No-go area

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A no-go area or no-go zone is a region where the ruling authorities have lost control and are unable to enforce their sovereignty.


The term 'no-go area' has a military origin and was first used in the context of the Bush War in Rhodesia. The war was fought in the 1960s and 1970s between the army of the predominantly white minority Rhodesian government and communist-backed black nationalist groups.

The initial military strategy of the government was to seal the borders to prevent assistance to the guerrillas from other countries. However with the end of Portuguese colonial rule in Angola and Mozambique, and especially the arrival of some 500,000 Cuban armed forces and tens of thousands of Soviet troops[citation needed], this became untenable and the white minority government adopted an alternative strategy ("mobile counter offensive"). This involved defending only key economic areas, transport links ("vital asset ground"), and the white civilian population. The government lost control of the rest of the country to the guerilla forces, but carried out counter-guerilla operations including "free-fire attacks" in the so-called "no-go areas," where white civilians were advised not to go.

South Africa[edit]

Similar to Rhodesia, the term was used chiefly in the context of black emancipation movements. However, the South African Defence Force was larger than the Rhodesian by orders of magnitude and backed by a white population of millions. As a result, there were few areas which were termed no-go in the sense of the military. Instead, the term was used to describe areas were white civilians should not go without the peril of their lives and police only went when in heavy convoy.

Northern Ireland[edit]

Between 1969 and 1972, the term was used officially in Northern Ireland to describe barricaded areas in Belfast and Derry, which police and the British Army were prevented from entering by militant residents. The areas' existence was a challenge to the authority of the British government in Northern Ireland. The British army demolished the barricades and re-established control in Operation Motorman on 31 July 1972. Throughout many areas (notably the Bogside in Derry, the Falls Road and Ardoyne in Belfast amongst others), whilst the official status was removed, the status of a no-go area remained in operation, with the police force and British army personnel only entering in certain circumstances, namely a combatant role or house raids. Day-to-day policing within these areas was generally controlled by paramilitary organizations (notably the Irish Republican Army). Irish Catholics remained apprehensive of the newly created Police Service of Northern Ireland throughout the 2000s; Sinn Féin (the largest Irish Nationalist/Republican political party within Northern Ireland) had refused to endorse the PSNI until the Patten Report's recommendations were implemented in full. However, as part of the St Andrews Agreement Sinn Féin announced its acceptance of the Police Service of Northern Ireland at a special Ard Fheis on the issue of policing on 28 January 2007.

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