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Like most of the other conflicts dealt with in this volume, that in Southern Rhodesia resulted from the process of decolonisation. Unlike Kashmir, Palestine and Cyprus, where the conflict was over control of a recently decolonised territory, in Southern Rhodesia (as in Indonesia in the 1940s) the conflict was between, on the one hand, a majority population seeking independence and, on the other, colonial masters determined to hang on at all costs. The situation differed from that in Indonesia in that the original colonising power, Britain, had more or less withdrawn from the situation, and for a decade and a half the colonialist fight had been carried on by the white minority they had left behind. But the similarities were strong, too.
On Christmas Eve, 1979, five young Australians shaved in the sea on a beach in Mauritius, in the calm dawn after a cyclone had trashed the island. They were members of the 150-strong Australian contingent on its way to Southern Rhodesia as part of the Commonwealth Monitoring Force (CMF). In Rhodesia they were to monitor a ceasefire at the end of a long and often brutal civil war, in preparation for elections that would lead to genuine majority rule for the first time in the country’s history. Nobody knew what awaited them in Rhodesia. They arrived at Mauritius, their last stopover en route, to find much of the area devastated and hotels rendered uninhabitable. Resourcefully they found other accommodation, washed in creeks and shaved in the ocean before flying on. It was all an adventure, but it could have seemed like an ill-omened prelude to a mission full of uncertainty.
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