The New Cold War
America, China, and the Echoes of History
Many reasons may be advanced to explain the differences between Spanish and Portuguese policies in Africa. The most obvious may be that while Portugal's African provinces are together 22 times the size of the mother country, Spanish Africa, totaling 115,000 square miles but with only 472,000 inhabitants, is of very little importance to present-day Spain. It nevertheless is striking that at a time when the whole of Africa has either freed itself from colonial control or is in turbulence, the Spanish flag continues to fly quietly over a series of outposts from the Mediterranean to the Gulf of Guinea. While other European possessions disappear one after the other, Ceuta, Melilla, Ifni, Sahara, Fernando Poo and Rio Muni remain outwardly oblivious to the "wind of change."
Perhaps because Spain has been anxious to avoid drawing world attention to its own domestic sphere, it has adopted a comparatively liberal policy toward its African territories. What is remarkable is that the policy is being carried out by a nationalistic and conservative military establishment, which is gradually accepting a partial withdrawal from Africa. To carry out this policy, the Spanish régime has chosen a subtle combination of economic generosity, deep-rooted paternalism and strict political vigilance, presented in a Catholic context and with historical references to suit the occasion. As it wishes to remain strong and be free to make its own decisions, it has been careful to avoid putting itself in a position where concessions might be wrung from it. It has succeeded in retaining the initiative; there will be no "Götterdämmerung" like that of 1898. The diplomacy which has been guiding the course of Spain's African policy for the past three years is characterized by pragmatism, flexibility and temporization. On the issue of decolonization, then, there are no parallels between the attitudes of Lisbon and Madrid. As the Spanish Ambassador in Paris stated unequivocally: "Spain does not endorse Portuguese policy in Africa."
In considering the various aspects of decolonization as it proceeds in Spanish Africa, and the tortuous course it sometimes follows, we must distinguish between the "Places of Sovereignty" and the four "provinces" existing at present.
In the former category are Ceuta (73,000 inhabitants, 7.3 sq. mi.) and Melilla (79,000 inhabitants, 4.6 sq. mi.). They are African in the geographical sense only, and exist solely for and by means of metropolitan Spain. Psychologically and physically they are garrison towns on Spain's southern frontier, with all that implies in the way of super-patriotism and ultranationalism-exacerbated because threatened-and hemmed in by independent and Moslem Morocco. Three factors account for the importance attached by Spain to these two "Gibraltars." In the first place, Ceuta has been European for 550 years (it was occupied by the Portuguese in 1415 and taken by Spain in 1580), and Melilla has been Spanish since 1497; both towns have never ceased to be the two southernmost lookouts of the medieval Reconquista. In a country so strongly attached to its history, which it embellishes or exaggerates with each successive generation, the loss of these two towns of minor economic importance would be tantamount to a disavowal of the "Siglo de Oro"-Spain's Golden Age.
Second, they are fortresses commanded by the same elements which in 1936 installed the present régime in Madrid. The High Command of the Army of Africa would not resign itself easily to crossing the Straits for the last time, leaving behind its relics, its myths and those who yearly celebrate "el Paso del Convoy de la Victoria." It was from Ceuta, on August 5, 1936, that General Franco watched his "Crusaders," his Foreign Legion troops and his Moors set out to conquer for him the reins of power which he still holds 29 years later.
Finally, the overwhelming majority of the population of the two towns are Catholics of Spanish stock and intend to remain so (Moslems and Jews of Spanish nationality probably account for less than 10 percent of the total). Both were effectively Moslem in the distant past, but their present ethnic composition leaves no doubt as to the outcome of a possible referendum.
Morocco lays claim to both cities. It is certain, however, that though Madrid is prepared to make concessions to Morocco elsewhere in Africa it will be resolute in retaining these two bridgeheads, and more especially Ceuta, watchdog of the Straits and one of the holy places of Francoism. Madrid looks upon both towns as integral parts of metropolitan Spain.
The situation is completely different in the provinces of Ifni and the Sahara, which also are claimed by Morocco. Here again, the Spanish attitude is tempered by history. In spite of a transitory occupation by adventurers from the Canary Islands, Spain left no sign of her presence on the mainland coast for three centuries, and only the scramble for Africa and the tenacity of a handful of traders and idealistic nationalists enabled her to establish a precarious hold there. Between the foundation of Villa Cisneros in 1884 and Ifni in 1934, Spain took 50 years to build her seaboard fortresses. Last on the scene when Africa was being carved up, Spain had to be content with these morsels of desert.
The hinterland was not occupied until 1934, which means that Spain has had only 30 years in which to install herself behind the coast. Like the Places of Sovereignty, the provinces of Ifni and the Sahara exist only through the Army and are kept going by means of subsidies. At the most, therefore, it is a question of occupation and certainly not of exploitation or settlement. Even the term occupation is rather strong in view of the size of the territory and the dispersion of the population. Sahara is about the size of Colorado with a population of 23,793 plus an uncertain number of nomads; Ifni, further reduced in size in 1958, is now smaller than Manhattan Island and has a population of less than 50,000. Spain has put forth a serious financial effort and some progress is evident; but it remains true that this embryonic "colonization" has no real roots, has no sound economic basis and is completely cut off from the closed nomadic society upon which it has been artificially imposed. The military authorities have never attempted to convert or assimilate the nomads and semi-nomads, but have been content to enlist them as auxiliaries. Contrary to the claims made in some Spanish circles, the inhabitants of Ifni and the Sahara are not, and do not feel themselves to be, Spaniards. No colonial venture has ever succeeded in absorbing a people culturally and morally in the space of 30 years, and even less so a scattering of Moorish and R'guibat camel drivers.
The régime has, moreover, adopted a fluctuating policy with regard to these two territories, which actually are of value only as possible bargaining counters. In 1957-58 the Moroccan Army of Liberation, supported by certain elements of the Ait Ba Amran (Ifni) and the Teknas and R'guibats (Sahara), launched an attack and completely occupied the interior region. Several thousand troops were sent to reinforce the Spanish Foreign Legion holding the coastal forts, and with French collaboration they succeeded in reoccupying the area. In the negotiated settlement which proved necessary, the Moroccan Government obtained the return of Southern Morocco (Tarfaya) and the evacuation of the hinterland of Ifni which was then practically reduced to its urban limits. In 1958, Spain independently merged Saguiet el Hamra and the Rio de Oro into a single province distinct from Ifni, which also was raised to the status of a province.
Each of the two provinces is under the authority of a general, and the administration is entirely under military control. The Army holds the towns, the forts and airfields; and these three features are all there is to the Spanish Sahara. Given the barren nature of the territories, some Spaniards believe that the most realistic course would be to beat a retreat as speedily as possible. But withdrawal is complicated by the fact that two countries-Morocco and Mauritania, enemies until recently-dispute the right to succeed Spain.
By means of a skillful policy of rapprochement and stop-start diplomacy the Spanish Government over the past two years has achieved better relations with Rabat. Since July 1963 when King Hassan II and Generalissimo Franco held a cordial meeting at Barajas Airport, the "Barajas spirit" has continued to prevail. General Franco, in spite of opposition from some of his military men, appears to be ready to make concessions in the desert in exchange for a recognition of the status quo in the northern Places of Sovereignty. Haste being completely foreign to the Spanish nature, it was not until June and July 1964 that the Moroccan and Spanish Foreign Ministers exchanged visits. However, these meetings led to no firm decisions on the territorial dispute. Nor, apparently, did the meeting of Franco and Hassan in February of this year. While continuing to declare her friendship for Morocco, Spain is biding her time and lending a receptive ear to Mauritania, which is also interested in Spanish Sahara.
It is an arid region, but its potential resources (iron and phosphate) , its long coastline which would open northern Mauritania to the sea, and the undoubted existence of ethnic ties make it impossible for Mauritania to remain indifferent to its future. Moreover, if a possibly hostile Morocco were installed there, it would endanger the railway which carries Mauritania's iron ore from Fort-Gouraud to Port-Etienne. Therefore, in order to build pressure against the Moroccan demands, Spain has been cultivating a policy of friendship and technical and economic coöperation with the government at Nouakchott.
Algeria, which shares a common frontier with the Spanish Sahara for a few kilometers, is in a less good position-geographically or historically-to harbor territorial ambitions. However, she is led to take an interest in what goes on west of Tindouf by the attractive idea of having an outlet on the Atlantic and by the political dislike which a Socialist government naturally feels for the Franco régime. The Spanish Sahara is therefore a case, almost unique in Africa, where the problem of decolonization involves a transfer of power to one or more neighboring countries-a course to which Spain is practically resigned.
While awaiting a negotiated settlement in the Spanish Sahara, Spain continues to grant it representation in the Spanish legislature. In the first elections, held in May 1963, two of the three representatives elected to the Cortes were Moslem tribal chieftains. It is difficult to say what value may be attached to this poll (from which Ifni was excluded). Spain is perhaps seeking accredited representatives with the object of setting up an independent or autonomous Sahara, thus outman?uvring her neighbors. However, this hardly seems a feasible alternative.
The future of Ifni is practically settled; ultimately it will be Moroccan. But if the present deadlock over the Sahara should continue much longer, it seems possible that a division along artificial lines may provide a solution, putting an end to an uncomfortable situation.
The problem is of a totally different nature in Equatorial Guinea, Spain's only point of contact with black Africa. Guinea, consisting of the islands of Fernando Poo and the enclave of Rio Muni, differs from Spain's other possessions in many respects. In the first place, although the fact is not widely known, economic development is relatively advanced and the population (245,989 inhabitants) is not insignificant. Second, Hispanic culture has a strong hold on the younger generations; the moderate nationalist movement has succeeded in obtaining recognition by Spain; and Guinea is moving gradually toward independence. Third, Spain is not inclined to make concessions to Guinea's neighbors.
The unity existing between the archipelago of Fernando Poo and the rectangle of jungle which makes up Rio Muni is primarily historical, cultural and religious. For centuries Spain's only contact with black Africa was through the slaves she bought there. She did not actually take over Fernando Poo until 1858 and only finally occupied the whole of Rio Muni between 1926 and 1927. Her vigorous exploitation of them dates only from the end of the Second World War. In 1960, exports totaled more than $33,000,000, the highest level of exports per capita in Africa ($135). However, this prosperity is somewhat artificial, since Spain buys Rio Munian coffee and Fernandian cocoa at prices much above the world market. As a result of this policy of inflated prices, the average per capita income of the Guineans is high for Africa ($132), indeed higher than that in many Spanish metropolitan provinces.
The ethnic composition is heterogeneous and its complexity has serious political implications. Hispano-Guineans are in the majority in Rio Muni but in the minority in Fernando Poo, which includes a colony of Nigerian field workers who are essential for the cultivation of the European latifundia, and whose lingua franca is pidgin English.
More than 90 percent of all children of school-going age in Guinea actually attend school and nowhere else does one find governmental services and the Catholic Church working in such close liaison. Native cults and aboriginal beliefs are harried with all the vigor of the sixteenth century. African customs are suspect and are harnessed or suppressed altogether in favor of the only true values of triumphant Hispanism: love of the Spanish mother country, the Caudillo and the Church. The new urban centers built since the end of the war therefore bear such names as San Fernando, Mongomo de Guadalupe, Sevilla de Niefang and Valladolid de los Bímbiles. Schools, chapels, hospitals are built alongside "plazas de toros." In other words, an attempt is being made to bring about a thoroughgoing cultural and political assimilation before it is too late.
Within the limits of her slender resources, Spain had succeeded, prior to 1959, in creating in Guinea the makings of a "model colony" in which the African was watched over and tutored in the school of Spanish civilization, which is still presented to him as not only superior to his own but perhaps the best that history has ever produced. Until recently, the Africans were divided into two classes: the emancipated and the non-emancipated. The first were infinitesimal in number but were considered legally as fully- fledged Spaniards, while the second were judicially minors, directed and controlled by the "Patronato de Indígenas" and a few coöperatives. Anxious as they might be to isolate Guinea, the authorities realized that an attempt to perpetuate such a régime in an Africa in the throes of "liberation" would be to court disaster. In order to forestall accusations by neighboring states, Madrid did away with this system of inequality in 1959.
At the same time, Spain transformed the colony into two provinces based on the metropolitan pattern, abolished the Patronato and recognized equal rights for all Hispano-Guineans, who became Spanish citizens overnight. From the Bay of Biscay to the Gulf of Guinea, Spain was one and indivisible. Elections were held in 1960 in accordance with the principles of "organic democracy." Six representatives, three of them African, were elected to the Cortes. By establishing closer constitutional ties with Madrid, the authorities hoped to cut the ground from under the feet of the Guinean nationalists and to neutralize the ambitions of neighboring states.
The Guinean nationalists have suffered from the ills common to all African movements: tribalism, lack of experience, personal rivalry, a dearth of leaders and means. Furthermore, they have had to contend with police supervision made all the more effective because of the small area of the territory; in practice, the five groups which more or less consistently have demanded the "liberation" of Guinea have been obliged to operate from abroad. They also have had to contend with a general lack of interest by the population, which is comparatively prosperous, and with the presence of a large number of Nigerians who are impervious to their propaganda. While they were powerless to set off an armed rising, their threats at the United Nations and in African capitals contributed to bringing about a change in the policy of incorporating Rio Muni and Fernando Poo as overseas provinces.
Much against its will, the administration was forced to concede that in spite of the official phraseology used to describe these 200,000 newly Hispanized Bantus they were not, after all, genuine chips off the old Spanish block. At the same time, the increasingly open annexationist ambitions of neighboring states threatened to dismember the two provinces of Guinea. Moreover, Spain did not want to forfeit the good will which her flexibility had earned for her at the United Nations and among the recently created African republics. Realism triumphed and the policy of incorporating Guinea as part of Spain was abandoned. In late 1963 a bill to introduce autonomy was approved by referendum. The apparent freedom with which it was conducted was a credit to Spain. The nationalists were allowed to return and to campaign for or against autonomy. But their lack of unity favored Spain, and the moderate elements led by Bonifacio Ondo Edu carried the day against the supporters of union with the Cameroun.
Although it is not officially admitted, this autonomy represents a major step on the road to eventual independence. The autonomous government is headed by a cabinet composed of eight African counselors, under the chairmanship of Bonifacio Ondo Edu, elected by a legislative body representing both Rio Muni and Fernando Poo. Spain is represented by a High Commissioner, while six Hispano-Guineans sit in the Cortes in Madrid. Defense, budget and foreign affairs remain in the hands of the metropolitan government, which sees to it that the neighboring states do not descend upon this tempting prey.
Nigeria's powerful colony of expatriate workers in Fernando Poo puts her in the strongest position to lay claim to the main island. The youth movements which constitute the spearhead of the Nigerian expansionists could organize a fifth column without too much difficulty and-provided their lead were followed-could bring all economic activity to a standstill. Officially, however, relations between Madrid and Lagos are good, for they both have an interest in retaining a system which provides Fernando Poo with essential labor and Nigeria with an outlet for her oversized labor force.
A second neighbor, the Cameroun Republic, feels that Nigeria has already bested it once when Nigeria absorbed the northern part of the former British Cameroons. It therefore would not take kindly to a Nigerian occupation of Fernando Poo, which lies only a few miles off the Cameroun Republic's principal port, Douala. Tribal kinship with Rio Muni is also a powerful factor. For some time, therefore, the authorities in Yaoundé supported those Guinean nationalists who advocated the merger of Rio Muni with Cameroun.
The Republic of Gabon, for its part, is more than ready to respect the autonomy of Equatorial Guinea, since the Rio Muni enclave, even though it owes allegiance to Spain, constitutes a buffer between Gabon and Cameroun, which is suspected of annexationist aims.
In Guinea, as in the Sahara province, Spain plays the role of shock absorber against the territorial ambitions of African neighbors. But here, far from being prepared to walk off the stage, she is determined to create a Hispano-Guinean state which will bear witness to Spanish language and culture in black Africa.