On April 18, 1980, as Lord Soames and Robert Mugabe exchanged compliments, the Union Jack made its final descent on the African continent and the flag of Zimbabwe flew alone after a generation of struggle in the United Nations, on the battlefield, and at the polls. With the independence of Zimbabwe, U.S. policy toward Africa registered an important achievement, and a new period in African-American relations began. Ironically, few policymakers in the Congress or Department of State had believed such an outcome to be possible. However, real African and American interests ultimately prevailed against the anxieties and prejudices which have long limited our thinking about events in Africa and had also blocked a settlement of that long-lived conflict.

At the inaugural ceremony, Prime Minister Mugabe's call for reconciliation between blacks and whites came as a welcome surprise to those who had for years dismissed him as "a Marxist-terrorist trying to gain power through the barrel of a gun." Despite widespread doubts outside Zimbabwe about the strength of Mugabe's political constituency, he had achieved a solid electoral victory over both Bishop Abel Muzorewa, on whom both Britain and South Africa had placed their hopes, and Joshua Nkomo, who enjoyed military support from the Soviet bloc. The unexpected size of his majority gave Mugabe an unequivocal mandate which greatly simplified the task of the British in handing over power. All in all, the election and handover represented a triumph of democracy in the face of considerable external pressure.

The Zimbabwe settlement must also be recorded as a victory of the Western alliance in cooperation with the Organization of African Unity (OAU). It signaled a renewal of the cooperation in decolonization which came under Western leadership and via the United Nations during the 1950s and 1960s. And it curtailed at least temporarily the trend toward growing dependence on Soviet military aid to bring about African liberation. That trend had proved all-important in the 1970s, when the West backed Portugal against Soviet-armed liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and Guinea-Bissau. By 1980, the Soviet Union's once widespread influence over the continent remained crucial only in Ethiopia and Angola (and the latter was reaching out for stronger ties to the West).

The blunting of the Soviet political advantage in Africa came through a process begun by the repeal of the Byrd Amendment (which allowed the United States to break with U.N. sanctions against Ian Smith's Rhodesia and to resume importation of Rhodesian chrome until early 1977), continued with the promulgation of the Anglo-American Plan for Zimbabwean independence and the Western initiative on Namibia in 1977, and then with the Lancaster House talks on Zimbabwe in 1979. This process must be viewed as an example of highly effective implementation of the Carter Administration's strategy of protecting American strategic interests through diplomatic means.

Repeal of the Byrd Amendment in 1977 helped create an atmosphere which certainly did not exist before, one of considerable trust and a free-flowing exchange of information among the United States and Great Britain on one side, and the Zimbabwean Patriotic Front, the Frontline states (Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia), and Nigeria on the other. The new climate was further improved by a new African confidence in the U.S. commitment to human rights and to the values and principles articulated in the U.N. Charter. The Zimbabwe settlement would not have been possible without this spirit of cooperation, fostered by the United States from the earliest days of the Carter Administration, which made possible African-Western talks over the nearly three years which led up to Lancaster House.

Just five years ago, the prospects for African-American relations were extremely bleak. The Soviets and Cubans held sway militarily in Angola against a South African incursion launched with Western encouragement, if not assistance. The prospect of Soviet hegemony over the resource-rich southern African region represented a serious strategic threat to Western interests, and much of Africa saw armed struggle with Soviet weapons as the only course to the total decolonization of the continent.

Several factors have emerged, however, which have radically altered the African-American equation and which will continue to influence both events and policy during the coming decade: first, the consolidation of a new American constituency for African affairs; second, the growth of Nigerian economic power; third, keen African concern for economic development; and fourth, the potential for pragmatism on the part of South Africa. These factors will remain no matter what the changes in U.S. Administrations. One could hope that-as in the case of the government of Margaret Thatcher in Britain-these dynamics may even lead to the strengthening of U.S.-African relations under the conservative Administration of Ronald Reagan.


Let us proceed by reviewing briefly the developments in Zimbabwe during 1980, and then see how these, and the whole course of events that produced the basic Lancaster House agreement of 1979, related to the four factors I have just cited. In the process, the wider significance of these factors, not only for Zimbabwe itself but for American policy toward Africa, will be considered.

The Lancaster House accord was a triumph for the major parties involved. It was achieved through the skilled and tough diplomacy of the British government, especially of Lord Carrington as Foreign Secretary; the patient statesmanship of the Frontline states and Nigeria; the courage and unshakable commitment to liberation shown by Robert Mugabe and his colleague, Joshua Nkomo; and, in the background, the firm, consistent support of the U.S. government.

Taking the reins in the spring of 1979 when Ian Smith and Bishop Muzorewa had installed an interim government supported by many in Britain (and in the U.S. Congress), Carrington-and his chief, Mrs. Thatcher-had the wisdom to see that the internal settlement was so shot through with compromise, and, for all practical purposes, continued white domination, that it could not survive. After close and fruitful consultation between Carrington and U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, President Carter made a crucial contribution in June 1979 by persuading the Congress not to lift economic sanctions against the Smith-Muzorewa regime pending the outcome of further negotiations. That set the stage for the Lancaster House accord in December 1979, and for the election process in the spring of 1980.

Robert Mugabe emerged in unquestioned control of the country, and his call for reconciliation between blacks and whites earned him the international respect that previously had been denied him in much of the Western world. It was at once clear that Mugabe's was the voice of the present and future in Zimbabwe.

But this is not to say that he had smooth sailing in 1980, or that the prospects for the future are clear or without major problems. During the year the Mugabe government had considerable difficulty moving to integrate the liberation forces into a national army, and there were significant outbreaks between the former Mugabe and Nkomo forces, culminating, in January 1981, in Nkomo's ouster as Home Affairs Minister. Also, the acquittal of a Cabinet minister charged with the murder of a white settler-albeit an acquittal based on an old statute enacted to protect the anti-liberation actions of Ian Smith's officials-may have seriously impaired the prospects for retaining the bulk of the white population in a truly nonracial country, with all that would mean in both political and economic terms.

Moreover, and contributing to these internal political difficulties, the massive external assistance that the new Zimbabwe needed in the wake of years of warfare and sanctions was forthcoming only to a very limited degree. The U.S. contribution so far-about $30 million in fiscal year 1980 and between $30 and $35 million pledged but in no way nailed down for fiscal 1981-is hardly a drop in the bucket in relation to the estimated $1 billion it will take to repair damage wrought by the war and resettle refugees and landless farmers.1

So the situation in Zimbabwe cannot be regarded as an unqualified success in terms of the hopes that existed in April 1980. The country's future development will require extraordinary statesmanship on the part of Mugabe and his former rivals, and it will also need a much more serious and concerted Western policy of support. Yet, with all these qualifications, the outcome was a historic event for Africa and for the continuing relationships between the continent and the West, including the United States. Accordingly, it is useful to record important factors that both entered into the result and form the background for further American policy in Africa as a whole.

The first of these, as I noted, has been the emergence since 1975 of a new constituency for U.S.-African affairs in the United States, born of a merger of civil rights organizations, young black professionals, church groups, some labor unions, college students, and groups which had opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Without this constituency and the strong position taken by President Carter, the movement toward the Lancaster House negotiations might well have been derailed before it even got underway.

At the time of the South African invasion of Angola in 1975, Americans in this new constituency formed the opposition to U.S. clandestine involvement in a venture into Angola in which the Central Intelligence Agency backed forces which opposed the Soviet-backed Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The new Africa constituency, along with its allies in Congress, focused on the nature of the covert aid, which was aimed chiefly at raising costs to the Soviets without any clear view of how the outcome in Angola could be shaped to further real U.S. interests in a peaceful settlement. Further, the alignment of the anti-government forces in Angola with South Africa was perhaps the major concern of the constituency. A main driving force for them, then and now, was the determination that the United States not provide a bulwark (either through commission or omission) for white suppression of blacks in southern Africa. They also emphasized that outside military intervention cannot bring long-term stabilization to Africa, and that U.S. access to minerals and markets on the continent requires stability. In addition, they insisted that the only effective approaches to African problems are those which are sensitive to African positions on the issues and to the conditions shaping African political responses, pointing out that U.S. attempts to combat Soviet influence for its own sake have continued to meet with widespread suspicion and opposition within the continent.

In the aftermath of Vietnam, oppression of blacks by whites in southern Africa became the main international political cause for students and church groups, both of which focused efforts on stockholder actions against corporations and financial institutions with South African holdings. The new U.S.-Africa coalition sought to establish its ideals and policies in the 1976 elections. Human rights and an anti-apartheid stance became the mobilizing factors in several primaries where Jimmy Carter, a southern fiscal conservative, needed to establish liberal credentials among minority and young-adult voters.

The human rights side of the coalition was strengthened by the addition of a "big business" faction. At the time of Angola this was led by the Gulf and Mobil oil companies, which found that they could still do business in Africa, even with the government of Agostinho Neto in Angola, in spite of the Soviet and Cuban presence. They were joined in Angola by Boeing, which installed an air-traffic control system for Luanda Airport, and Lockheed, which sold C-130s and trained pilots for the government.

Strengthened also by the Africanists in the State Department and in academia, the coalition prevailed in Congress with White House support through most of the Carter years. The chief results included Zimbabwe, the continuing U.N. initiatives in Namibia, and a flourishing relationship with Nigeria.

The new constituency for U.S.-African affairs will remain an important force in U.S. politics in the 1980s. The coalition can be counted upon to support the kinds of diplomatic initiatives and economic cooperation characteristic of U.S. policy toward Africa during the last four years. It is also prepared to provide organized opposition to any attempts to reverse that policy and return to cold-war-style confrontation on the continent. The Africa constituency will maintain its strategic argument that basic U.S. interests are congruent with the policy directions since 1977, in curtailing the military involvement by the Soviet Union without direct U.S. military initiatives.

This coalition is likely to respond to events in South Africa with an aggressive strategy calling for the severing of U.S. political and economic ties. Only the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the resurgence of an anti-draft protest undercut the "South Africa issue" in 1980. For the future, the churches have presented a strong moral case for divestiture and will be joined by campus activists as crises occur. Finally, to the extent that corporate America is forced to choose between a market of four million white South Africans and a growing market among the 400 million-African population on the rest of the continent, it will find it increasingly difficult to reconcile these competing demands.

Second, in the course of the negotiations to produce the Lancaster House agreement a vivid and powerful demonstration occurred of the new weight and importance of African economic power-namely that of Nigeria. In the summer of 1979, Nigeria did not hesitate to use its economic power to put pressure on Britain, nationalizing the holdings of British Petroleum in Nigeria, dumping 500 million pounds sterling onto currency markets, and rejecting a bid from a British firm for a $200-million port-development project.

Privately the then military government of Nigeria made it very clear that this economic "shot across the bow" was designed to make Margaret Thatcher's government aware of its economic dependence on Nigeria and to warn the Prime Minister not to ignore Nigeria's sensitivities on southern African issues. In Africa, this action was generally regarded as an effective method of maintaining a balance in Britain's efforts to negotiate a settlement in Zimbabwe, by reminding Britain of its economic stake in African politics-in addition to the kith-and-kin sympathies which made the Tories primarily responsive to the views of European settlers and white South Africans.

Nigeria is in some important respects Africa's most powerful nation. Its population is about one-fifth that of the entire continent. Comparing it with the continent's other major power, South Africa, Nigeria cannot compete in armaments (though the Nigerian Army is considerably larger). Looking at economic indices, however, Nigeria's gross national product now exceeds that of South Africa as does its trade balance with the advanced industrialized nations. In addition, its intensive educational program for its large and diverse population should provide an important source of skilled manpower for the development of the region.

Nigerian power must be of special concern to the United States. Nigeria is the second-largest supplier of imported crude oil to the United States, supplying 16 percent of the nation's total imports. The Nigerians sell us half of their oil production at standard prices of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The remaining crude is sold on the world market at as much as eight to ten dollars more per barrel than the price to the United States. Nigeria clearly values the stability of the U.S. market, and with a population of 90 million it needs continuous trade in order to finance its development plans. Hence the Nigerians refused to observe the oil embargo resulting from the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict.

U.S. dependence on Nigerian oil has led to the largest trade deficit this country has ever experienced with a major trading partner. The 1980 deficit is expected to approach $13 billion, and with the recently voted OPEC increase in oil prices, that deficit can be expected to continue climbing unless we can improve our trade pattern with Nigeria. Currently, U.S. exports to Nigeria are about 12 percent of those for the European Community as a whole, and half those of Great Britain, while running behind exports of France and of Japan as well. Investment contracts with U.S. firms totaling $1.8 billion are now pending in Nigeria, however, and are extremely close to final agreement. These prospects represent a major entry into the Nigerian market by U.S. companies, possibly opening the door for more trade in a market long dominated by Europeans.

Any longer term improvement must stem from close government-to-government cooperation. U.S. companies suffer serious competitive disadvantages as they bid against government-subsidized firms of our Western allies and Japan. Obviously more aggressive U.S. export development policies are required. In addition, however, successful competition also depends on political rapport between the two countries. The democratically elected Nigerian government, which is by far the largest economic actor in that nation, must use its power in a way that responds to the attitudes of its citizens. In this regard, Nigeria will endeavor to foster its interest in economic development and stable trade relationships with the West while simultaneously continuing to use its leverage with Western nations and corporations in the interest of its political goals on the African continent-especially with regard to South Africa.

Militancy on the South African question undoubtedly has a broad consensus in Nigerian politics. No government there could survive if it were perceived as relaxing its anti-apartheid commitment. As in the United States, the vocal Nigerian press serves as a watchdog over the activities of government officials and politicians.

Presently the government of President Shehu Shagari is in a "go-slow" pattern with Washington and U.S. business. One of his top advisers in Lagos recently stated the government's approach to balancing political and economic factors thus: "Trade and cooperation were easy under the Carter Administration because we were dealing with people who respect human rights and who believe in majority rule, but we have heard strange things from some of Governor Reagan's advisers."

In general, Nigeria's democratic institutions (patterned on those of the United States) and its relatively capitalistic economy gear the country toward cooperation with the United States. Following its successful transfer of power from military to civilian governance, its newly devised political processes seem to have gained wide acceptability. Their ultimate success, however, will to some real extent be determined by the government's ability to meet economic needs. An ambitious program of universal education, health care, housing, and agricultural self-sufficiency has been launched. Massive infrastructural projects to develop power, highways, railroads, and a new federal capital at the center of Nigeria's 19-state federation are also getting underway. To achieve these goals, Nigeria is looking to the West, and particularly the United States, for economic partnership.

Meanwhile, Nigeria is playing an increasingly influential role in the political and economic policies of other African countries. As a consequence of its oil wealth and OPEC membership, Lagos exercises considerable leadership in the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and dominates the Economic Community of West African States. Nigeria's resources and zealous commitment on Zimbabwe made it a virtual partner with the Frontline states at various stages of the negotiations for a settlement. Its diplomatic corps has been central to efforts by West African countries to resolve the conflict in Chad.

For all these reasons, Nigeria will remain important to the United States, as the chief U.S. economic partner in Africa and a potential key political ally. The two countries will continue to share a strong interest in resolving African conflicts and in thereby minimizing the military role of outside powers in the continent. Thus, for the foreseeable future, the achievement of U.S. aims in Africa will require close cooperation with this African giant.

Third, the outcome in Zimbabwe reflected the now clearly dominant emphasis of African nations on economic development and political stability. Now that the decolonization of the continent is almost complete (South Africa is not, even by OAU norms, considered a colonial problem), continued warfare has obviously become destructive of everyone's interests. In southern Africa, when genuine opportunities for peaceful, democratic solutions to the problems of decolonization have been offered (in Zimbabwe and Namibia) they have been readily received-especially by Angola and Mozambique, which still suffer the price paid for their armed struggles against the Portuguese.

Nothing has affected the East-West competition for African influence and resources as much as the African realization that the problems of hunger, disease, illiteracy and underdevelopment are equally as intractable as the problems of racism and colonialism. And Africa's economic partners and patrons continue to be virtually exclusively Western, since the Soviet Union remains unwilling or unable to invest in Africa, or give economic aid, on any significant scale. As one African editorial writer put it, "We depended on the Russians to supply us with weapons in our struggle against European colonialism, but now that we have virtually won that struggle, we realize that you can't eat bullets and that whether we like it or not, only the West has offered development assistance."

Despite embarrassingly low levels of official development assistance by the West, the availability of Western private investment and a century-long commitment of Christian missionary education have given the West an almost complete domination over the Soviet bloc when it comes to African development. Even with the Soviet and Cuban presence in Ethiopia and Angola, the Ethiopians have had to turn to the United States for food and pesticides to fend off their traditional plagues of locusts, and Angolans have yet to miss a day of oil production by U.S. companies.

Contrasts in the development of Guinea and the Ivory Coast also illustrate the comparative advantages for African countries in ties with the West. When Guinea, under Sékou Touré, rejected Charles de Gaulle's offer of French citizenship and insisted on independence, the nation turned to the Soviets. After 20 years of Soviet influence, and in spite of a milder climate and greater rainfall than in the Ivory Coast, Guinea lagged in agricultural development. The Ivory Coast, one of Africa's smaller countries, chose to cooperate with the French and became the largest African exporter of both coffee and cocoa, as well as the producer of sufficient rice and maize to meet domestic needs. While Touré has governed Guinea with considerable political repression, the Ivorians have had a relatively free and open society. (Notably, in 20 years of independence there has not been a single execution in the Ivory Coast.)

The priority of economic development and stability impelled Marxist Mozambique to cut back sharply on the government's role in the economy, and call back thousands of businessmen and shopkeepers who fled the country at the time of independence to return and take over businesses again. As for Mozambique's neighbors, the rail lines which convey the rich resources of Zambia and Zaïre traditionally have traveled through Angola or Mozambique and Zimbabwe to the sea. Any political turmoil in the region threatens all of the countries there, whereas any new wealth or progress spreads throughout the area. This is the reason why the end of fighting in Zimbabwe became such a strong priority and why a peaceful transfer of power in Namibia remains essential for the entire region of southern Africa.

The overthrow of the Tolbert government in Liberia in April 1980 suggests just how important development questions have become for African governments. Long-standing tensions between the ruling Americo-Liberian group and the indigenous population had erupted in rice riots by students and workers who were protesting food shortages amid the extravagance and corruption of the elite. Too late did the rulers sense the gravity of the situation and attempt to attract major development assistance in agriculture.

To survive, any government must wage a battle against poverty and underdevelopment. Once a nation has started up the ladder of progress, there is no retreat. The challenge to African governments requires an increasingly rapid creation of wealth and opportunity.

Fourth, the successful transfer of power brought about at Lancaster House would not have been possible without South Africa's political pragmatism. The conduct of the war against the Patriotic Front was creating refugees spilling over into Botswana and Swaziland as well as Mozambique. In attempts to destroy military encampments, the Rhodesian forces were creating additional problems for the future. While the Patriotic Front could not destroy Rhodesia, neither could Rhodesia destroy the Patriotic Front. In the meantime, commerce was being disrupted, and bridges and rail lines destroyed, creating a stalemate evolving to the detriment of everyone's interest, especially that of South Africa.

Hence Pretoria reluctantly pressed Ian Smith and Bishop Muzorewa to agree to British-supervised elections. Of course, South Africa fully expected Muzorewa to win the elections and spared no financial resources in his campaign. Mugabe's victory was as surprising to South Africa as his performance once inaugurated. For South Africa, Prime Minister Mugabe's clarity of purpose and determination to maintain a nonracial Zimbabwe-like that of Samora Machel of Mozambique and Agostinho Neto of Angola-may prove somewhat reassuring. (Angola, Mozambique and Zimbabwe probably have the most multiracial governments on this planet, with African, Asian and European citizens serving at the ministerial level.)

In fact, most white South Africans now accept some change as inevitable. They realize that history is catching up with them and though they are far from "giving up" they know they must accommodate change in the system of apartheid. But while they agree to the necessity of change, they are to date engaging primarily in the illusion of reform and resisting every effort to allow the majority to develop an authentic leadership that might produce change in a rational, non-destructive manner.

Nonetheless, it is no longer politically possible in today's international environment for the 15 percent of South Africa's population which is white to deny the 85 percent Asian, Black and Coloured populations all political, economic and cultural rights of self-determination. Even the Russians share their limited freedoms more broadly than that.

The first external shock leading South Africa to a new realization of its precarious position was the 1974 collapse of the Portuguese colonies, which destroyed the protective buffer between them and black Africa. The failure of Pretoria's military incursion into Angola to establish a client government under Jonas Savimbi and the resulting involvement of Cuban troops in Africa caused a serious military reappraisal of their situation.

At the same time, the hostilities in Angola contrasted with an evolving pattern of cooperation between South Africa and Mozambique. The two countries share the port of Maputo and a supply of hydroelectric power from Mozambique's Cabora-Bassa dam. In addition, thousands of Mozambiquans are employed in South African gold and coal mines, repatriating valuable foreign exchange to their families in Mozambique. South Africa's annual payments to Mozambique for transit rights and the miners' salaries-about $140 million-constitutes about 35-40 percent of Mozambique's yearly income.

The extensive economic linkages have given rise to a remarkably pragmatic relationship which still does not compromise the basic principles of either country. In time, however, these links may diminish the ideological distance.

It is not surprising that Prime Minister Botha's military background has led him to his present stance as the leader of South Africa's moderates. Botha's successor as Minister of Defense, General Magnus Malan, is reported by The Christian Science Monitor to have reached a similar position, concluding that no nation can simultaneously fight an insurgency on its borders and an insurrection at home and therefore that some amelioration of the conflict between the races must come.

Equally strong in South Africa is a desire for an alliance with the West. White South Africans know that they cannot survive as an island of racism on the African continent without the tacit support of America, Europe, and Japan. It is this tacit support, however, in the form of extensive trade and investment ties, that creates the moral and political dilemma for the West. South Africa's abundant store of chromium, gold, manganese, industrial diamonds, and seemingly endless amounts of coal is becoming increasingly important to a resource-straitened West. Further, South Africa's supply of cheap black labor makes investment highly attractive and the four million white citizens constitute a profitable market. Now, however, the West may be forced to choose between the market and resources of South Africa's four million affluent whites and those of the 51 independent African nations. Certainly this was the message of President Shagari of Nigeria when he visited the United States in October 1980: "We cannot allow businesses to accrue profits from us which they will then use to support the oppression of our brothers in South Africa."

The economic pressures without, plus the tensions within, create a situation which can only be resolved as South Africa, with pressure and encouragement from its trading partners, is able to creatively and pragmatically unravel the system of apartheid. While there is little or no evidence that the current regime is willing to move rapidly and decisively to accommodate these pressures, the Afrikaner is nonetheless a tough-minded realist who is constantly searching for ways to survive and to maintain his privileged station. On that realism rests the only hope for a peaceful solution to his and his countrymen's dilemmas. Pragmatically, he must know that he treads a narrow path with only two choices available: chaos or community. Looking at the South African white with the utmost sympathy, it seems clear that he indeed must "work out his own salvation with fear and trembling." At present, he knows neither the day nor the hour of his judgment; with a genuine commitment to change he could play a great role in determining his own future.


Given all these underlying continuities, what are the future issues and prospects for U.S.-African relations? In southern Africa, efforts to achieve independence for Namibia have been slow and agonizing. Negotiations for a transition to Namibian independence through U.N.-supervised elections began in 1977. The five Western members of the Security Council at the time-Britain, Canada, France, West Germany and the United States-worked with the Frontline states and Nigeria in an effort to get the South-West African People's Organization (SWAPO) and South Africa to agree to the U.N. plan. The Frontline states, and especially Angola, have sufficient leverage to bring SWAPO around, and South Africa was agreeing at least in principle by 1979. But the South African regime kept stalling on final approval right through the conference of the concerned parties at Geneva in January 1981.

The recently concluded conference was convened in order to establish a climate of trust which would lead to a U.N.-supervised seven-month transition period, culminating in the election of a constituent assembly for Namibia. Whether or not this process goes forward depends on whether or not South Africa has decided that its long-term interests now require an early end to the conflict. It was generally expected that South Africa was waiting for some signal from the new Reagan Administration before moving further on the Namibia question. At the same time, African patience was wearing thin, and there was a good prospect that the instrument of U.N. sanctions against South Africa would be proposed in the Security Council. If put to a vote, it would be an important test of U.S. Africa policy under Reagan. The actual adoption of some sort of sanctions would be a further test of South African political will to accept peaceful change.

The most powerful and explosive pressure on South Africa now, however, is internal. Poverty and affluence cannot exist side by side, particularly when the highly visible but artificial barrier of race is the ultimate divider. Prior to 1948, South African blacks enjoyed some of the best educational facilities on the continent. Both Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe studied in South Africa. The present leadership in Mozambique went to South Africa to consult with the leadership of the African National Congress of South Africa when they founded the Mozambique liberation front, known as FRELIMO. South Africa has many leaders of the Asian, Black and Coloured majority who are capable of sharing the leadership burden which has been co-opted by the white minority. But that minority has consistently repressed the very people on whom its survival depends.

With the banishment and repression of trained leadership within South Africa, the frustrations of youth under the pressures of poverty and racism have become suicidally explosive. In the competition for leadership, the sector which produces the most action is likely to emerge dominant regardless of philosophy. This is another lesson from Zimbabwe. The masses of population gave their support to the group that seemed to have earned independence.

In South Africa this need not yet indicate that the most militant and violent activist groups will automatically predominate. The boycott of classes by more than 100,000 Coloured students in April and May of 1980, demands for increased wages and better working conditions by workers, and the spread of protest activities among Indian and white students have constituted a formidable political effort on behalf of change. It is also true, however, that the bombing of South Africa's SASOL plant last June by urban guerrillas has gotten far more acclaim among black South Africans than would the negotiation of a labor or housing agreement. The South African press, like our own, will give much more dramatic coverage to a destructive event than to a major positive accomplishment. While this does not negate the influence or importance of moderate groups and leaders, it does place them at a definite disadvantage in the change process.

As events unfold, the U.N. Security Council will inevitably become the scene of African calls for censure and sanctions as a means of demonstrating international rejection of South Africa's minority government. The U.N. Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against Iran in the hostage situation was drafted by African members of the Security Council, having in mind the possibility of a similar approach to South Africa. The overwhelming condemnation of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the worldwide pressure on the Soviet Union to abstain from any overt pressures against Polish workers are all seen as Western-established precedents which may one day be applicable to South Africa. Western or U.S. vetoes on South African sanctions could prove costly in the arena of world public opinion.

Would sanctions against South Africa prove useful in producing desired changes? Sometimes external pressure can be quite helpful in producing results in areas where there is already general agreement but insufficient courage to move in the right direction. Given difficulties for any leadership group in engineering or even proposing real change, sanctions or the threat of sanctions which will inconvenience the ruling minority but not destroy the country or hamper legitimate development plans can serve as an external force or "scapegoat" assisting in the change process. In much the same way the U.S. Supreme Court became the "scapegoat" and moral authority for mobilizing social change in the system of legal segregation in the southern United States.

Further, sanctions may work quite positively if they are carefully framed and targeted to specific ends. In that case, South Africa could put an end to a particular sanction through a concrete action. They will also have most effect when applied only as a last resort, where, as on Namibia, some area of general agreement has already been derived through negotiations.

One rather narrowly framed sanction often discussed in U.N. circles is a boycott of all commercial air travel to and from South Africa. Such a sanction could be monitored easily through existing U.N. laws governing landing and overflight rights established through the International Civil Aeronautics Organization. Existing radar tracking stations make such a sanction enforceable by the collective will of the nations of the world.

The application of both internal and external pressures will remain essential if South Africa is to have any chance of survival and racial reconciliation.


One would think that the U.S. policy of encouraging peaceful settlement of conflicts in southern Africa would apply also to conflicts to the north. But in 1980 that policy was under challenge with respect to the continuing struggle for independence in the Western Sahara, the expansionist designs of Libya, and conflict in the Horn of Africa.

In the case of the Western Sahara, the Carter Administration made what may prove to have been its major blunder in Africa, by approving military sales to Morocco, which was fighting the Polisario liberation movement for control of the territory formerly colonized by Spain. When the Spanish withdrew from their Western Sahara colony in 1975, they divided the territory between Morocco and Mauritania, ignoring the movement for self-determination by the indigenous population. In the ensuing war, Mauritania abandoned its claim in 1979 and pledged to live in peace with an emerging nation. Morocco, however, continued to view the Western Sahara as a part of an enlarged Maghreb kingdom under King Hassan II.

When Hassan sought additional hardware for the fight over the territory, the United States was confronted with a policy dilemma: Morocco was a military ally, but neighboring Algeria, a major trading partner of the United States and a key negotiator of attempts to free the American hostages in Iran, strongly backed the Polisario. Moreover, the Polisario now enjoys the support of a majority of both African and Arab delegations at the United Nations. Whereas in 1978 and 1979 both a Moroccan and an Algerian resolution on the question received largely favorable votes in the General Assembly, in 1980 the Assembly approved only the Algerian resolution-86 to 6 with 44 abstentions (including the United States)-which called on Morocco to withdraw and to begin negotiations with the Polisario for a peaceful settlement in the territory. No Arab nation voted with Morocco against the resolution, and even Saudi Arabia abstained.

The U.S. government, however, had decided to make the military sales to Morocco, with the rationale that this would give Hassan leverage in negotiating an end to the war. Yet the fighting has not diminished, Morocco has shown no sign of a willingness to negotiate, and the King is headed down the well-worn path of those who attempt to suppress legitimate aspirations for independence and self-determination. Thus the United States, itself a pioneer in self-determination, is allied with an effort to expand the realm of Hassan beyond his borders.

It is true that the United States needs a strong and stable ally at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, and Hassan, a longtime friend, could be such an ally. But instead of making every effort to extricate him from his problems in the Western Sahara, U.S. policy now encourages the warfare, at the expense of Moroccan domestic development priorities. Continued turmoil, regardless of the winner, is likely to lead to extended destabilization of Morocco and a direct threat against Hassan himself.

It is in the King's own security interests to have an independent and friendly neighbor on his southern flank, and a negotiated settlement with the Polisario-which desires such a political resolution-would produce just that. For the region as a whole, the U.S. interest is simply a stable relationship among Algeria, Morocco and the Polisario which enables trade and development to go forward unimpeded.

Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi, Prime Minister of Libya, is Africa's remaining rogue elephant. He uses the country's oil wealth to promote his own personal brand of Islamic fundamentalism. Unable to fulfill a dream of pan-Arab unity with himself as its leader, Qaddafi now seems to be pursuing a vision of an expanded Saharan kingdom. There is fear in some African quarters that he has designs on the area extending from Senegal to the Sudan. His military support for the victorious faction that took control of Chad in December 1980, and the subsequent "merger" of Libya and Chad in January, exacerbated the fears of Libyan adventurism. A Libyan-dominated Chad caused little alarm initially, because Africans saw it merely as an expulsion of French influence. But the abortive Libyan raid into Gafsa, Tunisia, Muslim riots in Kano, Nigeria, and the fears of Senegal's former president Leopold Senghor raised a question of malicious mischief which could be damaging to Sudan, Niger, Mali and Cameroon-all countries with complex balances of Christian and Muslim populations.

Libya is no threat requiring U.S. or French intervention, but a Soviet-armed Muslim revolution is certainly a threat to North African stability. This should be the subject of serious U.S. consultation with Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and Sudan, seeking to halt a destructive spread of mischief and to bring Qaddafi into line with the objectives of neighboring independent states. A concerted African effort to maintain peace and respect for sovereignty in the area should be backed by the United States-with military aid if necessary. Such a course on our part will be consistent with our policy direction of helping to curtail outside military intervention in African countries, and certainly in our long-range interest as well.

In the case of the Horn of Africa, there is potential for a geopolitical conflict that the United States so far has wisely avoided.

In early 1977, I had an extended meeting with President Mohammed Siad Barre of Somalia during a celebration of Tanzanian party unity in Zanzibar. I came away from that meeting with the disturbing impression that it was Siad Barre's intention to lure the United States into the struggle then brewing between Ethiopia and Somalia. The conflict threatened stability in the entire region, including Kenya and Djibouti (at the time still the old French Territory of the Afars and Issas).

Certainly, the Horn is of strategic importance to the United States with regard to commercial and military routes, but even today it is difficult to discern any strategic interest in spending millions of dollars to compete with the Soviets in a battle for a thousand miles of sand. That is, U.S. interest in Somali bases would not justify involvement in the battle for the Ogaden desert region held by Ethiopia and coveted by Somalia. Nor, certainly, would the abstract notion of stopping the Soviets.

The present U.S. agreement for use of Somali port facilities at Berbera, signed more to please the Saudis than to assure real U.S. strategic interests in the region, should be the bottom line of U.S. military involvement in the Horn of Africa. We certainly don't need to contribute manpower or money to Siad Barre's irredentist pursuit of a greater Somalia against the Soviet-backed Ethiopians. Any proposed further U.S. involvement with Somalia ought to be factored against U.S. relations with Western-oriented Kenya, some of whose territory is also claimed by Somalia. In addition, the general OAU doctrine of respect for international borders inherited from the colonial powers should be a primary guideline, here as in all of Africa.


The 1980s began with great changes on the African continent. Zimbabwean independence was the premier achievement in the long struggle for majority rule in southern Africa, and the U.S. role in that process contributed to the success in Zimbabwe and the hopes for a similar conclusion of the drive for Namibian independence.

African resources became increasingly important to the U.S. economy. A trade deficit which approaches $40 billion annually and is derived largely from oil supplied from Nigeria, Algeria and Libya, sharply focuses a challenge to American business and U.S. government policymakers. New oil discoveries in the Ivory Coast, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Sudan add to the existing African petroleum wealth. In addition, the promise of an oil-exploration facility sponsored by the World Bank, and the availability of billions of dollars of private capital for the development of Africa's rich mineral and agricultural potential, bode well for the growth of economic opportunity in Africa.

The European Community is well aware of the potential resources and markets in Africa, and has already begun, through the Lomé Convention for Trade and Cooperation, to cultivate economic partners and garner influence, thus establishing linkages which will affect both European and African prosperity. The United States is starting late, but we have none of the colonial baggage to carry, and we have an existing foundation of assistance and communication through programs like the Food for Peace Program (P.L. 480), the Peace Corps, and Christian missionary schools which have trained much of African leadership, as well as a population of 25 million Americans of African heritage. If we can continue to build on this foundation as we have during the last four years, U.S.-African relations are indeed approaching a new horizon.

To keep what we have gained, however, we must avoid a return to East-West analysis of events in Africa: that would return us to the days-only four short years ago-when American influence on the continent was at its lowest. Instead, a wise policy will continue to emphasize aggressive diplomacy, based on a clear perception of African political sensibilities, and encourage an atmosphere in which the United States will be able to foster conflict resolution and capitalize on our mutual interests in a profitable economic relationship with this vast continent.

1 It also contrasts markedly with the $1 billion figure for a Zimbabwe Development Fund bandied about by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1976.



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  • Andrew Young was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1977 to 1979, and U.S. Representative from Georgia (1973-77).
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