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Monckton Commission

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Monckton Commission

The Monckton Commission, officially the Advisory Commission for the Review of the Constitution of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, was set up by the British government under the chairmanship of Walter Monckton, 1st Viscount Monckton of Brenchley in 1960. Its purpose was to investigate and make proposals for the future of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (or Central African Federation), made up of Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland—respectively equivalent to today's Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi.

Conclusion of the Report

The Commission concluded that the Federation could not be maintained except by force or through massive changes in racial legislation. It advocated a majority of black African members in the Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesian legislatures and giving these territories the option to leave the Federation after five years.

Released in October 1960, the report advocated sweeping changes to be made to the federal structure, including black African majorities in the Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesian legislatures. The Federal Prime Minister Sir Roy Welensky was outraged when the report was published, calling it the "death knell of federation" and rejecting it out of hand. Black nationalist opinion was just as opposed, but on different grounds. All nationalists wanted an end to federation, and independence for the territories as black-majority-ruled states.

The Monckton Commission toured the Federation in February 1960. It had been given limited terms of reference and was boycotted by the opposition Labour Party and the black nationalists in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. As the Commission's composition seemed weighted towards a continuation of the Federation, its report disappointed the British government. The Monckton Commission reported widespread and sincere opposition to the Federation in the two northern territories. It considered Federation could not survive without at least a major devolution of powers to Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, giving more voting rights to black Africans and lessening racial discrimination. Most importantly, it also recommended that Britain should retain the right to allow the secession of either northern territory, recognising that black nationalists would not accept even a modified Federation.

The British government broadly accepted Monckton's report, and this signaled a withdrawal of support for the Federation and the acceptance of early majority rule for Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. Accordingly, and despite opposition from Armitage, the Governor of Nyasaland, from the Governments of the Federation and of Southern Rhodesia, and from some colleagues in the cabinet, Colonial Secretary Iain Macleod released Hastings Banda from detention on 1 April 1960 and immediately began to negotiate with him on Nyasaland's constitutional future. The state of emergency was lifted on 16 June 1960. The Malawi Congress Party was formed in 1959 as the successor to the banned Nyasaland African Congress, with Banda as leader. Following an overwhelming Malawi Congress Party victory in August 1961 elections, preparations were made for Nyasaland's independence, which was achieved on 6 July 1964 under the name Malawi.

References

Monckton Commission Wikipedia


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