Retracing the Footsteps of a Liberation Struggle Icon – ‘Where Others Wavered, the Autobiography of Sam Nujoma’ [analysis]

THOUGH I had made clear in Geneva and in many speeches and statements our democratic principles and pragmatic view of future economic policy, the Western Contact Group found it necessary to bind us to a set of “Constitutional Principles” early in 1982.

Much was later made of the fact that the constitution could be adopted only by a two-thirds majority of a constituent assembly, but we had no objection to that. More serious was the proviso that set up a system designed to reduce Swapo’s power in favour of the white minority. Also, in their favour were clauses that meant we could not dispense with the very large civil service – 47 000 g – which the South Africans had built up to run the country along Bantustan lines (nine separate administrations, each with its own overstaffed departments), and the ‘Third Tier’ central government around the National Assembly, controlled by the white administration.

We realised that perpetuating such a large bureaucracy would take up huge sums of money from our national budget that would better be put to combating the extreme poverty we have inherited from the apartheid colonial administration. But we would accept this burden in the interests of stopping a stampede of whites out of the country. This was the tactical policy adopted by Swapo – that there would be no white exodus from Namibia to South Africa to reinforce white extremists and delay the progress of South Africa to achieving a non-racial and democratic government.

Although Reagan’s policies were so harmful to our prospects of early independence, they did have the effect of increasing enormously the humanitarian support we received such as foodstuff, medical equipment, clothing and other basic human needs from the Nordic countries, Holland, Belgium, the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the Namibia Support Committee, and anti-apartheid movements from Europe, America, Australia and Canada.

And most importantly the increase of military hardware for PLAN from the Soviet Union and other socialist countries. The months after the Geneva conference confirmed all our worst predictions of the Reagan administration’s South Africa policy with ‘constructive engagement’ as the framework. We had already seen it in places in the visit of South African generals for talks in Washington with Mrs. Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Andrew Young’s successor at the UN: in a leaked report revealing the new relationship, with ‘Pik’ Botha demanding increased US support for South African policies: in the visit by Dirk Mudge and a DTA delegation to the UN: and in the announcement by President Reagan of so-called ‘covert aid’ to UNITA. We worked hard with our friends all over the world to counter this new strengthening of South Africa’s position.

In April 1981 the Non-Aligned Summit in Algiers called for mandatory sanctions against South Africa. The resolution that was adopted was duly introduced to members of the Council in April and only defeated by the triple-veto of Western members showed how wide the gap was growing by urging, although to no avail, that puppet Peter Kalangula of the Ovamboland Bantustan be invited to address the Security Council.

There were already signs the Western Contact Group was beginning to move away from Resolution 435. At the end of June 1981 I expressed dismay to the Liberation Committee of the OAU at Arusha, in Tanzania, that the US, “one of the authors of the resolution and a permanent member of the Security Council, is now trying to sabotage Resolution 435.” The most serious cause for delay appeared in June 1981 during a high-level US mission to South Africa and Namibia led by Reagan’s Under Deputy Secretary of State, William Clark, with Chester Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

Clark made it clear the US was not committed to UN Security Council Resolution 435, and he also met the DTA’s puppet leaders in Windhoek. He later recognized their standing in the negotiations for the first time, and most seriously, let it be known the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola was now a quid pro quo (pre-condition) for the withdrawal from Namibia of the South African colonial administration.

By September 1981, the concept of ‘linkage’ of these two matters having become established US policy, Reagan sent a letter to the heads of the Frontline States requiring their agreement, and Crocker announced Resolution 435 would have to be “supplemented by additional measures” and was also conditional upon ‘linkage’. In November, Vice-President George Bush, at the start of a seven-nation African tour, released a major policy statement in Nairobi called, “A New Partnership with Africa,” it offered help to African nations to restructure their economies, as well as in security, peace-making and human rights aancement. But what affected us most was at the core of the statement: “My Government is not ashamed to state the US interest in seeing an end to the presence of Cuban forces in Angola.

Their introduction seven years ago tore the fabric of reciprocal restraint between the US and the Soviet Union in the developing world.” South African troops would withdraw from Namibia only when the Cubans had gone. The South Africans have already taken up ‘linkage’ and this became for the next seven years the greatest obstacle in the way of freedom and independence for Namibia. We had no option, but to struggle on to remove that obstacle by mounting political pressure inside the country and by maintaining diplomatic contacts with the West, despite the reversal of policy brought about by the US Reagan administration.

The responses of the other members of the Western Contact Group varied. As it became clear that changing Resolution 435 was part of the Reagan policy of distancing the US from the United Nations, they found it difficult to fall in with Crocker’s moves. The French were the most critical of linkage, followed by the Canadians. The French Foreign Minister Claude Cheysson, spoke against it in Dar-es-Salaam in October 1982, saying, “Everything is ready. One could simply push a button,” but for the “stagnation” caused by the US and South African insistence that the Cubans vacate Angola as part of the Namibian settlement.

The Western Contact Group, he said: “Never accepted that there should be such a link and we will never accept it. We see no justification for any request being put to the Government of Angola. Of course, we know that the Americans do not feel that way. They have entered into a kind of negotiation with the apartheid South African regime, but that is their business.” At the end of 1983, Monsieur Cheysson announced that France would suspend its participation in the Western Contact Group, because of the Reagan administration’s insistence on the linkage of Resolution 435 to the withdrawal of Cuban internationalist forces from Angola.

He said that the Western Contact Group should now be “dormant, in the absence of any ability to exercise honestly the mandate confided in it.” Britain was equivocal, denying any commitment to linkage, yet agreeing with it as a general principle. Swapo, despite an early distrust of the Western Contact Group and hostility towards us from the Reagan administration, co-operated as best we could with the Western Contact Group up to this point, even in spite of ‘linkage.’

Source : New Era