struggle. An agreement with PF was reached in December 1979, re-elections were held and the economic sanctions were lifted. In the 1980 re-elections, ZANU-PF and Mugabe prevailed as winners. Upon seizure of power, Mugabe reassured that there was room and need for the white minority in the new Zimbabwe.

During the Mozambican civil war, Zimbabwe provided secondary warring support to the government of Mozambique between the years 1985-1990. Zimbabwe also provided troops to former President Kabila's Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998-2001.

Since 1946 Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) has experienced the intra-state and one-sided categories of UCDP organised violence.