Rhodesia - The British Commonwealth conference

This document concerns the relevance of the September Commonwealth Conference to the conflict between Britain and Rhodesia. The African members made clear their intention to discuss Rhodesia and the subject came close to wrecking the Commonwealth. This document deals with the provisions of the communiqué relating to Rhodesia. The Commonwealth communiqué is likely to be the dominant factor in Rhodesian affairs during the next months. Most Prime Ministers had expressed their opinion that force was the only means of ending the illegal regime. The communiqué noted that the British Prime Minister had stated that any settlement must be acceptable to the people of Rhodesia. There was nothing in the communiqué which was binding on Britain, but the Conference noted pledges made by the British Government. Most of the Heads of Government considered that the wishes of the Rhodesian people should be indicated by a one-man, one-vote referendum. The African members of the Commonwealth forced the UK to agree to a statement in the communiqué that sanctions at their present level were unlikely to achieve the desired objective, and that stronger mandatory sanctions must be applied. The freedom of action of the British Government has been considerably restricted. Mr. Wilson probably subordinated the last chance of reaching agreement; this interpretation seems supported by Mr. Bowden’s visit to Salisbury, with the impression that he only went through the motions of the negotiations mentioned in the communiqué. After further examination of Mr. Wilson’s position, it is concluded that he has little room for manoeuvre left.