TransAfrica Forum Issue Brief

(Vol. 3, No. 2)
by TransAfrica Forum
Washington, DC, United States
April - May, 1984
6 pages
Contents: ANGOLA: NATION UNDER SIEGE • RESTRUCTURING ANGOLA • REAGAN WATCH: U.S. POLICY ON ANGOLA • JOINT DECLARATION OF THE GOVERNMENTS OF CUBA AND ANGOLA • Angola, South Africa, and the United States announced a ceasefire agreement on February 16, 1984. South African troops would begin a phased withdrawal from occupied Angolan territory in exchange for Angola's commitment to restrict SWAPO's activities within southern Angola, with a joint commission to monitor the disengagement process. The communique also provided that, at the request of the parties, U.S. representatives could play a role, and the U.S. moved to open a monitoring center in Windhoek. Many supporters of African liberation and anti-apartheid activists have questioned Angola's decision to enter talks with its long-time adversary, the value of such an agreement with the apartheid regime, and the legitimacy of a U.S. role. This ISSUE BRIEF explores the circumstances surrounding this agreement and includes an interview with Angola expert Dr. Gerald Bender. The tasks of social reconstruction in Angola are complex, reflecting the 500-year legacy as one of the most brutally exploited nations in Africa. Angola was the principal African supplier to the slave trade, and that genocidal era left Angola underpopulated. Only about seven million people live in Angola, the second largest sub-Saharan nation, which inhibits national unity, makes defense of its territory almost impossible, and leaves the country vulnerable to outside attacks and prolonged occupation. The history of underdevelopment under Portuguese colonialism is also described. Neither Portugal, South Africa, nor the U.S. was prepared to lose access to Angola's resources, and each did its best to prevent Angola's independence. U.S. firms had a virtual monopoly over the extraction and production of Angolan oil; by 1970, Angola was the world's fifth largest diamond exporter, and the South African firm that controlled the Angola diamond industry had extensive U.S. interests. Also at stake was NATO's strategic domination of the south Atlantic Ocean. South Africa invaded Angola three months before its independence. The U.S. arranged for an airlift of French, U.S., Belgian, and West German arms to South Africa, and National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA, and National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA) forces massed on the Namibian side of the Angolan border. The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) repelled the South African invasion with the aid of Cuban troops and established the Popular Republic of Angola on November 11, 1975. The next month, the U.S. government ordered Boeing to withhold delivery of two planes worth more than $200 million, already paid for by the MPLA government, and forced Gulf to cease operations and withhold payments, thus causing Angola to lose $1.5 million per day in foreign exchange. The U.S. then vetoed Angola's first request for United Nations membership. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have been concerned solely with Angola's geopolitical significance, mineral resources, and oil reserves, and Angola has become a model case for advocates of U.S. covert action. Improvements in U.S. policy have been due to international public pressure, not from recognizing Angola's inherent right to self-determination. The newsletter mentions UN Resolution 435/78, SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization), Assistant Secretary of State Chester Crocker, Cuban troops, Secretary of State George Schultz, Holden Roberto, export commodities, revenues from oil and diamond exports, South African/UNITA invasions, investments, the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), biological and chemical warfare, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, FLEC (Front for the Liberation of the Cabinda Enclave), mercenaries, COMIRA, the Clark Amendment, Jonas Savimbi, the "Tar Baby Memorandum," the Kennedy administration, the UN Security Council, President Carter, and TransAfrica Forum staff members Niikwao Akuetteh, Cecelie Counts, Menda Ahart, and Randall Robinson.
Used by permission of TransAfrica Forum.
Collection: William Minter Southern Africa Papers