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Ian Smith

(1919—2007) prime minister of Rhodesia


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(b. 8 Apr. 1919; d 20 Nov. 2007; d. 20 Nov. 2007).

Prime Minister of Rhodesia 1965–79 Born in Rhodesia, he served in the British Royal Air Force (1941–6). After his return to Rhodesia he joined the United Party and became a member of the South Rhodesian Legislative Assembly (1948–53). Upon the creation of the Central African Federation he became chief whip of the United Federal Party (UFP) in the new federal parliament in 1953. He broke with the UFP in 1961 and proceeded to co-found the right-wing, segregationist, and racist Rhodesian Front (RF), as whose leader he was elected Prime Minister of Rhodesia. In an effort to preserve racial discrimination despite British hostility, he proclaimed the Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965, declaring Rhodesia a republic in 1970. International pressure, as well as increasingly successful guerrilla organizations led by Mugabe and Nkomo forced him to concede the principle of Black majority rule from the mid-1970s. However, his obstinate, although ultimately abortive, efforts to enshrine the predominant position of Whites in a new Constitution prolonged the civil war until 1979, when an agreement was reached with the Black opposition. Succeeded by Muzorewa and then by Mugabe, he led White opposition in Zimbabwe immediately following independence in 1980, though he became increasingly marginalized as the Whites came to trust Mugabe. He retired from politics in 1988.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).


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