Courtesy Reuters

Spain's Discreet Decolonization

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economic generosity, deep-rooted paternalism and strict political vigilance, presented in a Catholic context and with historical references to suit the occasion.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,

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