Rhodesian Bush War

Rhodesian Bush War

The years following World War II saw the rapid demise of European colonial holdings around the world. For the United Kingdom, this meant that its colonies in Asia and Africa were vying for self-rule. The British had a long and established history in Africa, and the colonial holdings saw a mixture of multi-ethnic groups living together. psuedoops-600x430As colonies throughout the empire were granted independence, the Rhodesian’s vied for their opportunity but was met with resistance from the British hierarchy. By 1965, the Rhodesians had pushed for their independence, the British mandated that for independence to be granted to their former colonial holdings majority rule be established by the local populace. In the case of Rhodesia, this meant the black Rhodesian populace had to establish majority rule. For the minority white Rhodesian populace, this type of action was intolerable and declared their independence regardless.

tumblr_mccwdnp6NN1rujg44o1_500The Rhodesian government quickly found itself alienated from international relations. The white-minority government maintained a firm grip on control, and soon violence erupted, led by insurgency groups funded by the Soviet Union and China. The Rhodesian Bush War quickly evolved into a Cold War battlefield, but for the white-minority government they were not met with the international support other nations fighting against a communist insurgency received. The Rhodesian’s received clandestine support from South Africa and the white-controlled government of Mozambique. The lack of international support meant the Rhodesian armed forces were largely lacking in the necessary firepower to wage a conventional war against the insurgent groups. To counter this deficiency, the Rhodesians developed highly effective strategies and tactics to conduct operations in the conflict. The Rhodesian military was also relatively small, yet despite the size of its armed forces it developed one of the best trained and respected special operation forces in the world.

The Rhodesian Bush War raged from 1965-1979. Despite the resounding success on the battlefield by the Rhodesian armed forces, in the end it proved not enough. To bring the conflict to a close the white-minority government accepted the transition over to majority rule. While initially that rule was maintained by black Rhodesian’s who were friendly to the previous government, in the end it was the insurgent groups of ZANU and ZAPU that seized ultimate control. With the ZANU controlled government of Robert Mugabe,Rhodesia saw its name change to Zimbabwe. But the name change was not the only effects on the society. Radical laws discriminating against the white farmers saw huge portions of land seized. The members of the Rhodesian armed forces abandoned the country, with many moving to South Africa and the new Zimbabwean armed forces were filled with the ranks of former insurgents. The regime of Mugabe saw the once prosperous country and jewel of southern Africa become a desolate waste land. Once known for exporting the finest foods in Africa, the government seized farms have largely failed and food has to be imported. Corruption is rife and during the first decade of the 2000’s inflation grew so out of control that by 2008 it was estimated that the inflation rate was 11,200,000%.


Look for more information regarding the history of the Rhodesian Bush War in the upcoming Modern War issue #19 with the article “Operation Dingo” and join the conversation on Facebook!

About The Author

Kyle is a Military Historian and Managing Editor at Strategy & Tactics Press. A fourth-generation combat Veteran, Kyle retired from the United States Army in 2010. He specializes in military operations from 1945-Present and has written extensively regarding the future of asymmetrical warfare.

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