Rhodesia and the United Nations: The Lawfulness of International Concern

Myres S. McDougal, Yale Law School
W. Michael Reisman, Yale Law School


Locked in south central Africa by Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana and the Republic of South Africa, Rhodesia comprises a land mass of over 150,000 square miles and a population of about four million blacks and 220,000 whites. From 1889 until 1922 the area was administered by a chartered company formed by Cecil Rhodes. In 1922 the white settlers opted for the status of a self-governing colony, and in 1923 Southern Rhodesia was annexed by Great Britain. In 1953 it joined, with Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland in a federation, still under the United Kingdom; the venture proved unsuccessful and was terminated in 1963. Thereafter the goal of the white Rhodesians became that of political independence from the United Kingdom. Britain, as an enlightened Power and as a representative of the Commonwealth, refused to grant independence until there were firm guarantees of genuine majority rule within the country. As Prime Minister Wilson put it, his government had "... a solemn duty to be satisfied that before granting independence it would be acceptable to the people of the country as a whole."

The present organization of government within Rhodesia reflects a highly discriminatory restrictiveness in participation rather than the widest possible sharing. The franchise system, which was carried in amended form into the 1961 Constitution, assures the 6% white population dominance in every aspect of internal public order. The proclaimed goal of the white settler elite is to maintain this system of domination. By the beginning of this decade, white intransigeance had forced the two major nationalist groupings into patterns of counter-racism. In the current context of Africa in particular, and the entire third world in general, the intensification of this conflict could only increase the critical threat in the situation.