Courtesy Reuters

Africa: The Old and the Unexpected

There is always something new out of Africa," said the ancient Greeks, as recorded by Pliny the Elder. The contemporary Africa-watcher, however, might be forgiven for wondering whether it is not all more of the same. In 1984, as in 1983, events in southern Africa and the devastating drought and famine which cost the lives of countless tens of thousands again dominated the year. For Nigerians, the new year began with yet another military government, which had ousted the elected civilian administration on the last day of 1983. In Chad, civil war ground on with no solution in sight. Libya’s unpredictable leader, Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, continued to make headlines with stories ranging from the killing of a British policewoman in London to his dabbling in the affairs of Chad and other countries. At the United Nations, the controversy over Namibia continued to set records as the longest running debate in that organization’s history. And U.S. suggestions that its policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa was succeeding continued to be greeted with skepticism in many quarters.

Looking more carefully, several new and quite unexpected things came out of Africa in 1984. Amid much pomp and ceremony, Mozambique’s president, Samora Machel, and the South African prime minister, P.W. Botha, signed an "Agreement on Non-Aggression and Good Neighborliness" on March 16. Machel hailed the agreement, popularly known as the Accord of Nkomati, as a victory for peace. He moderated his terminology later in the year, and Tanzanian President Julius K. Nyerere, chairman of the Front Line states, said in November—after also becoming chairman of the Organization of African Unity—that the agreement was a "defeat" and a "humiliation" for Africa. Swaziland then revealed that two years earlier it had secretly signed a nonaggression pact with South Africa which went further than the pact with Mozambique. Angola and South Africa had also signed an agreement, one month before the Nkomati accord, which led to a phased but uncompleted withdrawal of South African troops

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