167. Intelligence Alert Memorandum1

NIO 0001–76


  • Possible Adverse Consequences of the OAU Summit Meeting
The Organization of African Unity will open its emergency session on Angola in Addis Ababa on January 8. The meeting is bound to be a contentious one. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and its supporters will seek to:
  • —gain for it official recognition from the OAU as the sovereign government of Angola,
  • —win condemnation of South African and US involvement in Angola,
  • —justify Soviet and Cuban assistance,
  • —eliminate support for the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and the National Front for the Liberation of Angola (FNLA).
A majority of OAU members has not yet recognized either of the rival Angolan regimes, and most of this majority will seek to avoid a situation where the member states are forced to “choose up sides.” This group of states will attempt to encourage a political settlement among the factions within Angola by:
  • —condemning South African involvement,
  • —seeking the withdrawal of all foreign military personnel,
  • —urging the cessation of all foreign assistance to the warring liberation groups,
  • —calling for a cease-fire and a government of national unity.

The South African Factor

The presence of South African combat forces in Angola has given the MPLA a big advantage in the contest for legitimacy between the rival regimes. This increases the likelihood that the MPLA’s supporters will win out at the OAU meeting.
  • —Pretoria’s assistance makes it emotionally impossible for most black African states to remain neutral and makes it politically difficult if not impossible for most to support a government of national unity.
  • —South African support of UNITA and the FNLA has seriously tarnished the image of these organizations as legitimate Angolan nationalist groups in the eyes of many African nations.
  • —Pretoria’s involvement in Angola was the deciding factor in prompting Nigeria, Ghana and Burundi to recognize the MPLA. A South African presence in Angola at the time of the summit will prompt other African states to follow suit, and probably produce a majority in favor of recognizing the MPLA.
The OAU members will also be keenly sensitive to how the fighting in Angola is going. Should it appear that the MPLA were on the verge of gaining a clear-cut position of predominance or that the FNLA/UNITA coalition were collapsing, some OAU states would probably move quickly to recognize the MPLA, in effect getting on what appeared to be the winning side. As matters now stand, however, it does not appear that the fighting will be at such a point before the summit occurs. The MPLA has stepped up its activities, but no decisive breakthrough appears imminent. Moreover, the rainy season is now underway in Angola, and this should serve to complicate military action.
Pretoria has recently indicated privately that it plans to withdraw its forces from Angola by the time the summit begins.2 If this is in fact a firm decision and some way can be found to make it credible to the African audience and to make diplomatic use of it, it would strengthen the position of African countries that were prepared to hold off on recognition of the MPLA until some steps could be taken toward a political settlement. Such a development might also stimulate diplomatic efforts by “neutrals” or FNLA/UNITA supporters to promote a compromise solution. Indeed, such follow-up would probably be nec[Page 419]essary if FNLA/UNITA were to gain any benefit from South African withdrawal.
Since Pretoria has not announced a decision to withdraw, FNLA/UNITA supporters may try to use the issue of withdrawal as a lever to pry concessions out of the MPLA side, either at the summit or in the preceding diplomatic activity. It is difficult to foretell the success of such efforts. On the one hand, the prospect of bargaining over Pretoria’s presence might make some MPLA supporters dig in more; on the other hand, some might think more seriously about a compromise solution. One factor influencing the situation would be whether or not those Africans who are neutrals or at least not hard-core FNLA/UNITA supporters endorsed the idea of bargaining over South African withdrawal.
South African withdrawal before the opening of the summit would put moderate OAU members in a better position to insist on withdrawal of all foreign forces from Angola. It would also markedly reduce the chance of the OAU officially endorsing the MPLA.
Even with a South African withdrawal, however, the MPLA would continue to charge that UNITA and FNLA were obtaining clandestine assistance from Pretoria, and such an accusation would have some credibility because of South Africa’s past support. Similar criticism would also be directed against the US. In addition, a South African withdrawal would also serve to persuade the Luanda-based regime to step up military operations in order to take advantage of the damaging effect a withdrawal would have on the military capabilities of its rivals.
In any event, the best that UNITA and the FNLA can probably expect is that a stampede of recognitions for the MPLA can be averted at the summit and that the OAU reaches no formal decision as a body. There would then be some chance that a number of African states would become disenchanted with the MPLA’s refusal to agree to a government of national unity, and that this, in turn, would create new possibilities for a future political settlement. Even this evolution of events is questionable, however, unless South Africa actually withdraws from Angola.

In the week ahead, ongoing diplomatic activity will assume great importance. Among the several areas where there could be some movement are:

  • —Zambian efforts to persuade Mozambique, Tanzania, and perhaps other pro-MPLA states to accept a government of national unity. It is possible that the Zambians are trying to use South African withdrawal as a bargaining chip.
  • —Efforts by governments sympathetic to FNLA/UNITA or to reconciliation (e.g., Senegal, Ivory Coast) to hold the line among like-minded states and line up additional support from fence sitters.
  • —The continuing attempts by pro-MPLA states to turn the accumulation of MPLA strength into a bandwagon. The caucus of states recognizing the Luanda regime, which will reportedly meet just before the summit, will be one such effort.

A critical point will be whether or not the divisions among states recognizing the MPLA may be sufficiently wide to affect the outcome of the OAU meeting. Some states recognizing the MPLA, such as Nigeria and Ghana, appear to be primarily concerned about the South African role and if they could get some satisfaction on that point, might support a serious compromise effort. There will be great efforts made, however, to hold the MPLA group in line.

All elements of the intelligence community [less than 1 line not declassified] on alert to watch for and report any change in the positions of OAU states on the subject of recognition of the MPLA. It must be recognized, however, that while we will probably know the positions of most African states in advance of the summit meeting, we cannot provide assurance that we will know the positions of all. In addition, we can provide no assurance that these positions will not change during the meeting.
This memorandum has been coordinated among the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research of the Department of State, and the [less than 1 line not declassified]
  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 104, Geopolitical File, Angola Chronological File. Secret; Noforn; Nocontract; Orcon. The paper was submitted to Scowcroft under a covering memorandum from Colby on January 3.
  2. See Document 165.