For much of Africa this year, immediate threats to survival dominated national agendas. In the extreme north and south, Libya and South Africa attacked the territory of weaker neighbors. Less noticed but far more widely devastating, a harsh drought destroyed crops across the continent, confronting more than 20 million people with the prospect of starvation. Declining rates of per capita food production over the last decade, coupled with escalating debt and falling returns on exports, left many African states at the margins of existence-at least according to Western calculations. And at year's end, a military coup abruptly ended four years of American-style democratic government in Africa's largest nation, Nigeria, renewing fears about political upheaval throughout the continent.

Partly in consequence of this general buffeting, African nations remained unusually silent in international and intra-African forums. Pounded by nature and the ongoing worldwide recession, aware of their military weakness in an international environment increasingly characterized by resort to force, African states as a group discernibly muted their activism on the continent-wide political issue of southern African liberation. After three years of diplomatic stalemate in the Reagan round of the Namibia negotiations, and in face of the continued use of South African military force against recalcitrant neighbors, the independence of Namibia seemed to have lost much of its salience as an issue.

For the Reagan Administration, that diminished African attention-paralleled by a U.S. focus on Middle East and Central American crises-came as something of a blessing. Apart from a midsummer alarm over Chad, and a major speech on southern Africa by Under Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, the momentum of the Reagan policy toward Africa appeared to have been largely exhausted. As hopes for a Namibia settlement dimmed, escalating military pressure on Angola from South Africa and the Pretoria-backed Angolan insurgent movement, UNITA, seemed to preclude any early departure of the Cuban forces from Angolan territory. In this context, year-end proposals by the Botha government for negotiated cease-fires both with Angola and with the Namibian SWAPO insurgents apparently aimed more at improving South Africa's image than at achieving an international settlement.

South Africa appeared to be hunkering down for the long haul, continuing to talk about diplomatic solutions on Namibia and internal reforms while relying increasingly on its military power to neutralize insurgent movements directed at the liberation of Namibia or majority rule in the Republic. Both the vulnerability and solidity of the ruling whites' position were demonstrated during the year. With its sophisticated and highly destructive explosive attacks on the new Koeberg nuclear power facility late in 1982 and on the South African Air Force headquarters in Pretoria in May 1983, the African National Congress (ANC) reinforced its position as the most potent expression of South African black aspirations and the chief security threat for government military planners.1 In November, on the other hand, Prime Minister P.W. Botha's regime swept to victory in a referendum of whites which endorsed greatly increased powers for the head of state and expansion of the regime's political base through limited political participation in the national government for Coloured and Indian voters-but not blacks.

While the Reagan Administration welcomed the referendum result as a first step toward further change, and stood firmly by its policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa, during 1983 potent domestic opposition to that policy crystallized within the U.S. Congress and among black Americans. Several pieces of pathbreaking legislation levying economic sanctions on South Africa sharply escalated congressional activism on the issue of human rights in South Africa. Further, the growing electoral strength of black Americans represented an important new influence on the discussion of U.S. policy toward Africa, and particularly southern Africa.


On one issue-Africa's economic plight-the "globalist" Reagan Administration found much common ground with its critics, joining a consensus among many blacks and committed Africanists that African development is the most important long-term concern for the continent as a whole.

Africa's economic dilemmas were certainly not new to 1983. However, their extremity and seeming intractability appeared, in the fourth year of global economic weakness, to mesmerize both Africanists and a larger group of nonspecialists who seemed awed by the dimensions of Africa's crisis.2 Two decades after independence, the world's newest nations were floundering.

Twenty-two of the world's 36 poorest countries are African. Throughout the region, balance-of-payments crises, rising debt and increasing food imports have led to a continent-wide decline. By 1983, African public debt had soared to over $65 billion (from $5 billion in 1970), which, in light of the extremely meager public resources of most African countries meant case after case of near-bankruptcy and badly depleted reserves.3 At the beginning of the year, prices for Africa's main export commodities (other than oil) had fallen to their lowest point in 30 years-21 percent lower than in the 1975 recession, when prices for these commodities had slumped by a sudden 18 percent.4 At the same time, the cost of imported manufactured goods and oil soared and food remained high. The gap between export receipts and import expenditures rose from $1.8 billion to $10.7 billion between 1973 and 1980. Looking ahead, Africa's medium-term growth is likely to be the lowest of any region of the world. According to the World Bank's World Development Report 1983, "there is now a real possibility" that the per capita income of low-income countries in Africa "will be lower by the end of the 1980s than it was in 1960."

Beyond this long-term decline in basic economic indicators, nature smote Africa with particular fury in 1983. Drought struck parts of the Sahel, West and Central Africa, the Horn, and the southern African breadbasket, killing crops and heightening the vulnerability of livestock to the epidemic rinderpest disease. In Ethiopia an estimated three million people were totally dependent on emergency supplies (though only about one million received them consistently), while many were forced off their lands into relief camps. From the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, the second year of poor rains has devastated crops in South Africa and its neighbors. Zimbabwe, which exported food to 15 African countries in 1981-82 (and in 1982 sold the United Nations a third of the food aid provided under its World Food program in Africa), incurred a 1983 drought bill (including relief loans, irrigation costs, and loss of exports) of almost $500 million. In Botswana the corn crop fell from about 60,000 to 16,000 tons; in Mozambique the government reported four million of its people in need of emergency food supplies; in Namibia, as in neighboring countries, prolonged drought killed off large portions of national livestock herds. South Africa itself weathered what was in some areas the worst recorded drought in two centuries; the country lost an estimated $1 billion in export earnings. Whereas it has traditionally exported corn each year to other African countries (five million tons in 1982), it had to import corn. The drought's effects were particularly severe in the country's black "homeland" areas, whose ecologies have already been seriously strained by overcrowding.

As in the great Sahelian drought of 1968-74, this season of arid weather may permanently reduce fertile areas. Beyond questions of ecological damage alone, however, the drought dramatized the continent's increasingly narrow margin of survival. Most crucially, the nations of Africa are less and less able to feed themselves. Since 1960 the amount of food produced in Africa has increased by less than two percent a year and that rate is now falling. At the same time, population growth rose from about 2.1 percent per year in the 1950s to 2.7 percent in the 1970s and is expected to reach three percent in the 1980s.5 Africa's grain imports increased sevenfold-from 1.2 million tons in 1960-63 to 8 million tons in 1980. Yet, according to a World Bank estimate, nearly 200 million people (more than 60 percent of Africa's total population) eat fewer calories a day than the United Nations has estimated are necessary for survival.6 In fiscal 1983, the United States allocated $55 million in emergency food aid to Africa. Between October and December (at the start of fiscal 1984) the heightened emergency called forth $40 million, and then another $32 million in early January 1984.

Africa's food crisis is closely connected to the continent's overall economic problems. Colonial administrators pushed export crops over food production, and African governments have in their turn siphoned off surpluses from agriculture as their main source of revenues-often ineffectively and wastefully expended. While bureaucratic oversight of the economy has burgeoned, farmers' incentives to produce-for domestic food consumption or for export-have dwindled. Government marketing boards have kept prices to growers low, in order to skim off revenues from export prices and to insure cheap food for city dwellers. Artificially high foreign exchange rates have also made imported food cheap relative to homegrown output. In line with the low priority accorded the rural sector, governments have invested only small increments of national resources in agricultural education and research, rural infrastructure, marketing systems and amenities. Consequently, although about three out of five Africans still earn their living through agriculture, the young and able-bodied are leaving rural areas for the cities in increasing numbers.

While grappling with Africa's development dilemmas, the United States and other Western donors were also taking a long look at their own aid policies and "expert" economic advice, which, many observers feel, must bear a fair share of responsibility for the confusion in much of African economic planning. Official development assistance accounts for a large part of all capital inflows into Africa-80 percent in the poorest countries in 1980, and 42.5 percent throughout Africa. The whole is often much less than the sum of its parts, however. Proliferating projects generated by competitive donors with short historical memories and shifting strategies tax the resources and motivation of African government personnel. As a result, a burst of initial activity by both host and donor is all too often followed by declining attention and maintenance, eventually becoming yet another rusted-out bright idea.

Africa's growing debt burden, and its increasing resort to International Monetary Fund (IMF) credits for temporary balance of payments financing, have also given that institution's conditions for loans central importance for African policymakers. Because of their poverty, most African countries have not been able to borrow much commercially; their debt is not, by and large, a major concern of the international banking system, though a major burden for Africans themselves. African reschedulings of official debt via the Paris Club are now by far the most numerous, however, and Africa has become a major client of the IMF. Whereas in 1978 the IMF signed two new conditional credit agreements with African countries, it signed nine in 1979, 12 in 1980, and 21 in 1981. As of December 1983, 23 African countries had agreements with the IMF. African dependence on the IMF will likely increase as commercial lending dries up and aid levels fall.

At the same time it is becoming doubtful whether IMF prescriptions for severe restrictions on monetary and credit expansion will, when applied to fragile African economies, lead to economic "stabilization" or increasing chaos. As Gerald Helleiner points out, Africans' capacity for short-term adjustment is constrained by their narrow margins of survival, including limited short-term possibilities for increasing exports, falling per capita income and real wages, limited technical and administrative capacities, and tenuous political support for national governments.7 The political repercussions of austerity programs have been demonstrated periodically in Ghana, in Liberia in 1979 (when more than a hundred people died in the Monrovia "rice riots") and more recently in "sugar riots" in Khartoum. Thus the stage is set for a series of confrontations over loan conditions in the coming years. In 1982 seven African countries failed to meet IMF guidelines, and Tanzania-IMF negotiations have been deadlocked for some time.

In sum, the economic development choices for most African countries were posed particularly starkly by the end of 1983. Neither the World Bank-IMF prescription of open economies and increased exports8 nor the African counterstrategy for regional self-reliance9 seemed workable in the near term. On the one hand, markets for African commodities are not likely to expand greatly even in a post-recessionary period, while on the other, African countries are seldom in the market for the goods their neighbors are exporting, and joint industrial development efforts currently face insuperable political problems. African states must adjust to declining capital inputs for some time to come-but in order to do so they need short-term and medium-term concessional loans or grants to stimulate the agricultural economy and refurbish deteriorating infrastructure.

Significantly, the Reagan Administration explicitly singled out Africa's development problems for high-level coordination within the State Department this year, as well as for interagency coordination. Under State Department leadership, representatives of the Agency for International Development, the CIA, Defense, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, the Overseas Private Investors Corporation, the Export-Import Bank, the Federal Reserve and U.S. representatives to the IMF and the World Bank came together to consider policy for specific countries (including Zambia, Zaïre, Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Nigeria, Liberia and Senegal). The aim was to maximize the use of scarce resources for Africa in two ways: by harmonizing differing executive branch objectives regarding Africa, and by spurring consultation and cooperation with other donor nations. Bilateral donors and the World Bank conducted joint negotiations with the Sudan throughout the year, linking wide-ranging programs of debt rescheduling, aid and policy reform. Such donor coordination, exceptional in the past, may become the pattern of the future for Africa-with similar efforts underway in Kenya, Liberia and Senegal.

U.S. private investors are unlikely to provide major capital inflows to Africa, and the Administration has soft-pedaled this aspect of Reagan orthodoxy, while pointing to "the vital role of the private sector" within Africa. This non-doctrinaire approach includes a recognition that classic austerity measures will not suffice to correct existing distortions in African economies. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Princeton Lyman made this point in an address in March 1983, when he cited the example of a "major country in Africa," saying that if it "had followed all the prescriptions of the IMF, and undertaken a normal Paris Club rescheduling, and received the same level of aid as in the past, it would have ended up with a net negative per capita GNP growth for the following years."10

An Administration not addicted to "welfare" spending has thus upheld aid levels for Africa. U.S. aid to sub-Saharan Africa remained fairly constant at about $960 million, including a significantly higher proportion of military aid (about 14 percent this year) than allocated by previous administrations. The Administration also requested a 20-percent increase in the African share of the World Bank's International Development Administration funding. And at year's end the Office of Management and Budget appeared likely to approve the special African aid initiative proposed by the State Department, amounting to $500 million in total, with $75 million earmarked for 1984.

However, the Africa Bureau's push for more aid also ran afoul of countervailing Administration policies. The 25-percent cut in U.S. IDA funding announced in December would affect Africa significantly. The U.S. cutback means a decline in the total IDA three-year replenishment from $12 to $9 billion and aggregate aid totals to Africa are likely to drop sharply. In addition, increased amounts of U.S. bilateral aid slated to go to Israel (and therefore to Egypt), as well as a major effort on aid to Central America (as recommended by the Kissinger Commission) will almost certainly draw funds from less strategically interesting areas.


Turning to the internal political front, Nigeria's December 30 coup sent shock waves throughout the region. The country had just completed its second election under a governmental system modeled on that of the United States. Despite predictions that the electoral process itself, which was hotly contested by several major parties, would be halted by a coup, violence was held to a level considered moderate in the context of Nigeria's volatile history, and the incumbent president, Shehu Shagari, achieved a solid victory.11 Three months after Shagari's second inauguration, however, General Mohammed Buhari assumed power in a smoothly orchestrated putsch involving extensive coordination of military leadership at widely separated bases within the sprawling country.

Nigerians' apparent welcome of the coup seemed to indicate that their dissatisfaction with inefficiency and corruption in the civilian government outweighed popular commitment to the democratic system. In addition, rising national debt and falling oil revenues have mandated stringent austerity measures, effectively cutting off Nigeria's safety valve of economic optimism. And widespread rigging during the election itself probably cost the civilians a good measure of credibility.

In retrospect, Nigeria was apparently unready for the bold experiment in largely unconstrained political competition that endured from 1979 to 1983. The disillusionment from Nigerians' failure to carry through on an extremely carefully constructed system of their own design, however, is likely to increase the difficulties of succeeding governments in mobilizing the allegiance of their citizenry.

Perhaps the relatively constrained exercise of political participation in Senegal, Kenya and Cameroon may permit a more enduring political evolution. In each of these countries, modest consolidations did occur and each demonstrated the flexibility of its political institutions, with peaceful transitions from towering national father figures to a new generation of leadership. In Senegal, a February multiparty election involving 14 parties and five presidential candidates confirmed the leadership of President Abdou Diouf, the appointed successor (in 1980) to the country's revered poet-president, Leopold Senghor. In a vote reported to be largely free of irregularities, Diouf won handily.

More ambiguously, a September national election in Kenya similarly solidified the parliamentary support of President Daniel arap Moi, formerly considered a weak compromise choice to succeed the towering Jomo Kenyatta, and the object of an abortive military coup in 1982. In the polling, Kenyans turned out 40 percent of the sitting parliamentarians. A very low turnout for the single-party elections, however, seemed to indicate that Moi's adroit maneuvering at the top had not dissipated the popular disenchantment demonstrated by the riots which accompanied the coup attempt. In the Cameroons, Paul Biya, chosen in 1982 to succeed the country's 25-year president, Ahmadou Adhidjo, successfully beat back moves for his ouster by the former president's supporters. The sincerity of the new president's call for a more democratic, open society seemed borne out by increasing freedom of discussion and publication.

Although these latter cases cannot in every instance be viewed as clear-cut "victories for democracy," in each the country's leadership demonstrated its willingness and ability to accommodate change while avoiding a degree of conflict which might engender civil unrest or military take-overs. Although the prevailing economic crisis has sharply increased pressures on Africa's fledgling political institutions, these relatively open, Western-oriented nations displayed important signs of political maturity.

Conciliation and adroit compromise also salvaged the 1983 annual summit meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). That the meeting took place at all was a significant victory. The Addis Ababa session in June ended a 15-month deadlock during which two summit sessions broke down, and participants feared the OAU itself might disintegrate. The controversial chairmanship of Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi in 1982 threw the organization into something of a tailspin. In addition, two regional conflicts, over the Western Sahara and Chad, threatened to capsize the OAU.

In 1982, half the organization wanted to seat the Polisario guerrillas, who are fighting Morocco for control over the Western Sahara, as the legal government of the disputed territory, while many of the others joined Morocco in a boycott which blocked a quorum at the August session in Tripoli. Trying again to assume the chairmanship in November, Qaddafi blew it this time by his unpopular attempt to seat the Chadian rebels rather than the currently governing group under Hissen Habré. This time around the OAU, under the chairmanship of Ethiopia's President Mengistu, rebuffed Qaddafi's attempt to seat the Polisario by securing a compromise entailing Polisario withdrawal from this meeting and a call for Morocco to negotiate with the insurgents.

The 1983 compromise signaled the commitment of the Polisario's supporters-and particularly its main backer, Algeria-to the OAU. It also represented the only game in town for possible resolution of the eight-year-old Western Saharan conflict.12 Like the formula agreed on at the OAU's 1981 summit, the measures passed in the closing moments of the 1983 OAU session called for a ceasefire and referendum on the territory's future-within six months. By year's end, however, no sign of either was in sight. Instead, July and August saw a flare-up of major fighting in the Sahara-the first after a nearly two-year respite. The well-equipped Polisario forces attacked in strength, maneuvering around the Moroccans' defensive sand wall and inflicting serious casualties. Libya reportedly halted aid to the Polisario after Morocco agreed to refrain from criticism of the Libyan operation in Chad, discussed below. Algeria, however, apparently put its commitment to the insurgents ahead of a possible deal with Morocco. Thus the Saharan conflict would very likely continue to bedevil OAU politics. Morocco's position appeared to be eroding as staunch allies like Senegal criticized the Moroccan government's obduracy in refusing to negotiate directly with the Polisario.


Chairman-manqué Qaddafi withdrew from organization politics (at least temporarily) and returned to the military arena in Chad. The 20-year civil war in that country was escalated abruptly in midsummer as rebel forces under Goukouni Oueddei mounted a powerful assault with Libyan assistance, including air support.

For the Reagan Administration, Libya's latest incursion into Chad represented a threat become an opportunity.13 Early on, Qaddafi became the Administration's favorite radical-so outrageous that he had alienated all but a marginal fringe, and small enough to take on without qualms. From late 1981 through 1982 he stayed on his best behavior, going for the elusive prize of the OAU chair. But after his defeat at the 1983 OAU summit, he marched back to Tripoli and unleashed Goukouni in full force in northern Chad. After Goukouni's forces took the Chadian desert stronghold of Faya-Largeau, the United States began a military airlift to support the Habré government, which retook, then again lost the northern outpost. In early August, the Administration, impatient at France's failure to act, sent two AWACS reconnaissance planes and eight F-15 fighter-bombers to Sudan's capital, Khartoum. Shortly thereafter, the French sent 300 paratroopers (later raised to 3,000 sent to the front line) to the Chadian capital of Ndjamena, and followed up with ten fighter aircraft.

As this scenario unfolded, the French did not hide their reluctance to involve themselves again in a civil war they had fought in actively, off and on, from 1968 to 1980. For its part, the U.S. Administration prodded the Mitterrand government quite openly-deployment of the AWACS, for example, served no real military purpose but seemed mostly designed to get the French moving. Although a common interest in containing Qaddafi's adventurism in French Africa eventually brought French and U.S. policies into closer harmony,14 Mitterrand stated in an August 16 interview in Le Monde that France would not be pushed around by the United States, and Paris did not wish to make an adversary of Libya. He also took the United States to task for having encouraged Habré to challenge the former Chadian government under Goukouni.

The real differences stem from the tangled and murky recent history of power politics in the area. In 1980, the Chadian government under Oueddei-just set up under OAU auspices-requested and obtained the departure of the French troops from the country. In the resulting vacuum, the beleaguered leader called in the Libyans to help fight off rival chieftains, particularly his former colleague and minister Habré. Then in November 1981, responding to pressure both from the new French government of François Mitterrand and from the OAU, Goukouni in turn asked the Libyans to leave. When they did so, Habré's rebel forces gathered momentum, and despite the presence of a 4,800-man OAU peacekeeping force, drove Goukouni out of Ndjamena in June 1982. Although supporting the OAU peacekeeping and mediation effort with a contribution of $12 million, the United States reportedly also channeled millions in military aid to Habré, who was actively sponsored by U.S. allies Sudan and Egypt as an adversary to Qaddafi. Thus Mitterrand's implicit question about U.S. geopolitical maneuvering in the region: Would the French intervention have been necessary in 1983 if the United States had not played "friends and foes" earlier on?

Beyond Qaddafi's growing role as the leader Washington "loves to hate," U.S. moves against him responded to calls from Egypt and the Sudan. For the former, Qaddafi combines the symbolic threat of a militant Islam with real financial ties to Egyptian dissident groups, and in the Sudan, real and imagined Libyan-sponsored coups have periodically punctuated the melee of domestic politics during the 15-year ascendancy of President Gaafar Nimeiri. Sudan's anti-Qaddafi and pro-Western stance-Nimeiri expelled the Soviets in 1977-made it a particular favorite of the Reagan Administration. The United States sent $250 million in economic and military aid to the Sudan in 1982 and more than $200 million in 1983, by far the largest total for any country in sub-Saharan Africa. During 1983, however, Sudan's simmering civil conflict between the Moslem north and Christian/animist south threatened to burst into flames again as the Nimeiri government decreed the rule of Islamic law over the entire nation and increasingly reasserted northern control over local affairs in the south. If the Administration accedes to reported pressures from U.S. oil prospectors in the south (notably Chevron) to help Nimeiri contain southern insurgents it will, ironically, be helping to support Islamic fundamentalism in Africa.

As for the Chadian conflict itself, the United States at year's end had reportedly contributed $25 million in military and economic support for the Habré regime. The French intervention had brought about a stalemate and partition of the country, and without aggressive French support Habré apparently remained unable to dislodge his adversary from the northern third. The French, for their part, indicated their intention to negotiate with Libya on terms for their mutual withdrawal. Without conceding Libyan territorial claims on the northern Aouzou strip, Paris spoke hopefully of a "federation" as "more in line with reality than a formal unity always being broken."15 Negotiations between the Chadian parties were scheduled as a result of prodding by fellow Africans at the October francophone summit in Vittel, but protocol problems disrupted a meeting in early 1984, and the history of the conflict made optimism risky.


The other extremity of the African continent also saw more fighting than talking this year. South Africa's direct and indirect threats to its neighbors' security appeared to take precedence over the long-stalled Namibia negotiations even for the Front Line states. Indeed, the emerging South African strategy cast doubt on the continuing salience of Namibian independence as an issue, given Pretoria's evident determination to ensure its neighbors' docility with military force.

A major focus of African and Western hopes for the region since 1977, the Namibia negotiations remained deadlocked on the question of the Cuban presence in Angola. At the end of August, U.N. Secretary General Pérez de Cuéllar returned from a mission to South Africa, Namibia and Angola to report to the Security Council that the remaining obstacles to the implementation of U.N. Resolution 435-which does not mention the Cubans-had been resolved: that is, the composition of the U.N. peacekeeping force, the voting system to be used in a pre-independence election, and the impartiality of the United Nations. However, a series of sweeping offensive strikes by the South-African-backed Angolan insurgent group, UNITA, apparently timed to coincide with the Secretary General's visit, dimmed hopes that the Angolan government would be amenable to sending the Cubans home at any time soon. Then in December and January South African forces pushed 150 miles into Angola in an extremely heavy offensive operation designed to mop up SWAPO. In that context, South Africa's December offer to withdraw its troops from Angola in return for an Angolan-imposed quarantine on SWAPO was angrily dismissed by Luanda. Nor is an agreement on withdrawal likely until Angola is sufficiently assured of its security vis-à-vis both South Africa and UNITA to start serious negotiations. Similarly, Pretoria's 1984 offer of a negotiated ceasefire with SWAPO appeared unlikely to bear fruit until there was a credible prospect of South African agreement to internationally supervised elections.

In fact, the recent surge of the UNITA guerrillas underlines basic questions about South African intentions regarding Namibia. Pretoria has built up a very strong military position in Namibia and southern Angola, effectively controlling a 30-mile-wide strip of southern Angola, where about 1,500 South African troops reportedly operate regularly. From this bastion they supply air cover and reportedly even technical support for UNITA's raids. In the last six months of 1983, UNITA pushed far north of its previous area of action, with forward units operating in isolated areas just a few hundred miles from the capital. Although very little populated area is reliably "controlled" by UNITA, the insurgents' growing ability to inflict economic damage and military casualties has increased the uncertainties within the Luanda regime and the sense of upheaval within the country, where seven central and southern provinces are now governed under emergency legislation. Although the Cuban troops in Angola rarely engage UNITA, several thousand reinforcements apparently arrived from Havana in the fall, and the Cubans reportedly fought in the year-end battles with South Africa in the southern part of the country.

The Angola-based South Africans also interdict raids against Namibia by SWAPO insurgents based in Angola, who must cross the South African zone in order to reach Namibia. An estimated 1,000 SWAPO fighters now operate within Namibia, and 5,000 more are grouped in Angola. Guerrilla raids continue, but SWAPO now operates against much higher odds than it faced two years ago, or even in 1982. Within Namibia itself, 30,000 South African troops (about 9,000 of them Namibian blacks) patrol the northern border region. While the motivation of the insurgents to win control over Namibia has very likely not diminished, their morale cannot remain immune to the lack of any hope for early success.

The South Africans appear to believe they are winning the war. Rumors spread, during the second half of the year, about a South African plan to create another state out of northern Namibia and southern Angola-thereby excising from Namibia the troublesome Ovambos, who because of their numbers predominate in the membership of SWAPO, and putting them under the control of UNITA's Jonas Savimbi. Although the scheme seemed mostly wishful thinking, it expressed a feeling that has grown increasingly pervasive in the area in the past year or two: that South Africa's military power will allow it for some time to come to do just about what it wishes in the region.

On the internal Namibian front, Pretoria has spent significant time, energy and resources over the past several years trying to build alternative Namibian coalitions that might be able to beat SWAPO at the polls in an internationally supervised election. In January 1983 its best bet so far-the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, a multiracial grouping of 11 small ethnic parties, led by a white, Dirk Mudge-resigned from government in some disarray. At that point South Africa resumed direct rule of Namibia through an administrator general, Willie van Niekerk, a gynecologist.

Throughout the year, the administrator bent his efforts toward establishing a state council to draw up a new constitution for Namibia. The proposal for a constitution inevitably stirred recurring speculation about South African plans to bypass international negotiations and go for an "internal settlement." South African officials asserted that any constitution drawn up would only be an "interim" document, and indeed they seemed most concerned about maintaining some semblance of political activity within the territory, to keep the internal parties busy. Toward the end of the year van Niekerk succeeded in convening a "multi-party conference," which appeared to be flirting with the idea of forming an "interim government." But the administrator general appeared to have little success in attracting well-known and credible political leaders to participate.

In assessing the likelihood of progress on the Namibian negotiations, the most important calculus concerns the costs and benefits to South Africa of different courses of action. The Angolans now have almost as strong an interest as SWAPO in a settlement, for it would effectively cut UNITA off from its South African patrons. For Pretoria, however, domestic politics combine with strategic calculations to severely dim prospects for an international settlement. While no South African is happy with the daily expenditure of at least one million dollars on the war, and the government would undoubtedly like to "deliver" a major foreign policy coup to its friends in the Reagan Administration, the white South African body politic appears set against a genuinely independent Namibia.

In the first place, independent Zimbabwe-as seen by a largely hostile South African press-has heightened white fears about a Marxist Namibia. The 1980 election of Robert Mugabe as prime minister of Zimbabwe confounded the expectations of many South African whites, who had hoped for a "cooperative" Zimbabwe under the leadership of Bishop Abel Muzorewa. And the growth of ethnic conflict under Mugabe has reinforced stereotypes about black rule. In addition, the Botha government's own mobilizing rhetoric about the communist "total onslaught" aimed at South Africa has apparently convinced whites of the reality of this threat. According to a survey based on a representative white opinion sample published by the South African Institute of Race Relations at the end of 1982, over 80 percent agreed that the country is currently subject to a "total onslaught."16 In that context a secure Namibia may seem a military and strategic necessity.

Further, the internal political upheaval occasioned by the constitutional proposals for inclusion of Coloured and Indians in the national government, and the November referendum on that question, left the government reluctant to stir up other hornets' nests now. In the view of John Barratt, the director of the South African Institute of International Relations, "Even if the Government feels realistically and objectively that an internationally acceptable resolution of the Namibian conflict-including the risk of a SWAPO electoral victory-is in the best long-term interests of South Africa, its room for manoeuvre and its range of options are now severely limited by the white public opinion it has helped to create."17

Statements made for internal consumption by Prime Minister Botha also cast doubt on the degree to which an "international settlement" in Namibia means the same thing to Pretoria as it did to the rest of the world. Speaking of the communist menace to Namibia, he said in late 1982 that "SWAPO and the ANC [as well as the Cubans] should leave southern Africa before South Africa could deliberate on the future of Namibia."18

The Angolans appear-with reason-scared to death of South Africa at this point. Helpless in the face of South African penetration of their territory, and increasingly beleaguered by UNITA, they have become more, rather than less, dependent on the Cubans. The latter function, in the final resort, as a sort of tripwire, insuring that, in the event of another South African invasion (the first, in 1975, brought the Cubans in force to Angola), the Cubans and Soviets would surely come to the rescue. For the Angolans to give up that tripwire they would have to be convinced that South Africa would not invade-or that the United States would restrain Pretoria from doing so.19

However, U.S. statecraft so far has aimed almost entirely at reassuring and assuaging South Africa rather than the other parties to the negotiations. In soft-pedaling criticism of South African cross-border raids and looking benignly on Pretoria's aid to UNITA, the Administration's public statements have often seemed, rather disingenuously, to ignore South Africa's enormous coercive power over its weak neighbor. Instead, Washington has, in effect, declared that well-intentioned sovereign states ought to be able to settle their problems peacefully. "Carrots" offered to Pretoria this year included relaxed restrictions on sales of computers and other technical equipment to the South African military and police (with a particularly controversial delivery of cattle prods to the police); nuclear cooperation in the form of permission to American companies to bid on technical and maintenance services for the Koeberg nuclear power station near Cape Town; and the opening of a trade promotion office in Johannesburg by the Commerce Department.

Washington's greatest service to Pretoria, of course, has been its insistent emphasis on the Cuban issue. Beyond the Administration's own interest in Cuban withdrawal, the Reagan team's addition of the Cuban question to the Namibia mix in 1981 was seen by the Administration as a crucial element in selling a Namibian settlement to South African whites. The effect instead has been to take the heat off South Africa, which is now to all intents and purposes shielded by its American patron, and thus considerably more comfortable with the status quo than it would be otherwise.

The Administration's linkage between Namibia and the Cubans in Angola has drawn heavy criticism from African nations and even from other members of the Western "Contact Group," which was formed at the United Nations in 1977 and has actively participated in the negotiations.20 Participants in an April U.N. conference on Namibia accused the United States and other members of the Contact Group of helping South Africa to postpone the day of Namibian independence. In a June Security Council session on Namibia, frustrations remained largely under wraps, as debate moved toward unanimous approval of a non-controversial resolution calling on South Africa to comply with Resolution 435 and mandating the secretary-general to enter into urgent discussions with South Africa on that resolution. In October, however, another resolution (on which the United States abstained) expressed indignation at the South African insistence on linkage and condemned its obstruction of Resolution 435. In November, a consensus declaration of the Commonwealth conference went further, citing the United States itself for obstructing the negotiating process through its insistence on the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. In supporting this position, Contact Group members Great Britain and Canada explicitly distanced themselves from the United States, as the French had done in 1982 and again in December 1983, when they "temporarily" withdrew from the Contact Group.

Though increasingly concerted, criticism of U.S. policy lacks heat. As frustrated as they may feel, the African nations know that there are no real alternatives to U.S.-led negotiations. Unless supported by the United States and other Western countries, calls for sanctions might well end joint African and Western efforts for a settlement and demonstrate the real gap between the two groups on how to deal with South Africa.

For the Reagan Administration, this African weakness serves an important purpose in keeping the game going. Despite earlier talk of deadlines, the need now is at all costs to keep a candle burning at the end of the tunnel. As long as talks continue, the final verdict cannot be delivered on the policy of constructive engagement. To most of the world, constructive engagement has encouraged South African intransigence over Namibia and greatly escalated violence against neighboring African states. If hopes for a settlement were pronounced dead, the payoffs of a policy of cooperation with South Africa would have to be found in Pretoria's domestic reforms and regional relationships. Developments on both these fronts this year illustrated again how shortsighted any semblance of U.S. identification with South Africa must be.


In each area the South African government pursued a consistent strategy aimed at reinforcing the basic elements of white power. Both internally and externally, policy reflected the increasing importance of the South African military, under the leadership of Prime Minister-and former Defense Minister-P.W. Botha. Looking first at South Africa's relationships in southern Africa, the year confirmed the outlines of a policy of "destabilization" which emerged clearly in 1982 and appears likely to dominate South Africa's regional behavior for the foreseeable future: that is, the use of its overwhelming military superiority to force its neighbors to toe the line. Most visible in Angola, this tactic works on several levels-through direct South African attacks on installations in bordering states, and through support for dissident groups aiming to overthrow the governments of those states.

Lesotho, which was the target in December 1982 of a South African preemptive raid aimed at rooting out ANC insurgents, was further harassed at the beginning of 1983. At the end of January, bombs planted by the anti-government Lesotho Liberation Army, which operates with at least tacit South African support, rocked a water storage facility near Lesotho's capital, Maseru. The bombs exploded shortly before a conference of a regional organization (the Southern African Development Coordination Conference, or SADCC) devoted to reducing its members' economic dependence on Pretoria.21 Again in mid-February sabotage damaged Lesotho's major fuel depot.

In May, following an ANC car-bomb attack on air force headquarters in Pretoria, South African jet planes attacked what South African officials said were ANC offices in Mozambique's capital of Maputo-the first reprisal by air attack. Again in October, South Africa took responsibility for the bombing of ANC offices in Maputo located in the same neighborhood as the headquarters of the Mozambican defense forces and the home of the nation's President Samora Machel. The South African regional campaign has also included extensive sabotage in Zimbabwe in 1982, aid to the rebel Mozambique National Resistance movement (MNR), and, of course, the military occupation of southern Angola and aid to UNITA.

The destabilization strategy appeared to reflect both South Africa's confidence in its ability to solve or contain political problems through military force and, on the other hand, some degree of frustration at the rising incidence of ANC sabotage. The feeling of confidence, even cockiness, on the part of South Africans is, alas, all too easy to understand. Having failed in every political approach toward black Africa over the last several decades, endured castigation at the United Nations over Namibia and apartheid, and, until recently, rejection by its chosen allies in the West, Pretoria has found a strategy it can bring off alone. Reflecting this perception, the South African Institute of International Affairs' survey among whites showed 72 percent of respondents confident that South Africa can prevail militarily in Namibia, while 81 percent supported similar drastic tactics against the ANC, advocating a military response against guerrilla bases in neighboring states.22

Only a considerable escalation in Soviet aid to its neighbors could change this calculation significantly. The Soviet Union has maintained a low profile in Africa over the past several years. Until this December the Cubans in Angola reportedly had not engaged South African troops since they faced each other in the Angolan civil war in 1975. In this regard, the participation of Cubans in the December-January Angolan fighting, and the reportedly heavy infusion of Soviet equipment into that battle, seemed to give Pretoria some pause. In addition, the U.S.S.R. delivered an unprecedented private warning to South Africa in November that its activities in Angola are unacceptable, and reaffirmed support for the current MPLA government in Angola.

Nonetheless, Pretoria's attacks on its neighbors may be expected to continue to several ends: the destruction of the ANC and the inculcation of a more compliant stance in surrounding regimes. Regarding the ANC, the Botha government seeks total exclusion of the insurgents from the region. Defense Minister General Magnus Malan declared in February that unless neighboring countries signed "non-aggression pacts" with Pretoria, South Africa might have to support rebel movements poised against them. In fact, the Front Line states have each limited ANC activity within their borders. Only Angola houses ANC military bases; Zimbabwe permits only political offices, as does Zambia. Neither Lesotho nor Botswana houses ANC offices, but the former has become a particular irritant to Pretoria because of its large South African refugee population, while the latter has, until recently, escaped opprobrium by firmly refusing to permit ANC infiltration into and out of South Africa. The main target of South African reprisals, Mozambique, allows only civilian offices-no military headquarters or installations-but its border with South Africa is porous.

In addition to choking off the ANC, South Africa's success in harassing and threatening the Marxist government in Angola through support of UNITA seems to have fueled Pretoria's broader aspirations in the region. Prime Minister Botha has explicitly compared his country's role in southern Africa to that of the United States in the Western Hemisphere, citing a "special responsibility" to the region similar to the Monroe Doctrine in the "promotion of stability and the strengthening of democratic forces against communist subversion."23

South Africa will never realize its hopes of completely cordoning off its borders against insurgents; nor can Pretoria expect to find the governments of the region replaced by regimes tolerant of apartheid. Its strategy has, however, clearly decreased the stability of most regional regimes. Apart from Angola, the South African-supported MNR has severely strained Mozambique's fragile economic and political infrastructures. Zimbabwe's ethnic conflicts make it an equally easy target. For this reason Pretoria's campaign has undoubtedly deeply alarmed its neighbors, and considerably decreased their enthusiasm for crossing the regional power.

With the exception of Zimbabwe, all states in the region have anxiously pursued negotiations with Pretoria. In addition to Angola's abortive January talks on a mutual modus vivendi, Mozambique and South Africa held meetings in December 1982 and in May 1983 at the border town of Komatipoort to discuss security issues. Lesotho agreed to oust some of its South African refugees (said by South Africa to pose a security threat) and asked 68 to leave its territory in September. Mozambique moved many of its refugees to the north.

Despite this frontal assault on ANC sanctuaries, the frequency of ANC sabotage attacks has actually increased-with incidents reported at a rate of several each month, and of growing sophistication. To the extent that South Africa succeeds in creating a cordon sanitaire, the organization will increasingly be driven to train its members and mount its operations from the black townships and rural areas within South Africa-a difficult proposition given the extensive and effective intelligence network controlled by the government.

Yet the ANC cannot be expected to go away. Despite a virtually complete ban on overt black political activity within South Africa, the organization has become the main focus for black political aspirations (as it was before 1960), and its training programs (in Angola and Tanzania) the main destination for dissident youth leaving South Africa. With its 70-year history and 20 years of armed struggle against apartheid, the ANC enjoys a unique legitimacy among blacks, including "moderate" black leaders like Soweto's Dr. Nthato Motlana, Bishop Desmond Tutu and many black trade union leaders. While none of these men advocate violent revolution to end South Africa's racial oppression, it would be difficult for a black leader now to condemn those who use violence as a means of exerting pressure against a white regime that maintains its control through violent coercion of blacks.

While deploring the December 1983 raid on Lesotho, the Reagan Administration for the most part construed South Africa's destabilization activities rather neutrally, as a problem to be solved between the sovereign states in the region by negotiation aimed at removing the cause of the problem-that is, by implication, the ANC. Although the Administration voiced its position in universalistic terms, decrying all acts of violence mounted from the territory of another state, Under Secretary Eagleburger in his June speech explicitly singled out only the threat to South Africa, when he said the United States is "determined to permit [the South Africans] the opportunity to shape and define that change free of the threat of foreign interventions." Whether or not he equated the ANC with "foreign" interventionist forces-it is the only force posing any threat to South Africa from across its borders at present, and is likely to remain so for some time to come-he did deny the organization official sanction when he limited U.S. support to those in South Africa "who are committed to peaceful change."24

For the nations of Africa, the effect of this sort of formulation was to ignore the basic cause of all the "cross-border violence"-South Africa's apartheid system-and justify Pretoria's efforts to solve its own dissident problem by attacking its neighbors.25 The Administration reported sotto voce that it had expressed strong private criticism to South Africa, particularly regarding the 1982 sabotage of oil supplies in Zimbabwe. Washington also encouraged and reportedly facilitated talks between South Africa and the neighboring countries-particularly Mozambique, where the United States focused significant efforts on improving relations with the Machel regime. But the seeming consequence of the U.S. public posture was to signal Pretoria that it need fear no serious adverse reaction to its campaign to mop up its adversaries. As long as all the Front Line states except Angola remain wary of extensive Soviet involvement in their defense, South Africa can act with virtual impunity.


Prime Minister Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe expressed his assessment of the Reagan policy in August 1983, speaking out more sharply than before. The U.S. stance, he said, has encouraged South Africa "to become more aggressive" toward neighboring nations, and "more intransigent, relying on what it believes to be United States support." Coming on the eve of the Prime Minister's September trip to Washington, this statement probably did not improve U.S.-Zimbabwean bilateral relations, which discernibly frayed during the year.

In its first two-and-a-half years the Reagan Administration had made a concerted effort to cultivate Zimbabwe as a racially integrated "showcase of economic growth and political moderation in southern Africa."26 In the fall of 1983, however, U.S. officials expressed annoyance over Zimbabwe's abstention on the U.N. Security Council vote condemning the Soviet downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007, and its co-sponsorship of the Security Council resolution condemning the U.S. intervention in Grenada. U.S. irritation culminated with the unofficial Zimbabwean boycott of a memorial service held in Harare for U.S. and French military personnel killed in Lebanon.

These bilateral strains paralleled an intensification of the internal tensions in Zimbabwe-compounded by the disastrous effects of the drought-that have faced the Mugabe government since independence. The regime's heavy-handed suppression of opposition by Joshua Nkomo and of armed insurgency within the Matabele tribal area loyal to Nkomo has fanned the flames of a smoldering ethnic conflict and consequently opened the way for South African destabilization efforts. On the black-white front, however, Mugabe has generally maintained a shrewd balance between fulfilling the expectations of his black countrymen and left-leaning party stalwarts and accommodating whites within a stable and open economic environment. Since 1980 two-thirds to three-quarters of the country's whites have stayed, and significantly for the country's agricultural economy, more white farmers have stayed than left.27

After Mugabe's September visit to Washington, during which he reportedly lectured President Reagan about southern Africa, rumors flew of an impending deep cut in U.S. aid to Zimbabwe (originally set at $75 million for 1983 but actually down to $60 million). At the year's end, the State Department reported a fairly sharp cut to $40 million for 1984.

Zimbabwe has been the main black African recipient in the region of U.S. aid and concern. Deterioration of the U.S.-Zimbabwe relationship would further damage the credibility of this part of U.S. policy. The other U.S. program directed to supporting black states in the region-aid to the regional SADCC economic grouping-continued to receive Administration backing but got only a paltry $6 million in aid in 1983.


Looking at the main objective of the constructive engagement policy-change in South Africa's racially oppressive internal system-the significance of events in 1983 varied greatly according to the eye of the beholder. In November, the country's white electorate voted by a 66-percent majority to extend limited political rights to the Coloured and Indian minorities in a system which excludes the black majority. The new constitution provides for separate parliamentary chambers for whites, Coloureds, and Indians, with each group dealing with its own "community concerns." "Mutual concerns"-including all legislation affecting the apartheid system-will be handled jointly, allowing the numerically dominant whites continued control. Further, the newly created executive president will not have to answer to Parliament, but will settle disputes between the chambers through the President's Council. The new constitution in fact seemed to drain even from white parliamentary politics the reality of power, and raised the possibility of the retirement of opposition leaders like the Progressive Federal Party's Frederick Van Zyl Slabbert from the official political arena.

The U.S. Administration welcomed the result as a "milestone in the modern history of South Africa," claiming that "a clear majority of white South African voters decided [in the referendum] to take a step which opens the way to constructive evolutionary change toward a system based on the consent of all South African citizens, 80 percent of whom are not white."28 And in private conversations, Administration officials indicated confidence that the Botha government had a "hidden agenda" for broadening government to eventually include urban blacks in some way. They also argued that the next steps must go further-the genie of change was out of the bottle and could not be stuffed back in.

Beyond the new constitution, proponents of constructive engagement also pointed to other limited expansions of political breathing space within South Africa, including the lapse of about 50 banning orders (whereby individual dissidents are effectively deprived of the right of public expression); a lessening of harassment of black union leaders, the government's avoidance of a political crackdown on the United Democratic Front (UDF), a new umbrella organization of national and community groups formed to oppose the constitutional proposals; and at least nominal acquiescence in a high court decision (the Rikhoto decision) that could affect hundreds of thousands of blacks by allowing migrant workers who have held jobs in South Africa for ten consecutive years to remain as permanent residents with their families in the black townships-if housing is available.

Outside the Administration, however, longtime South Africa watchers expressed extreme skepticism about the new constitution and continued pessimism about the direction of change in South Africa. South Africa's main opposition party, the Progressive Federal Party, officially opposed the constitutional proposals because they excluded blacks and for the first time entrenched the apartheid system in the nation's constitution. Prime Minister Botha's repeated statements that blacks would not be given full political rights within his children's lifetime hardly suggest any significant hidden agenda.

In fact, as Coloureds and Indians were invited in, the momentum grew of policies confining blacks to congested and impoverished areas where they will be excluded from South African citizenship (13 percent of the country's land area). Whereas in 1950 39 percent of blacks lived in these rural enclaves, 53 percent do so today-three and a half million of whom have been forcibly removed from white South Africa over the last 20 years.

In this context, the new constitution looked like a tidying-up of apartheid, an attempt to co-opt the Indian and Coloured minorities into the white camp to better balance the black majority. Further down the road, government strategists may also foresee the economic and partial political co-optation of urban blacks (assumed to acquiesce passively in the consignment of their less fortunate fellows to the homelands). While new laws and stiffer enforcement have aimed at more rigorously excluding blacks from urban areas in recent years, government policy has also somewhat improved material conditions of life for blacks considered to be permanently urbanized, and black wages have risen relative to those of whites. A few have qualified to hold land more or less securely (under 99-year leasehold rights).

It suggested the slight political impact of such changes that blacks across the political spectrum were unified in their angry denunciation of the new constitution. Homeland chiefs like Gatsha Buthelezi joined unionists and urban and church leaders who saw the new dispensation as placing a formal seal on their exclusion. Reacting to the prospect of their own co-optation, a sizable majority of the Coloured and Indian communities also reportedly rejected the idea of participating with whites in a government excluding blacks, casting some doubt on the legitimacy of the parliamentary elections if they go ahead as planned, late in 1984. By midsummer, opposition to the proposals gave rise to a new multiracial movement, launched at the largest anti-government rally South Africa had seen in 25 years. An umbrella organization for more than 400 organizations, the UDF includes unions and church groups but excludes those who work within the system, like Buthelezi's political organization, Inkatha. While identifying itself with the ANC's leadership and outlook, the UDF made an omnibus appeal. It committed itself to fight for "a single, non-racial unfragmented South Africa." Keeping the UDF under surveillance, the government has thus far not banned any particular meetings. The UDF's loosely linked, local character makes it an elusive target.

At its August meeting, the UDF passed a resolution criticizing the U.S. policy of constructive engagement as "furthering its own economic interests in our country at the expense of the well-being of our people," and declaring that such "callous support for this unpopular and undemocratic government by the United States cannot stop us in our march towards freedom." This reaction pointed up a major problem with the policy, which repeatedly emerged in statements of black leaders: by signaling cooperation and friendship to whites, one unavoidably signals to blacks a willingness to support the status quo. Despite the Administration's programs for black economic advancement-including scholarship programs for blacks, training for black union leaders, and commitments to support small business in black communities-urban blacks now reportedly widely believe the United States is allied with the South African government. The black general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Bishop Desmond Tutu, strongly expressed this attitude at a Council meeting in June, when he said that "blacks will remember that Washington collaborated with and supported a regime perpetrating the most vicious system since Nazism and communism," adding that "perhaps the United States wants blacks to know that ultimately they are expendable."29


In the third year of the Reagan Administration, the Congress was also growing restive at constructive engagement. Opposition to the Reagan policy reached the floor of the House in four separate amendments aimed at cutting economic support to South Africa and inducing reform there through economic pressures. The legislative proposals diverged sharply from Administration policy in seeking to apply unequivocal and concrete pressures on South Africa. The legislative initiatives included:

-an amendment to the IMF Authorization Bill, introduced by California Democrat (and Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus) Julian Dixon, instructing the U.S. Executive Director of the IMF to vote against loans to countries which practice apartheid;

-an amendment to the Export Administration Act, introduced by California Democrat Howard Berman, requiring that the United States restore controls prohibiting all exports to the South African military and police (originally imposed by the Carter Administration in 1978 and lifted by the Reagan Administration in March 1982), including strategic but technically "non-lethal" equipment such as computers, light aircraft, and helicopters;

-an amendment to the same Act, introduced by New York Democrat Stephen Solarz, that would: a) mandate compliance with a strengthened version of the Sullivan fair employment principles by U.S. companies with more than 20 employees in South Africa; b) prohibit commercial bank loans to the South African government except for loans for education, housing, or health facilities available on a nondiscriminatory basis; and c) ban the importation into the United States of the krugerrand, or any gold coin minted or sold by the South African government;

-a third amendment to this Act, by Pennsylvania Democrat William Gray, which would prohibit any new corporate investment or private bank loans to South Africa.

At year's end all three amendments to the Export Administration Act had been approved by the House, as had the bill itself, but they awaited action in the joint House-Senate Conference Committee. The amendment to the IMF bill, opposed by the Administration and many of the Senate conferees, nonetheless survived conference with the addition of a provision weakening it somewhat by allowing the Secretary of the Treasury to vote in favor of loans to South Africa if he feels they would "benefit economically" the "majority of the people," reduce "the severe constraints on labor and capital mobility," and reduce "other highly inefficient labor and capital supply rigidities." It was signed into law in December.

Like the IMF amendment, these legislative initiatives, if passed, would open up an important new source of U.S. government pressure on South Africa, sending a sharp signal to Pretoria and perhaps inflicting some longer-term economic hardship. However, even if it is not all enacted, the passage through the House of this spate of legislation represents unprecedented congressional activism on the question of South Africa. In part, it has been spurred by the time-honored congressional penchant for visible symbolic opposition to Administration initiatives.

Beyond congressional proclivities, however, the anti-apartheid legislation takes off from a half-dozen years of local political action on the issue, which in turn has gained impetus from a growing political base of black elected officials. Starting in the early 1970s, anti-apartheid activism found expression in student and church and other shareholder movements aimed at non-governmental economic sanctions against South Africa through divestment of stocks in companies and banks active in South Africa.30 The pace of such efforts quickened sharply after the 1976 and 1977 riots in Soweto, coinciding with an upsurge of black activism on South Africa. Although domestic economic issues have always heavily outweighed foreign policy for black constituencies, the increasing numbers and visibility of black elites have strongly increased concern with international issues relating to Africa-and particularly southern Africa. This was manifest in the formation in 1977 by the congressional Black Caucus of TransAfrica, an unofficial black lobby on foreign policy issues. In that same year Reverend Leon Sullivan, a black member of the board of directors of General Motors, started a movement to bring U.S. corporations involved in South Africa into voluntary compliance with a set of guidelines for equal employment opportunity (the "Sullivan Principles").

Closely related to these non-governmental drives, state and local legislative disinvestment initiatives have gathered steam since 1981, when TransAfrica and other organizations brought together a group of state legislators to discuss social responsibility and divestment. The prevalence of these legislative efforts correlates quite directly with the surge of blacks into elective office during the 1970s and early 1980s. According to the Investor Responsibility Research Center, in about two-thirds of the states that have taken up the issue of ties with South Africa, black legislators initiated the debate and have done most of the work in pushing legislation.31 Though South Africa is not high on the agenda of most state legislatures, legislation limiting in some fashion ties with companies or banks doing business with South Africa has now been introduced in more than 20 states, and has passed in Massachusetts, Michigan and Connecticut.

These efforts affect legislation at the national level both directly and indirectly by changing the political atmosphere as well as through actual links between state and local officials and Congress-particularly those of black officials with the Black Caucus. Since its inception in 1970 the Caucus has grown from 13 to 21. The increasing importance of the black vote, symbolized this year by the presidential candidacy of Jesse Jackson, has bolstered the importance of Caucus positions. This year a number of southern Congressmen who voted to lift sanctions on Rhodesia in 1979 seemed to be responding to this new imponderable by voting for the anti-apartheid amendments (two of which were introduced by members of the Caucus).

In another display of black foreign policy clout, TransAfrica elicited from five Democratic hopefuls what TransAfrica Forum called "often groundbreaking observations" on Africa- and Caribbean-related questions.32 Most candidates supported some sort of sanctions against South Africa under certain conditions and most also favored recognition of Angola. In effect, their responses notably upped the ante on southern Africa, relative even to the policy pursued by the Carter Administration. In addition, six of the Democratic candidates have endorsed the Solarz amendment, and five supported the Gray amendment.


After three years of "constructive engagement," some assessment of this central feature of the Reagan Africa policy seems warranted. From the early days of the Administration, the assumptions and strategy of the southern Africa initiative were formulated with a clarity unusual in a regime focusing preeminently on the domestic economy. By design sharply different from the approach of the Carter Administration, it reflected deeply felt attitudes from the President on down. The justification for warmer relations with South Africa was that they would help achieve a Namibia settlement and gently ease South Africa in the direction of gradual reform toward a nonracial regime.

What effect constructive engagement may have had on South Africa's internal policies is debatable-a strong case can be made that 1983's constitutional changes actually moved away from any eventual grant of effective political participation to blacks. As for Namibia, the logjam there shows no sign of breaking, and American insistence on an explicit linkage with Cuban withdrawal from Angola has increased African frustrations and those of other Contact Group members, and directed them against the United States.

The year-end defection of all fellow Contact Group members except Germany left the Administration a very scanty fig leaf indeed. Although some of the Group may see South Africa's ceasefire proposals as returning the ball to Angola's court, they are unlikely to support the U.S. approach unless the Namibia negotiations make discernible progress. And in the absence of a convincing payoff for three years of effort, the Administration has seriously risked American credibility in black Africa without any compensatory gain.

A third issue, hardly visible in 1981 but now a fair test, is the impact of constructive engagement on relations between South Africa and neighboring black states. South Africa's military intimidation of its neighbors may be effective in the short run, but it increases longer-run prospects for regional instability and bitterness. For South Africa itself, the increasing militarization of regional conflict, which its strategy makes inevitable, risks future escalation. As for the United States, the spillover of African hostility could seriously obstruct its African objectives.

The Administration's right wing probably does not see it this way. For this camp, the disarray of southern Africa's leftist regimes and particularly UNITA's growing threat to Angolan government control may constitute tangible benefits. According to this view, we are winning in the south and holding the line against Qaddafi in the North-on the only scorecard that counts: East-West relations.

The approach enunciated by Assistant Secretary Crocker, however, takes quite a different tack on the East-West issue than the ideological right: not unlike his predecessor in the Carter Administration, Crocker emphasizes the need to resolve regional conflict-rather than to "win" it-in order to diminish potential Soviet influence in the region. If his sophisticated and carefully orchestrated policy of amicable relations with South Africa were to lead to a Namibia settlement, the reward would be doubled by a corollary exodus of Cubans.

Unfortunately, the strategy of constructive engagement appears to have been based on a major miscalculation about its would-be cooperating partner-South Africa. The Botha government's position is now such that it may be doubted whether any current inducements would suffice to persuade Pretoria to relinquish control of Namibia to a SWAPO regime. On the contrary, South Africa's current confidence about the success of its destabilization policy suggests that negotiations do not receive a high priority among the means available for advancing its interests.

In this respect, Administration critics-many of them Africans-see a convergence between U.S. and South African policy. And in the absence of a Namibia settlement the Administration's original objective of a negotiated peace may well in fact have shifted, less by design than in response to the nudge of events.

The problem is that U.S. and South African interests are simply not convergent. Where Pretoria's main concern is to contain the threat of its own black majority-and particularly the ANC insurgents-the chief U.S. interest is in "peaceful change," an evolution toward a stable and prosperous nonracial regime whose existence would go far to deprive the Soviet Union of opportunities in the region. And although both countries oppose any extension of Soviet influence into the area, South Africa seeks to achieve this by military means, while the United States (including the present State Department) seeks to ease the conflicts which have often allowed the Soviet Union to increase its stakes in Africa.

The difference is particularly visible in South Africa's policy toward its neighbors. Despite South Africa's emphasis on the communist menace, the Cuban presence in Angola actually fosters Pretoria's aim of securing U.S. support in its internal struggle. On the other hand, the U.S. goal of minimizing Moscow's role mandates not acquiescence in the shellacking of regional leftists but rather opposition to the South African military campaign. The stepped-up involvement of Cuban troops in Angola at the end of the year should heighten this U.S. concern. While "total onslaught" is an extremely distant prospect, South Africa's military campaign insures a growing role for the Soviets.

In sum, constructive engagement has not worked in the short term, and its long-term fruits appear ominous. In order to speed the transition to a nonracial South Africa, and thereby diminish its bitterness, the United States and its Western allies should maintain pressure on South Africa's rulers to recalculate the costs and benefits of their internal policy. Moreover, good U.S. relations with South Africa over the longer term will depend on the cultivation of links with leaders of the South African black majority-including the ANC-as well as whites. Without a sharp change of course, the United States will find its role in southern Africa running counter to its real interests.

2 Two analyses of Africa's problems representative of the "Africa as a basket-case" school-"Misunderstanding Africa," by Xan Smiley, The Atlantic, September 1982, and The Africans by David Lamb, New York: Random House, 1982-attracted wide attention this year. The latter book was one of three cited by President Ronald Reagan in answer to the Christmas issue query in The New York Times Book Review (December 4, 1983) about the most important books read during the year. For a low-key expert (though still gloomy) account, see Carol Lancaster, "Africa's Economic Crisis," Foreign Policy, Fall 1983.

3 Princeton Lyman, "The Scope of Africa's Economic Crisis," adapted from Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lyman's address to the opening session of a conference on "Africa's Economic Crisis" hosted by the African Studies Program of the Georgetown University Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 3, 1983. CSIS Africa Notes, May 20, 1983.

4 C. Bogdanovich-Bindert, "Africa's Financial Future: Some Constraints and Options," CSIS Africa Notes, March 1, 1983.

5 Kenya's rate of population growth, at four percent per annum, is the highest in the world, and perhaps the highest ever.

7 G.K. Helleiner, "The IMF and Africa in the 1980s," Essays in International Finance, International Finance Section, Department of Economics, Princeton University, No. 152, July 1983.

8 Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action, Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1981.

9 Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa 1980-2000, Lagos, Nigeria: April 1980.

10 Lyman, loc. cit. footnote 3, p. 4.

11 Shagari's total share of the vote increased from 34% in 1979 to 47%; he won 25% of the vote in 16 (out of 19) states (versus 12 2/3 states in 1979).

12 Although the United States does provide military aid to regional "moderate" Morocco, partly in return for a contingency agreement on use of Moroccan military facilities, and the Soviet Union reportedly channels some aid to the Polisario through Algeria and Libya, neither superpower has gotten involved in the regional political maneuvering to any significant extent-or officially taken the side of either party.

13 Libya has always had important links with Chad in the form of commerce and religious ties across their mutual border. Qaddafi has given aid to various factions in Chad almost since his accession to power in 1969. Apart from a seemingly infinite ambition for dominance, his machinations in Chad have aimed particularly at securing the Aouzou strip along Chad's northern border-the alleged location of uranium deposits.

14 An August coup in Upper Volta, returning to power the former prime minister, "pro-Libyan" Captain Thomas Sankara, reinforced French and American apprehension.

15 Le Monde, August 26, 1983.

16 Deon Geldenhuys, "What Do We Think? A Survey of White Opinion on Foreign Policy Issues," Occasional Paper, South African Institute of International Affairs, November 1982, p. 6.

17 John Barratt, "The Outlook for Namibian Independence," International Affairs Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1983.

18 Johannesburg Radio, November 18, 1982, quoted in "Africa Update," Africa Report, January-February 1983.

19 See Gerald J. Bender, "Angola: The Continuing Crisis and Misunderstanding," International Affairs Bulletin, Vol. 7, No. 1, 1983.

20 The group includes Canada, France, Great Britain and West Germany, in addition to the United States.

21 SADCC members include Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

23 The Star, (Johannesburg) November 27, 1982.

24 Address by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Lawrence S. Eagleburger before the National Conference of Editorial Writers, San Francisco, June 23, 1983. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C.

25 Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Charles Lichenstein gave African nations grist for their mills in a November 18 interview with the Financial Mail (Johannesburg) in which he stated flatly that "destabilization will remain in force until Angola and Mozambique do not permit their territory to be used by terrorists to attack South Africa."

26 "The Role of the U.S. Private Sector on Zimbabwe," address by Chester A. Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, to a conference on Zimbabwe sponsored by the American Bar Association at the African-American Institute, New York City, March 26, 1982. Department of State, Bureau of Public Affairs Washington, D.C.

27 "Whither Zimbabwe," by Michael Clough, CSIS Africa Notes, November 15, 1983. According to Clough, the white population has shrunk from about 220,000 in 1980 to between 150,000 and 170,000.

28 Address by Chester A. Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, before the fourth Annual Conference on International Affairs, Lawrence, Kansas, November 10, 1983.

29 The Washington Post, June 25, 1983.

30 In this discussion of anti-apartheid activity, I am indebted to the excellent study, Two Decades of Debate: The Controversy Over U.S. Companies in South Africa, by David Hauck, Meg Voorhes and Glenn Goldberg, Investor Responsibility Research Center, Washington, D.C., 1982.

31 Ibid., p. 49.

32 TransAfrica Forum, June-July 1983. The candidates responding were Senator Alan Cranston, Senator John Glenn, Senator Gary Hart, Senator Ernest F. Hollings, and former Vice President Walter Mondale.



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  • Jennifer Seymour Whitaker is a Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of Conflict in Southern Africa and editor of and contributor to Africa and The United States: Vital Interests.
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