The traditional theories of recognition do not properly maintain the essential distinction between state and government. The only proper way to maintain this distinction is by laying down verifiable criteria for statehood, and treating the recognition of governments as purely discretionary. A state must have come into existence before the question of recognition of a particular government can arise. International personality is a consequence of statehood, not of recognition; if a state can objectively come into existence, so can international personality, and the grant or withdrawal of recognition cannot affect that personality.
The degree of recognition conferred by the United Kingdom and other countries on Rhodesia on various occasions was limited in scope, purpose, and time, and was not indicative of any opinion that the Smith government or the Smith/Muzorewa government was the legitimate government of Rhodesia; nor did such qualified recognition demonstrate any intention to have normal relations with Rhodesia. It would seem proper to view this as a question of recognition of a de facto governing authority. Rhodesia must, therefore, be regarded as a state with international legal personality. As such, it is bound by international law, like any other state, and is subject to the usual range of penal sanctions available to the international community to counter any breach of international law.
Isaak L. Dore,
Recognition of Rhodesia and Traditional International Law: Some Conceptual Problems,
13 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vjtl/vol13/iss1/2