Yet another attempt is about to begin to find a solution of the problem of Rhodesia.
Yet another attempt is about to begin to find a solution of the problem of Rhodesia. The British Foreign Secretary, Dr. David owen, announced this week that a team of British and United States officials would go to Southern Africa immediately for what he called "intensive consultations with the parties". The ultimate object is still to work out an acceptable constitution for majority rule. At least five major attempts have already been made, and foundered, since Mr. Ian Smith illegally declared Rhodesia independent in 1965.
SYNOPSIS: Mr. Smith, Prime Minister by the votes of the white minority, has shown remarkable durability. The Liberty Bell has rung out in Salisbury to celebrate eleven anniversaries of his declaration.
Twice, on board British warships in the Mediterranean, Mr. Harold Wilson, as British Prime Minister, tried to negotiate a settlement with Mr. Smith. The first meeting was on board "Tiger" in 1966; the second on "Fearless" two years later. But Mr. Smith was unable to promise any concessions his supporters at home would accept.
A change of government in Britain brought a third attempt. But Sir Alec Douglas Home, then Conservative Foreign Secretary stood by the "six principles" which guided both British parties. These required that the basis for independence must be acceptable to the Rhodesian people as a whole. He and Mr. Smith worked out terms for a settlement.
Members of the Pearce Commission toured Rhodesia putting them to the people. And the people gave a clear answer.
Shout of "No".
There the matter rested for another four years. So far, the problem had been regarded as one for Britain, as the colonial power, to solve.
But in 1975, a conference was arranged at a symbolic site -- in a railway train high above the Zambesi river on the Rhodesian border. This allowed Mr. Smith, still on his own ground, to meet exiled Rhodesian black nationalists, still remaining in Zambia.
Other had taken a hand in promoting this meeting: President Kaunda of Zambia and Mr. Vorster, the South African Prime Minister. By now, Rhodesia was no longer just a British problem. White and black leaders in southern Africa had become concerned that it posed a threat to the stability of the whole area.
Yet again it failed. Then the United States became involved, when Dr. Henry Kissinger met Mr. Smith in Pretoria. He got agreement to a "package deal" which would bring majority rule to Rhodesia in two years.
This led to the Geneva conference of late last year, under the chairmanship of Mr. Ivor Richard. Its job was to make arrangements for an interim government during those two years. Mr. Smith went home to Salisbury after two weeks, criticising Mr. Richard for failing to keep to the Kissinger proposals and being too ready to give way to the demands of the black nationalists. Though he returned to Geneva later, the conference adjourned without making progress.
Last month, Dr. Owen, Britain's Foreign Secretary, went to Rhodesia to assess the situation for himself:
Then Dr. Owen had a talk with Mr. Smith. Though he was cautious on his return to Britain about making any predictions, he has obviously thought it worth while to make one more effort to get a negotiated settlement.