78. Airgram From the Embassy in Zambia to the Department of State 1


  • UN Decolonization Committee Meeting in Lusaka


From April 17 to 21 the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonization met at Mulungushi Hall in Lusaka. The Zambian Government received the Committee warmly. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Timothy Kankasa gave a party for the Committee members and, later in the week, President Kaunda hosted a dinner for them. At the State House dinner, the President disclosed that on April 17 Portuguese airplanes had violated Zambian airspace near Chadiza in Eastern Province.

In his speech opening the Committee’s hearings, Kankasa criticized NATO assistance to Portugal and attacked the import of Rhodesian chrome by the United States. In their appearance before the Committee, spokesmen of the national liberation movements urged that the UN specialized agencies grant them assistance for education and health care. At the conclusion of its stay in Lusaka, the Committee issued a communiqué containing resolutions condemning Portugal and calling on her to withdraw from her African territories.

Zambia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs opened the Decolonization Committee’s meeting in Lusaka with a speech on April 17. In his address, Kankasa said that Zambia stands side by side with Tanzania in her struggle against the racist regimes in southern Africa. Referring to Portugal’s bombing of a Tanzanian village near the Mozambique border, he stated that “Zambia supports the Tanzanian peoples’ refusal to bow down before Portugal’s oppression.” Kankasa also attacked members of NATO for their continued support of Portugal. He observed that “there appears to be growing a very dangerous trend to allow economic considerations to take the upper hand in decisions taken in some Western capitals.” Kankasa asserted that the recent United States legislation to authorize the import of Rhodesian chrome [Page 121]“was based on economic and selfish grounds.” He termed the United States’ violation of UN sanctions “unforgiveable.”

Responding to Kankasa’s speech, the Tanzanian Chairman of the Decolonization Committee, Salim Ahmed Salim, expressed the Committee’s pleasure to be in Lusaka and outlined the week’s agenda. Salim called attention to the visit of three Committee members to the “liberated areas” of Guinea-Bissau and said, “The mission has in fact dealt a decisive blow to the Portuguese propaganda machinery by bringing vividly to the attention of the international community the true situation in the territory and making it abundantly clear that the collapse of Portuguese colonialism in Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Islands is both inevitable and imminent.” In a Committee session later in the week Salim remarked that it would be “a step in the right direction, and a return to sanity” if the United States reimposed a bar on the import of Rhodesian chrome.

The first freedom group to appear before the Decolonization Committee was the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). Pascal Luvuala, a member of MPLAs’ central committee, repeated an invitation, extended earlier, to Committee members to visit the “liberated areas of Angola.”

Luvuala said that the guerrilla conflict in Angola has turned into total war with 287 Portuguese killed in the last five months. He criticized Western nations for indirectly helping Portugal maintain its colonial wars through NATO. Luvuala asked the Committee to recognize the MPLA as the sole Angolan liberation movement and called for aid to MPLA-controlled areas in Angola from UN specialized agencies. Another MPLA member claimed in his testimony that Portuguese serving in Angola had been sent to the United States for “psycho-political propaganda training.”

In his four hours before the Decolonization Committee, FRELIMO Vice President Marcellino dos Santos said that his organization had not been able to halt construction on the Cabora Bassa dam but was making it very costly. He claimed that 2900 Portuguese were killed in Mozambique in 1971. Like the MPLA spokesman, dos Santos asked the UN specialized agencies to grant the liberation movements aid for education and health care. The FRELIMO leader stated that the freedom fighters in Mozambique were willing to negotiate with the Portuguese provided that the Portuguese recognized the right of the Mozambican people to self-determination and independence. dos Santos invited members of the UN committee to send observers to the liberated areas of Mozambique.

COREMOs’ President, Paulo Gumane, called on the UN Decolonization Committee to become more practical in passing and implementing its resolutions. He charged that active support from NATO [Page 122]countries has enabled Portuguese settlers in Mozambique to step up efforts to build new military bases.

Calling on the UN to establish a special fund to support the armed struggle for Zimbabwe, Edward Ndhlovu, the Deputy National Secretary of ZAPU, rejected the possibility of a negotiated settlement. Such an agreement, he asserted, would be designed only to protect Britain’s political and economic interests in Rhodesia.

In his statement to the Committee, SWAPOs’ Administrative Secretary, Moses Garoeb, accused Malawi and Lesotho of collaborating with South Africa and causing a setback for freedom in Africa. Garoeb alleged that soon after African workers in Namibia went on strike early this year, large numbers of laborers from Lesotho and Malawi were brought into the territory. Garoeb charged that South Africa broke the strike by mass intimidations, arrests, deportations, and internments of Namibian workers. The SWAPO official scoffed at UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim’s visit to Namibia, calling it “a guided tour organized by the South African Government.” Garoeb asked the UN to give SWAPO financial aid, medicine, propaganda facilities, and scholarships. He noted that while he would like to see a peaceful solution to the Namibian problem, “the reality of the situation indicates that we are not going to have one.”

At its final session, the Decolonization Committee issued a communiqué containing a number of resolutions passed during its week in Lusaka. The communiqué states that the Decolonization Committee resolved to consult with the OAU and the liberation movements concerned on sending UN missions to liberated areas in Angola and Mozambique. Another resolution calls on “all states and specialized agencies and other organizations within the UN system” to give the national liberation movements all necessary moral and material assistance. Portugal is condemned for its “repeated violations of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of independent African states bordering its colonial territories, in particular for its recent act of aggression committed against Tanzania.” The Committee called upon the Portuguese government “to cease forthwith all military operations and other repressive measures against the peoples of Angola, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, and Cape Verde, and to withdraw … all its forces from these territories” in accord with previous UN resolutions. Another resolution urges other nations to stop all military aid and arms sales to Portugal and to discourage their nationals from doing business in the Portuguese territories. The final resolution draws the attention of the UN Security Council to the “explosive situation” in the Portuguese territories caused by Portugal’s disregard of past UN resolutions. It urges the Security Council to take “further effective measures” to insure the compliance of Portugal with these resolutions.

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The Zambian press gave the Decolonization Committee’s visit thorough coverage. Each day the Zambia Daily Mail and Times of Zambia carried articles summarizing the previous day’s testimony. On April 19 both newspapers printed photographs of members of the UN team which visited Guinea-Bissau looking at an “American made” bomb dropped in a village in Guinea-Bissau. In an editorial on April 22, the Times of Zambia said that the Committee has been criticized for not having freed any territories. The Times observed that while some criticism is justified, most is based on a misunderstanding of the Committee’s mandate and the “severe obstacles placed in its way by members of NATO.” The Committee’s main task, the newspaper said, is to accelerate the decolonization process and to supplement the efforts of the liberation movements. “The freedom fighters must be made to understand that it is their responsibility to achieve it” (freedom). In his statement marking the close of the Decolonization Committee’s meeting in Lusaka, Timothy Kankasa agreed with the Times. He said that the responsibility for delivering the final blow against colonial rule in Africa rested with the oppressed peoples themselves. “We do not want talking freedom fighters but fighting freedom fighters.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 19 UN. Unclassified. Drafted by R. C. Reis and approved by Deputy Chief of Mission Arthur T. Tienken. Repeated to Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, Lisbon, Pretoria, Lourenco Marques, Luanda, and USUN.