It has not been a dramatic year in the annals of modern Africa. There have been no superpower confrontations, no new civil wars, no major racial or ethnic upheavals. There have even been some encouraging political signals-an election here, a peaceful handover of power there, and more abortive than successful coups. But, by no means has it been a happy year. A feeling of deep frustration has swept over the continent, caused by the inability of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to hold its annual meeting, the failure to resolve regional disputes, and a quite alarming economic decline. And it coincided with an activist if lopsided American policy that was, as the year drew to a close, far from achieving its declared goals, and thereby added to African suspicions and frustrations.

Searching for a theme in such an arbitrary period as 12 months is neither easy nor necessarily productive, but if there was a common thread in African events during 1982 it was a loss of confidence. African states have lost confidence in their ability to regulate their inter-territorial conflicts as well as in their capacity to develop their economies and cope with growing socioeconomic problems. They have also lost a measure of faith in the ability of the West, particularly the United States, to help them finish the work of decolonization and bring stability to the southern end of the continent.

The failure of the OAU to hold its annual summit meeting for the first time since its formation 19 years ago was a blow for practical and symbolic reasons. The organization had never been adroit in grappling with the numerous disputes that arose from Africa's artificial boundaries-in spite of its members' theoretical adherence to the golden rule that colonially inherited borders should remain inviolate-but it had at least provided a forum for discussion and compromise. The symbolic value of the OAU has even greater importance. The organization has always been greater than the sum of its parts, which are individually weak and vulnerable to outside pressures. Many Africans argue that it was just those pressures that disrupted the two Tripoli meetings, although the more thoughtful admit that it was the internal conflicts between member states and personalities that were principally responsible for the collapse. The question now is whether the pieces that refused to fit together in Tripoli can be put together at some other venue in 1983.

The Africans' regional policy traumas over the Western Sahara and Chad controversies were paralleled domestically in their faltering economies. No African state flourished in 1982; a few of the more prosperous ones managed with difficulty to stem the tide but most had their backs pressed hard to the wall. Already the poorest part of the developing world, Africa became poorer during the year. The world recession, continuing high interest rates, low commodity prices, static or falling aid levels, mismanagement and corruption all contributed to the sorry state in which most African states find themselves. Increasingly, they turned to anyone who would help: bilateral aid donors, commercial banks and, with great reluctance, to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose economic and fiscal conditions are feared by many governments because of the political repercussions they often produce.

It is sometimes argued that black Africa, unable to cope with its own problems, latches onto white South Africa's control of Namibia and its racial policies as a scapegoat, and spends an excessive amount of time and energy on those issues. All governments tend to try to deflate internal problems by inflating external ones, but Namibia and South Africa are genuine concerns of most members of the OAU and here again the Africans experienced a loss of confidence during the year. Watching the Reagan Administration's policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa and its attempts to bring about an internationally acceptable solution on Namibia, the Africans were disappointed not only because the negotiations became deadlocked but also because South Africa's destabilization tactics directed against the other states of the region seemed to increase rather than diminish under a more benign U.S. policy.


The Organization of African Unity has survived many crises and accommodated many conflicting tensions between its members, conflicts that have often been exacerbated by the intervention of non-African nations, including the two superpowers. It has survived fundamental divisions over civil wars-four African countries recognized Biafra in 1968-tolerated murderers and buffoons (Uganda's President Idi Amin actually became chairman of the OAU during his reign of terror), and turned a blind eye to military intervention when Tanzania finally moved against Amin's regime. But in 1982 something went wrong. The old glue did not stick any more; the centrifugal forces overcame the centripetal ones; and no elder statesman came forward to save the day. The African states not only seemed to lack confidence in their proven powers of healing and conversion, many of them appeared to lack interest in even trying to use them.

It was not as if the issues that ruptured the two Tripoli meetings were new. The Western Sahara, Chad and the erratic Libyan leader, Colonel Qaddafi, had been around for some time. But their juxtaposition, in the Libyan capital, seemed to be too much for the organization. The Western Sahara had been a deeply divisive issue since Spain withdrew from the barren but phosphate-rich territory in 1976 after acquiescing in its absorption by Mauritania and Morocco. Mauritania had finally withdrawn as the Polisario nationalist movement, supported by Algeria, intensified its long-running guerrilla campaign. But Morocco, claiming the whole of the territory although only controlling a small part of it, fought on.

The trouble in the OAU began well before the first attempt at a summit meeting in August 1982. In February, Edem Kodjo, the Togolese OAU secretary-general, admitted the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)-proclaimed as the government of the territory by the Polisario six years earlier-to the organization as a full member. Technically, he was acting within his powers since all that is required by the OAU's charter to admit a new member is concurrence by a simple majority of the existing members, and 26 out of 50 supported the SADR's application.

However, he must have known he was on delicate ground because the issue had been raised and bitterly debated at two previous summit meetings. Morocco and its allies had made it clear in Freetown in 1980 that they would boycott the organization if the SADR were admitted, and the problem was temporarily shelved at the subsequent Nairobi summit in 1981 when King Hassan announced he would accept the concept of a referendum in the disputed territory. But he never made clear the terms of this referendum nor the details of how it would be held. Morocco had always insisted on direct negotiations with Algeria, which rejected talks without Polisario participation. In order to force the King's hand and try to produce greater clarity on his promise of a referendum, the SADR's backers, led by Algeria and Libya and supported by a hairline majority, retabled their protégé's application for OAU membership. These states argued that the SADR controls the majority of Western Sahara, enjoys the support of the bulk of the population and that it has been recognized by 24 countries outside Africa. Morocco refuted these arguments and insisted that the Polisario forces are merely "mercenaries" of Algeria.1

The first Tripoli summit was preceded by a flurry of diplomatic maneuvering, horse-trading and a degree of outside intervention. The French, believed to be up to their old Gaullist/Giscardien influence-brokering tactics with the francophones, were accused of trying to wreck the meeting. But, under French President François Mitterrand's new broom, the opposite proved the case. Similarly, the United States, unhappy at the prospect of Qaddafi becoming chairman of the OAU and addressing the United Nations on Africa's behalf in New York, was also reported to be strongly lobbying its friends to stay away from Tripoli. State Department officials firmly deny these charges, claiming that, on the contrary, their African friends came to them to ask for American help in combating Qaddafi and the pro-SADR group. The truth seems to be somewhere in between. The United States probably did not actively work to disrupt the OAU-it had provided $12 million in military assistance to the OAU peacekeeping force in Chad earlier in the year-but it did nothing to deter the anti-SADR faction, led by its old ally, Morocco, from boycotting the meeting; nor did it disguise its satisfaction when its bête noire, Colonel Qaddafi, failed to take over from President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya because the meeting lacked a quorum.2

Other outsiders certainly had a hand in the proceedings, notably Saudi Arabia, a strong supporter of King Hassan (who made it clear that he was the authorized conduit for Saudi money to several Muslim African states that were wavering). Israel apparently used its influence with its new ally, President Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaïre, who had recently broken African ranks in another context by recognizing Israel. He, like some of the other more conservative francophones, stayed away. For its part, Libya played the money card heavily and some states-Sierra Leone being the most flagrant example-appear to have simply sold themselves to the highest bidder.

The failure of the August summit brought many recriminations from all sides, but it also generated a concentrated effort to repair the damage. A conciliation group was appointed and, with Nigeria playing a key role, the SADR was finally persuaded to stay away from a new meeting that was convened in Tripoli in November.3 But this time a bitter dispute arose at the preliminary foreign ministers' meeting over which delegation should represent war-weary Chad, where the OAU had already registered a failure earlier in the year when its three-nation peacekeeping force-the first experiment of its kind-proved unable to end the fighting.

For many delegates the issue seemed irrelevant, since Hissen Habré's faction, the Armed Forces of the North (FAN), had finally defeated the other warring groups in Chad and was beginning to bring order and stability, without the help of foreign troops, to the long-suffering country. Libya had withdrawn its troops and Habré, supported by the Sudan, had fought his way across the country, vanquishing both his northern and southern rivals. However, the Libyans and their supporters pressed the credentials of Habré's principal rival, Goukouni Oueddye, leader of the People's Armed Forces (FAP), who still controlled a small area close to the Libyan border.

Once again a compromise was reached-recognition of Habré's government providing he stayed away from the meeting-but the wrangling took so long and animosities had run so deep that the meeting again failed to achieve a quorum and broke up in disarray.4 On this occasion, the Africans were more inclined to accept the blame. Salim Ahmed Salim, Tanzania's Foreign Minister, said after the meeting that it would be "irresponsible to exonerate ourselves from the responsibility" for the failure of the summit.5

The confusion in the OAU poses questions not only about its future but also about the role of outsiders in Africa.6 Is Africa going to slide back to the regional and ideological power blocs of the early 1960s as foreign powers intervene with impunity to support their friends and penalize their enemies? Africans are aware of the dangers of losing the OAU, imperfect though it is, and they are trying to analyze what went wrong and how they may be able to put it right.

Lack of leadership seems to have been one major fault. Kenya's President Moi, the current chairman, was criticized for not taking the lead at the first meeting and when he did so at the second it was to no avail. Nigeria, the most powerful state in black Africa, was also criticized for not playing a more forceful role. But, in each case, there were internal problems-an attempted coup in the former and severe economic difficulties in the latter-and neither President Moi nor Nigeria's President Shehu Shagari had sufficient continental stature, through length of experience or force of personality, to bring the divided factions into line.

Another underlying cause of the malaise was that most African states had become highly dependent upon outsiders for economic aid and a number had become locked into military relationships in order to pursue their internal political goals. Both economic and military dependency reduced their capacity-and their need-to cooperate with their African brothers. It was an interesting if sad commentary on the state of African unity that far more states turned up to listen to what President Mitterrand had to say at the Franco-African summit in Kinshasa than attended either of the Tripoli meetings.

A third factor was the genuine fear and dislike many African governments have of Qaddafi's Libya. The Libyan intervention in Chad and threats against Sudan, Egypt and other countries were not forgotten. Qaddafi's erratic and bellicose behavior has undoubtedly contributed to widening the historical gulf that divides black and Arab Africans. There seems little doubt that for many of the states that boycotted both meetings Qaddafi was as much, if not more, an issue than either the Western Sahara or Chad. Although direct rebuff would have been difficult, the existence of the other controversies provided a convenient excuse to snub the Libyan leader.

A new conciliation group has been selected and there is talk of returning to Addis Ababa, the permanent seat of the OAU, and possibly reducing the size of the quorum necessary to hold a summit from two-thirds to one half of the total membership. But, Qaddafi is still the legitimate chairman until June 1983. It seems highly probable that more wrangling and further division lie ahead.


There is a joke going the rounds in Africa that when a coup is planned these days, the radio station is still the first target but close behind is the house of the World Bank representative. The same might be said of the IMF, leading Western aid donors and the big multinational banks-anyone, in fact, who can help bail out desperately hard-up African governments. Plagued with long-term problems of development compounded by rapid population growth, lack of technical skills and their own considerable errors, the Africans have also been hit by an unfortunate combination of factors that have made both the short-term and medium-term prospects look particularly grim.

Four developments, in particular, have converged to push many countries to the edge of economic collapse. First, the recession in the industrialized world has depressed the price of primary commodities (apart from oil) while failing to lower the cost of most of the things that Africa needs to import.7 Commodity prices are not likely to recover substantially in the foreseeable future; and even oil, for the few countries that have it, is producing less revenue than in previous years because of the world glut and subsequent cutback in production.

Another factor has been the burden of foreign debt that many African countries, prosperous and poor alike, have to carry, a debt that in most cases was incurred at high interest rates and now consumes a growing percentage of reduced foreign exchange earnings. A third and related problem is the difficulty in obtaining new credit to pay off those debts and maintain a flow of essential imports. Even relatively wealthy countries like Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya have had great difficulty raising loans in the money markets because the massive debt problems of Poland, Argentina and Mexico have shaken the international banking system. Meanwhile, the poorer African countries have no hope in the private sector and have to look elsewhere for salvation.

This leads to the fourth consideration, the non-commercial sources of funding such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and Western aid donors. But here, too, money is limited and there are often strings attached. The World Bank's report on African development (popularly known as the Berg Report)8 successfully focused attention on Africa's plight, particularly on the increasingly critical shortage of food in many countries, and was warmly received by the U.S. government because its main conclusions-apart from the recommendation that aid to Africa should be doubled in the next decade-seemed to fit in with the Reagan Administration's belief in greater private sector involvement in Africa. The report had the practical effect of securing Africa the top priority in the International Development Agency (IDA), the soft loan agency of the World Bank, which now devotes 34 percent of its resources to the continent. The problem is that most African states fear adverse political consequences if they accept aid that is tied to strict fiscal conditions. "IMF food riots," they have been called, and Sudan provided the latest example when its cities erupted into violence after sugar subsidies were removed last January as part of an IMF package.

Moreover, neither the Berg Report nor the new U.S. aid strategy provide solutions to the immediate crisis. Increasing U.S. exports and investments in Africa not only takes time, it also depends on a favorable world economic climate. American business, under pressure at home and abroad, is not looking for new worlds to conquer at the moment. U.S. bilateral aid, although increasing annually, is changing its shape and its focus. Total U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa in the Fiscal Year 1981 was $909 million, which increased to $1.046 billion in 1982, a rise of 15 percent. The proposed aid total for 1983 is $1.119 billion, an increase of only 7 percent and not an increase at all in real, inflation-adjusted terms. The significance of the figures lies in the way military and development assistance levels have changed within the package. Over three years (1981-83), military assistance increased from 9.3 percent to 18.4 percent to 21.7 percent of the total, while development aid declined from 33 percent in 1981 to 31.4 percent in 1982 to a proposed 28.9 percent in 1983.

The largest increases in bilateral security assistance-the Administration's buzz word for military aid, training and sales-have gone to Sudan, up from $50 million in 1981 to $101 million in 1982, with fractionally more proposed for 1983.9 Morocco receives a relatively thick slice of military aid; the Administration wanted to increase this from $30 million in 1982 to $100 million in 1983, but Congress cut it back to $50 million. An attempt to grant Zaïre $20 million in military assistance and $15 million in economic aid was also curbed by Congress, which halved the former and rejected the latter.

On the other hand, it can be argued that while the United States has not responded adequately to Africa's pressing developmental needs it has exercised some restraint in dispensing military largesse. It refrained from reacting in a knee-jerk, globalist manner to Somalia's appeal for military support against Ethiopia, taking a leaf from the Carter Administration's book. Aid levels to Somalia have only risen marginally in the last three years. In Kenya, where President Moi's needs in the wake of the attempted coup last August were economic rather than military, the United States kept its military assistance pegged close to existing levels.

Even the U.S. support for Morocco pales into insignificance when compared with Soviet military sales to Algeria and Libya.10 The motive for giving King Hassan increased military assistance is mainly strategic, governed by concern about the future of U.S. bases in socialist Spain and the need for facilities for supplying Israel and the Rapid Deployment Force in the Middle East. The trouble with any support for Morocco, however, is that the King, wrapped up in his interminable struggle with the Polisario, inevitably interprets it as a material and psychological boost that hardens his resolve to fight the war to the bitter end. The United States may protest that it is neutral on the issue but its tangible and increasing support for Hassan is turned by the King to his own advantage.

African nations are trying to do something about their longer-term economic problems as they struggle to survive from day to day. They are seeking a greater degree of regional cooperation through organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC); they are modifying or turning away from Afro-socialist economic experiments to Western private enterprise models (President Sekou Touré of Guinea and even President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania have moved in this direction recently); they have already devised a long-term strategy, the Lagos Plan of Action of 1980, and they are beginning to seek methods for boosting the long-neglected agricultural sector.11

But the short term is naturally what worries governments most and it has produced a dichotomy in their reactions to Washington. While most African leaders view the Reagan Administration's Africa policy with varying degrees of mistrust, bilateral relations, driven largely by the economic and technical needs of the day, have progressed relatively smoothly. The Administration is proud of the fact that very few of its ambassadors have any difficulty in seeing top officials in their host countries when they want to. Nowhere was this better illustrated than during Vice President Bush's seven-nation tour of Africa in November when great bilateral cordiality clearly existed side-by-side with deep misgivings over the Administration's southern Africa policy.


African fears about southern Africa focus on whether or not the Administration's constructive engagement policy can persuade the South African government to turn Namibia over to U.N.-supervised elections and curb Pretoria's destabilization strategy in the region. There is a third consideration-genuine change in South Africa's racial policies-but that is of less immediate importance in African capitals as well as in Washington.

Taking the Namibian problem first, the roller coaster of optimistic ascents and pessimistic plunges is not new in the long drawn out negotiations, but halfway through the year official hopes soared to a new crest. In July, a State Department official was quoted as saying that "nothing left on Namibia could be defined as a serious enough issue that it, in itself, would jeopardize the negotiations."12 But by the end of the year those hopes had plummeted once more as the talks became deadlocked over the Cuban problem.

Progress had indeed been made on most of the issues that had derailed the negotiations in the past. Agreement had been reached on a set of constitutional principles, the size and deployment of the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG), and the problem of the United Nations' partiality toward the Namibian liberation movement, the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO), had been solved. Only the final choice between a single constituency electoral system and proportional representation, and the nationality of the three last battalions of the U.N. force had not been settled, although U.N. and State Department officials stressed that neither of these residual problems was serious and they would be cleared up as soon as the Cuban issue had been dealt with.

Six months later, however, the Cuban problem-or rather linking the removal of the Cubans from Angola to the removal of the South Africans from Namibia-had not been resolved and the prospects for its resolution looked increasingly bleak.

How did "linkage" become such a burning topic? For more than four years everyone party to the Namibian negotiations knew that Cuban withdrawal from Angola was an important and related but not a direct part of the proceedings. The Angolan government, from the beginning of the Namibian initiative, had consistently stated that Cuban troops would not leave the country until after the South Africans had left Namibia, but once that had happened they would "invite their Cuban friends to go home." The Carter Administration, as Gerald J. Bender points out, became convinced that the Angolans meant what they said and, accordingly, treated the subject with great delicacy.13

Thus when Chester A. Crocker, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, began in mid-1981 to talk somewhat ambiguously about an "empirical relationship" between the Cubans in Angola and the South Africans in Namibia, both the frontline states (Angola, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania), and the other four members of the Western "contact group" (Britain, France, West Germany and Canada) had their reservations. Even the South Africans, who had never suggested any form of linkage during the Carter years, seemed surprised. The idea of directly linking the two issues seems to have first been raised with the South African government by Crocker and William Clark, then Deputy Secretary of State, in Cape Town in June 1981.

However, South African leaders did not publicly insist on linkage as a sine qua non for a settlement until more than a year later, when all the other major obstacles to a settlement had been overcome. Since then they have not lost an opportunity to hammer home the importance of a simultaneous withdrawal of forces.14 One of the reasons why the South African government is confident of its stand is that it was reportedly given written assurances by Alexander M. Haig, Jr., when he was Secretary of State-in a "Dear Pik . . . Dear Al" exchange of correspondence-that the Americans would negotiate a withdrawal of the Cubans from Angola.

It seems, therefore, that if the Cuban linkage issue turns into a blind alley, the Reagan Administration has wittingly or unwittingly led everyone up it. Its motives, of course, were straightforward enough. The Administration had a strong ideological desire to remove the Cubans, as well as a need to keep in tune with its own domestic constituency-particularly the Republican majority in the Senate, which on the whole is not very excited about Namibia or about a deal that would probably result in another African "Marxist" regime taking over a country that had been quite secure under Pretoria's pro-Western aegis. Republicans would be impressed, policymakers felt, with a scenario that got the Cubans out of Angola, irrespective of what happened down the pike in Namibia. They also felt they had to offer the South Africans a credible incentive to get the talks moving again and over the hurdles they had balked at in the past. The irony now is that if the Angolans refuse to budge on linkage and stick to their original line, the South Africans can put their hands on their hearts and say it was not their fault: they were ready to pull out but the Angolans refused to move the Cubans. Or, alternatively, if they feel there is no more mileage to be gained from the Reagan policy of constructive engagement, they can say the Americans reneged on their written assurances and failed to remove the Cubans as promised.

One curious aspect of all this is that the Cubans, except in a symbolic sense for the more impressionable sections of the American and South African publics, are not really the issue at all. The Cubans do not, nor have they ever, threatened South Africa or Namibia. Every time South African forces push further into Angola-they are now over 100 miles inside and have established a permanent presence there-the Cubans retreat further north.15 The real issue for the Angolans is the tenacious Jonas Savimbi and his tribally based but powerful UNITA (National Union for the Total Independence of Angola) movement. It is too easily forgotten that the Cubans were brought into Angola to ensure the survival of a fragile MPLA (Popular Liberation Movement of Angola) government against South African-backed rivals.

Nothing has changed except that the situation, from the Angolan government's viewpoint, has if anything become worse. In 1975 South Africa mounted a slender and vulnerable invading column, now it is an occupation army; then UNITA was poorly armed and trained, now it is considerably stronger both militarily and politically (over Christmas UNITA launched an offensive pushing further north than ever before and attacked Huambo, Angola's second largest city); then the MPLA was united under an undisputed leader, now President Dos Santos has still not achieved his predecessor's authority and there are serious policy and personality divisions in the leadership. Furthermore, the Angolan government feels that while the Reagan Administration has bent over backward to attend to South Africa's security needs, their own have been neglected. And yet, they ask, who over the past two years has been the most threatened and most punished: the South Africans, secure at home, secure in Namibia and chasing SWAPO at will in southern Angola, or themselves, fighting Savimbi and suffering from increasingly massive and far-ranging South African attacks?

Can the Cuban conundrum be resolved? The frontline states, which have been crucial in exerting behind-the-scenes influence on SWAPO and Angola in the past, appear to have drawn the line by emphatically rejecting linkage. Moreover, the other four members of the contact group, in varying degrees, are opposed to the concept, believing it will not work. The South Africans, though under pressure from the United States to ease their position on the Cubans, to soft-pedal their support for Savimbi and to lower their military profile in Angola, are showing no signs of complying. Meanwhile, at the end of the year, internal politics in Namibia remained in a state of flux, with Chairman Dirk Mudge's Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) government floundering and no viable alternative in sight.

Then in January, following the resignation of the DTA Council of Ministers, Pretoria moved to resume direct rule. Presumably it would continue its efforts to create some more representative consultative body composed of all the ethnic groups. This would not, however, prevent the South African government from pursuing negotiations for an international settlement. Doing so would be consistent with the same two-track strategy it has followed all along, of building up the white position within Namibia while avoiding a collapse of negotiations that might bring new U.N. pressures.

The Administration's tactics are aimed at reassuring the Angolan government, through direct contacts and indirectly through third parties, such as the French, Portuguese and others, that its security needs will be properly addressed and that some form of security guarantees could be provided if the Cubans were to be withdrawn. The last month of the year witnessed two important meetings: one between Pik Botha, South Africa's Foreign Minister, and senior officials in Washington, and the other between the Angolans and the South Africans in the Cape Verde Islands. The latter, which was at the Angolan government's invitation and was the second top-level encounter between the two antagonists, showed that Luanda was giving serious attention to the American proposals. Washington also hopes to lower the previous overoptimistic, almost pressure-cooker temperature of the negotiations and use its undoubted bilateral influence with many of the key African countries to win them round to its view of the Cuban issue. This is not the place to lay bets, but after a recent journey to eight African countries, which coincided with Vice President Bush's valiant tour during which he sold the linkage line hard, I would judge a change of heart by Angola and its frontline backers extremely unlikely.


Behind African obduracy on the Cuban issue lie deep-seated fears of a South African destabilization strategy in the southern region. In the clearcut Angola case, Pretoria's aim may be the ultimate replacement of the MPLA government by Savimbi through a massive "Israeli-style" advance on Luanda. The long arm of South Africa is equally evident in acts of violence and disruption in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and, to a lesser extent, in Swaziland and Botswana, although most analysts think that South Africa's strategy in these cases is aimed at keeping the black states perpetually off balance, rather than actually trying to overthrow their existing governments.

Mozambique is currently the most threatened. The dissident movement, the Mozambique National Resistance (MNR), originally the creation of Ian Smith's government in Rhodesia, is now being backed by the South Africans and is causing increasing havoc inside Mozambique. Its Portuguese language radio station, Radio Free Africa, broadcasts out of the northern Transvaal and supplies are dropped by South African aircraft and delivered by sea on the long Mozambican coast. Zimbabwe, whose oil pipeline to Beira has been blown up a number of times, is directly affected and has sent a detachment of troops to help the Mozambique government protect the pipeline. But, if the situation worsens, there is always the possibility that the Mozambique government, which has a defense treaty with the Soviet Union, may call in Soviet or Cuban forces.

The South African rationale, it seems, is to show its black neighbors that they cannot give political or other support to the main insurgent group directed against South Africa itself, the African National Congress (ANC), without paying a price. Pretoria's tactics appear to owe something to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's during the 1972-73 Vietnamese peace talks: a judicious if ruthless mixture of military punishment and readiness to talk across the negotiating table. In December, a South African force swept into Maseru and killed 42 people, many of them ANC members but also a number of refugees and Lesotho citizens, while a few days later South African officials held talks with their Mozambique counterparts in the northern Transvaal over deteriorating bilateral relations.

How each state comes to terms with all this is a matter of choice and reflects different ideologies and styles of leadership. Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda's response earlier in the year was to initiate a meeting with Prime Minister P.W. Botha in Botswana to discuss Namibia and regional security. However, nothing concrete seems to have transpired and Zambia has not been apparently a direct target of South Africa's "keep-them-off-balance" strategy.

Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister, maintains a more hostile line and suffers, economically and militarily, as a result. His third year in power has been a particularly difficult one. The long-simmering differences with Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), erupted into an open breach when Nkomo and his cabinet colleagues were dismissed following the discovery of secret arms caches on ZAPU-owned property in February. This led to an insurgency campaign by former ZAPU guerrillas in the western province, dominated by the Ndebele minority, where the party has most of its support. Nkomo, who denied knowledge of the arms caches and maintained a low profile, appeared to have little control over the more militant members of his party.

Then, in July, Mugabe had to deal with the destruction by sabotage of a large number of his air force's planes. Senior white officers in the air force were arrested, and later tortured, and will face trial for the incident. South Africa was accused of being behind the sabotage as well as implicated in a spy case involving two senior white officers in Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Office. Critical comments in the foreign press by former Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith later in the year added to pressure on Mugabe from his own militants within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) party.

At the same time, a crisis of expectations over improvements in education, land distribution and social services was growing. Mugabe found himself increasingly under pressure within the powerful ZANU central committee to abandon the pragmatic road he had chosen and launch a radical restructuring of Zimbabwe. Although his own rhetoric sometimes suggests that this is what he himself would prefer, he has so far continued his pragmatic policies. However, there are signs he does not always have his own way against the radical faction in central committee debates.

The U.S. response to charges that South Africa is destabilizing its neighbors is that "constructive engagement" applies to the whole region, not just South Africa, and that the Administration is working to bring stability to all countries there. It is particularly concerned about strengthening Mugabe, another legacy of the Carter era, and has told Pretoria that any move to destabilize his government would be regarded as an unfriendly act. The Administration did, for the first time, join in a Security Council vote condemning South Africa's attack on the ANC in Maseru, but in Africa and elsewhere there are growing doubts about the efficacy of U.S. warnings and "quiet diplomacy." Certainly, South Africa could be far more punitive if it chose to be. However, even at the present level of activity, it has made most of the governments in the region jittery and mistrustful.

Preoccupied by the Namibian issue, the Administration has not paid much public attention to internal developments in South Africa. It has, however, been an active year there, with the unveiling of new constitutional proposals put forward by the President's Council and with a major split in the ruling National Party over the provisions for inclusion of the Coloureds and Indians in the proposed new system of government. The formation of the Conservative Party under Andries Treurnicht, the former leader of the "verkramptes" (reactionary) wing of the National Party, has introduced a new and still incalculable element into white politics and divided Afrikaner society more than any event since the Nationalists came to power in 1948. Prime Minister Botha has retained a firm hold on the rest of his party, but the fate of his constitutional reforms-which promise an extremely limited share of power to the Coloured and Indian groups and continue to exclude the African majority-remains in doubt. The United States refrained from commenting publicly on these developments when they occurred, but toward the end of the year Herman Nickel, the U.S. Ambassador to Pretoria, and Charles Wick, Director of the U.S. Information Agency, both expressed qualified support for P.W. Botha's constitutional plan.16


When historians take the long view of this period they will probably not identify 1982 as a watershed year. However, they may be interested in the irony that Africa, traditionally the poor relation of U.S. foreign policy, assumed an unusually prominent position on the foreign policy agenda under a Republican Administration. Without Assistant Secretary Crocker's intelligence, energy and patience, U.S. African policy would likely have been considerably less sensitively orchestrated.

Whether it will be successful is another question. While it is too early to predict with assurance, the omens are not good. Those distant historians may also conclude that the Carter and Reagan Administrations, so different in their approach to South Africa, did in fact produce a kind of symmetry. President Carter's policies demonstrated there were no effective sticks at America's disposal; President Reagan's revealed there were no carrots.

1 OAU recognition of a political movement not yet in full control of its territory is not unique. As Zdenek Cervenka points out in an unpublished paper entitled: "The OAU in Search for Peace in the Western Sahara," both the OAU and the United Nations admitted Guinea-Bissau as a full member a year before Portugal pulled its troops out of the country and accepted its independence.

2 The State Department apparently canvassed the view of its embassies in Africa before the OAU summit and was told that diplomatic or other attempts to disrupt the meeting would be counter-productive.

3 Since then, it should be noted, the SADR has insisted on its right to attend future OAU meetings and Morocco has declared it will boycott any summit that seats the SADR.

4 Since then both Habré and Oueddye have declared they are the rightful rulers of Chad and will insist on attending future OAU meetings; Colonel Qaddafi continues to support Goukouni Oueddye's claim.

5 Quoted in a report from Dar es Salaam in The Sunday Mail, Harare, November 28, 1982. The headline reads: '"Ourselves to Blame'-Salim."

6 The OAU was not the only international organization in trouble in 1982. The nonaligned nations' summit, due to be held in Baghdad in September, was postponed because of the divisive Iraq-Iran war and will be held in New Delhi in March instead.

7 Coffee prices, for example, dropped from an average of $2.29 per pound in 1977 to $1.16 per pound in 1981; the world cocoa price slumped in the same period from $1.72 per pound to $0.94 per pound.

8 "Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa," produced by the World Bank at the behest of the African governors of the Bank, and written by a team under Elliot Berg. It was first published in 1981 and reprinted in 1982.

9 Sudan is by far the largest recipient of U.S. aid in Africa, receiving over $250 million annually, a quarter of the sub-Saharan total.

10 For the period 1976-80, Algeria made a total of $2.3 billion in arms purchases, of which $1.8 billion were from the U.S.S.R.; Libya purchased $8.6 billion of weapons, with $5.5 billion coming from the Soviet Union. During that time, Morocco's total purchases were $2 billion, of which $1.1 billion came from France and $380 million from the United States. Source: U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

11 For an excellent analysis of what has gone wrong with Africa's food production and what should be done about it, see "Facing up to Africa's Food Crisis," by Carl K. Eicher, Foreign Affairs, Fall 1982.

12 The Washington Post, July 14, 1982.

13 See "Angola and the United States: Evolution of a Policy," by Gerald J. Bender, in Transafrica Forum, Vol. 1, No. 1, Summer 1982, for a thorough and convincing analysis of the Angolan position.

14 This public change is well documented by John Barratt, Director General of the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg, in an unpublished paper entitled: "The Namibian Dilemma: Factors Preventing a Settlement," September 1982.

15 In Windhoek these days, they no longer talk about the "border war"; it has become the "war in southern Angola."

16 The Johannesburg Star, November 13 and November 20, 1982.



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  • John de St. Jorre is Africa Director of International Reporting Information Systems (IRIS) in Washington. A former Africa correspondent of the London Observer, he is author of The Brothers' War: Biafra and Nigeria, A House Divided: South Africa's Uncertain Future and other works.
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