Rhodesia's War of Independence

Paul Moorcraft looks at the struggle to maintain white supremacy in what is now Zimbabwe, a hundred years after Cecil Rhodes' pioneers carved out a British colony there.

Ian Smith
Ian Smith

In September 1890 Cecil Rhodes' pioneer column trundled into Mashonaland to establish Fort Salisbury and the new colonial state named after its founder: Rhodesia. 90 years later white-ruled Rhodesia became the independent state of Zimbabwe. In the 1890s the first settlers brutally suppressed a series of 'native rebellions' or Chimurenga (the Shona word for 'resistance'), as the indigenous peoples called their defence against alien invaders. Thereafter, white Rhodesians fought a number of wars on behalf of the British Empire and then indulged in a traumatic civil war that lasted fourteen years and took over 30,000 lives. The bitterness remains, not least among the many – often partisan – writers who are struggling to explain and explore the war's many facets, some still shrouded in secrecy.

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