Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Jack C. Plano

Second Advisor

George Klein

Third Advisor

Ernest E. Rossi

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access



On November 11, 1965, Ian Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia, proclaimed his country's unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Great Britain. His proclamation set off a storm of protest around the world from the United States to the Soviet Union. The criticisms were generally the same: the white minority government of Rhodesia was accused of illegally seizing power. Although most countries felt that the Rhodesian UDI was a British colonial problem, leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia convened in Nairobi , Kenya, to discuss the potential need of taking matters out of British hands. The issue to them was more than Rhodesia's illegal declaration of independence from Britain. It had racial overtones as well for the Smith government was one of the last remnants of white western colonialism in Africa.

The UDI was a turning point in Rhodesian and world affairs. It legitimized white minority rule, and it de-emphasized the issue of black majority rights. Today in 1978, the situation is much the same. Britain has not recognized Rhodesia as an independent state, and the white minority government of Ian Smith still maintains tight control over the vast African majority.

I have selected the Rhodesian crisis for my Master's Thesis in Political Science because it focuses on a number of important issues in international affairs: human rights and majority rule; colonialism and Third World African independence; the effectiveness of the United Nations as an international peacekeeper; and major power politics. It is these issues with which I will be concerned in the following pages.

The major purpose in this paper is twofold: (1) to analyze the role of the United Nations in trying to resolve the Rhodesian crisis 1965-1978 , concluding with an assessment of its successes, failures, and effectiveness or ineffectiveness as an international mediator; and (2) to assess the impact of other external and internal pressures on the Smith regime, including the protracted guerrilla war in Rhodesia and the possibility of major power confrontation in southern Africa.

In analyzing the Rhodesian crisis from 1965 to the present, I will divide the thesis into two parts. Part I will deal with the role of the United Nations in the Rhodesian issue. Within this section, Chapter I will give a brief background to the crisis and will explain the constitutional problem of illegal independence faced by Britain. Chapter II will explain how the Rhodesian crisis attained international dimensions. The human rights issue of majority rule, the United Nations concern with international peace and security, and the organization's eventual decision to implement economic sanctions against Rhodesia will be examined. Chapter III will deal with the actual implementation of United Nations sanctions. Chapter IV will focus on the effectiveness and ineffectiveness of economic sanctions. Chapter V will conclude with an evaluation of the role of the United Nations as an effective and/or ineffective mediator in Rhodesia.

Whereas Part I will focus on the role of the United Nations and the use of economic sanctions in trying to resolve the Rhodesian crisis. Part II will concentrate on related dimensions of the problem: the impact of an escalating guerrilla war on the viability of the Smith regime; the role of primary and secondary actors in the outcome of the crisis; and the place of southern Africa (Rhodesia) in contemporary world affairs. Chapter VI will emphasize the failure of negotiations to bring majority rule to Rhodesia. Chapters VII and VIII will focus on the major groups involved in resolving the crisis -- the Smith regime, the African moderates, and the nationalist guerrillas as well as South Africa and the front-line states -- and their influence on the outcome. Chapter IX will show how the Rhodesian problem has been internationalized to include participation by the United States and the Soviet Union as well as Red China. Chapter X will contain some concluding reflections on the Rhodesian question and the future of the African state of Zimbabwe.