222. Telegram From the Mission in Geneva to the Department of State1

9068. For Schaufele from Wisner. Dept pass London. Subject: Rhodesia Conference: Chairman’s Statement Nov. 15. Ref: Geneva 9023.2

Following is text of statement which Rhodesia conference chairman Richard read at brief Nov. 15 morning session. Statement has not been made public and was given to us by Richard’s office. Statement does not differ in any substantive way from previous draft submitted reftel, though preambular paragraph has been puffed up a bit.

Begin text

Statement by the Chairman

This conference has now spent well over a week trying to work out a time-table for bringing independence to Rhodesia. The discussions have been detailed, far-reaching and useful. They have concentrated on the various constitutional and administrative processes which must be completed before independence can be granted. There is an encouraging identity of views both on what these processes are and also—and I stress this—on the fact that independence should take place as soon as they have been completed. But there is a continuing difference of view on how long it will take to complete these procedures. Following upon the discussions of last week and the intensive consultations which we have had since then, the position which we have reached is as follows:

We have agreed that the date of independence shall be the date when the necessary constitutional and administrative processes have been completed.

We have agreed what those processes are.

We have agreed that the carrying out of those processes will be largely the responsibility of the transitional government and that their timing and pace is therefore essentially for the transitional government to determine.

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The British Government is pledged to work with the transitional government in this task so as to ensure that the processes are completed at the earliest possible date.

On the best judgement we can make of what will be involved, the British Government’s view is that the necessary processes may take up to 15 months from the successful conclusion of this conference. We do not think it would be prudent to count, definitely, on their taking less. Therefore, assuming the conference reaches agreement by 30 November 1976, Britain will grant independence not later than 15 months from that date, that is to say not later than 1 March 1978.

However, the nationalist delegations have expressed the view that the processes can be completed within a year, and probably within nine or ten months. On this basis, assuming a successful conclusion of this conference by 30 November 1976, independence would come by 1 December 1977. If the processes are in fact completed within 12 months Britain will grant independence within 12 months.

I believe that what I have just said takes this matter as far as we usefully can at this stage. Before I say more, are there any delegations who wish to take the floor? End text.

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Europe and Canada, Box 14, Switzerland—State Department Telegrams, To SecState—Nodis (16). Secret; Immediate;Nodis.
  2. In telegram 9023 from Geneva, November 12, Wisner reported on the November 11 meeting among the British, Nkomo, and Mugabe. The Africans advanced an alternative to the original British proposal (Annex C). Many elements of this proposal were incorporated in Ivor Richard’s position as stated on November 15. (Ibid.)