194. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Julius K. Nyerere, President of Tanzania
  • J.W. Butiku, Private Secretary to the President
  • Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Secretary of State
  • Peter W. Rodman, NSC Staff

[The Secretary arrived and waited a few moments for Nyerere to arrive. Nyerere then appeared. There were warm introductions all around, while photographers took pictures. Nyerere introduced the [Page 485] Secretary to his mother and family. Nyerere then took the Secretary into his private office for this private conversation.]

Kissinger: I am really delighted to have this opportunity to meet you, because there are not many people in this part of the world who can philosophically shape events. It is easy to deal with the practical immediate issues. But without a philosophical grasp, you only solve the immediate issues.

Nyerere: Fine.

Kissinger: I’m at your disposal. But before you give me the benefit of your view, there are two things I want to mention.

You have seen reports of my motives for coming here—to set up an American-sponsored liberation movement, or to support the white Rhodesian regime. With respect to the latter, I am prepared to put the power of the United States behind the liberation of Rhodesia, in unmistakeable terms, so Smith and Vorster cannot possibly misunderstand. Second, we do not want to see blocs in Africa. The Soviet Union and the United States should not seek blocs in Africa because if we do it, Africa will be the battleground of foreign conflicts.

I don’t like to come on goodwill trips, but I like to see results. I am willing to admit the mistakes of the past. We have had Vietnam, the Middle East, Watergate; it was not possible to do everything simultaneously.

But I am here now to do something.

In the Middle East, many Arab countries were extremely suspicious of U.S. motives until ’73, when President Sadat saw that in confrontation with the United States, it was not possible to do anything, and in cooperation with the United States much was possible. Now we’re giving $1 billion to Egypt in aid and he has got more territory back than any other Arab leader.

I like to think we can do the same with Africa on a cooperative basis, and work with you. This is not to say you can’t work with others. You have your own national interests.

Nyerere: Mr. Secretary, we are very, very grateful to have this opportunity to meet with you. We will meet again tonight and I will have an opportunity to say it formally with my friends. We very much welcome the opportunity to discuss with you privately our problems.

We have problems. Liberation on the continent. You are celebrating your 200th year; we are in the process of liberation. We are celebrating our 14th year—Tanzania and Zanzibar. It will be 15 years in October. So really the continent is in the process of liberation.

The problem is classical colonialism as in Rhodesia, or with our friend Vorster, racialism. It is our big headache. We live with it. We try to solve it. We can’t do it without the assistance or at least the under[Page 486]standing of the big powers. And for a continent like Africa, liberation isn’t enough; we need economic development. I think we in Tanzania are really the Fourth World when they put us into categories!

We have sometimes our problems; sometimes the problems of work, and for a country like Tanzania, it is sometimes very difficult for us to achieve independence. And we need and we value the help and at least the understanding of the great powers. So we really value this opportunity.

Kissinger: What help do you have in mind?

Nyerere: In Southern Africa. We will explain our view. Things are changing. What was needed in ’75 might not be needed now. We want pressure on the regime in Rhodesia; we want pressure on Vorster regarding Namibia, and ultimately for change in South Africa. We can’t live with South Africa as it is.

As to what you can do, sometimes the things we ask are extravagant for you within the limits of the old system. You might not be able to give us arms, but what can you give us? We hope you will answer that question, within the limits not of your power, but of your system.

Kissinger: We are certainly prepared to give the understanding, and we are prepared to do more than this, to see what help can be given. It is my purpose to establish contact with leaders like yourself so we can see it more naturally. I don’t know the nuances. We have to see it from the point of view of the Soviet Union; you have to see it in terms of independent Africa. But I’m here to learn. We believe that without majority rule, there can’t be peace and independent African development. Other countries can certainly participate. Leaders like you know how to use the big powers for your needs. But in cases like Angola where foreign armies actually appear, it is a problem for us. But our aim should be to prevent situations like that from arising.

The regime in Rhodesia can’t survive if we all behave with unity and dedication. And Namibia too. Certainly, the problem of South Africa is harder.

Nyerere: This has always been my view. Southern Africa has always been a whole—Portugal, South Africa—but we can’t tackle the whole problem together. We can define it all together—as we tried in 1969 in the Lusaka Manifesto.2 We were accused of being racialists in reverse; we were accused of wanting violence for the sake of violence. Fighting had already started in Angola.

So we had to define what it is we are trying to do—a group of countries of whom my country was a part. We didn’t make a distinction. We gave South Africa the fact that it was an independent state—but we didn’t make a distinc[Page 487]tion between Namibia and the others.

Our priorities are Rhodesia and Namibia. South Africa is harder. The cases of Rhodesia and Namibia are clearer. You and the Soviet Union and China really all agree the South Africans should not be there.

Kissinger: That is right.

Nyerere: So there is this clarity at least in those cases. Those are the priorities, and in any case, South Africa is harder. I am not sure personally that Africa has given itself much thinking. Africa understands the colonial issue; but it has not fully understood the problem of South Africa and fully thought about how to solve it.

When Vorster gives independence to the Transkei and we have [Paramount Chief] Matanzima coming to the UN to seek membership, there will be confusion.

Kissinger: If Transkei becomes independent, what would be the balance in Southern Africa? The blacks still would be the majority.

Nyerere: Yes. But if we accept it, we would be accepting that the solution is partition, not majority rule.

Kissinger: We have not decided yet with respect to the Transkei. The present inclination is against it.

Nyerere: Some say it is not the same as Rhodesia, but it is. Smith may say to Vorster: “You fortunately declared your independence in 1905, and we did it in 1965. It is an accident that your independence is recognized and ours isn’t.” Maybe he hasn’t said it. But I’m sure Smith at least thinks of saying this to Vorster.

Recognizing that South Africa is a tougher nut to crack, we would still be saying the objective in South Africa, as in Rhodesia, is majority rule.

Kissinger: I plan to say this in Lusaka.3 I hope I will be saying things you agree with. I’ll give you a copy. You will see I treat Rhodesia in greater detail than Namibia, and Namibia in greater detail than South Africa.

I read in some African papers that I need this trip—for domestic reasons. That is not true. I am being attacked by the conservatives. We have to do what is right.

[Page 488]

We are coming out of it. But we have these two right-wing candidates. But they will lose. What I can do is state certain principles that will develop their own momentum, and implement certain policies that will develop their own momentum.

You know revolutionary movements better than I do. But to me it has always seemed partly a psychological problem—at some point the minority gives up. Next Tuesday,4 Smith will have no way to believe we will help. As long as no non-African countries get involved. But you and your colleagues have said they won’t.

I will call on neighboring countries to close their border with Rhodesia. What do you think?

Nyerere: This is a first class idea. First class. Seretse Khama, President of Botswana,] is calculating the costs.

Kissinger: I’ll call on them—not by name—to do it, and pledge U.S. assistance.

Nyerere: First class.

Kissinger: I’ll say that South Africa can prove it is an African country by not supporting Rhodesia. And I’ll talk about giving assistance to African countries.

Nyerere: First class.

Kissinger: What do you think of President Machel? I wanted to meet with him, but what about meeting him at UNCTAD?

Nyerere: You will get to meet some of their people at UNCTAD.

Kissinger: It is no use to me, but I thought it would be demoralizing to Smith if I had visible contact with black leaders. I’ll be in Nairobi on the 4th, 5th, and 6th. Senior people—the President or whoever. They wouldn’t have to say they are there to meet me.

Nyerere: I’m not sure I can get their President, but I’m sure I can get their senior people. You have mentioned three things, which are very important.

Kissinger: I’ll have given the speech.

Nyerere: Right. But these three things you said: The minority regimes can’t expect support from the US. You have already said that. Second, that the US is not trying to build its own “leadership group.”

Kissinger: Exactly.

Nyerere: That is very important.

Quite frankly, for us and Zambia and Mozambique, this is the new fear. Not so much that you will support the white regimes, but that you [Page 489] are trying to build up something of your own—I said this to the British—to say “it’s ours.”

Kaunda even met with Vorster personally. We knew what the African reaction would be. We knew what South Africa wanted—a friendly buffer if a settlement is achieved. We knew this, but we wanted majority rule. The objectives weren’t the same but we wanted majority rule. But it failed because Smith isn’t ready. Now we support the liberation fighters. But we are the same people. Don’t think now we are enemies of the British. I said this to the British.

Kissinger: What I would appreciate from you, Mr. President. I may not understand everything that happens, or everything that you are told by others. So if anything happens that you have a question about—we will set up a channel. The sort of thing this Observer correspondent says is childish [See Tab A].5 We have no interest in backing one group against others, or against you, and we won’t do this.

In Angola we got into a situation where, quite frankly, it seemed to us that the Soviet Union . . . If the Soviet Union had given the freedom fighters support, we would have done nothing. But when it came to massive equipment and outside forces, we had to view it as big power bases. I had the impression you weren’t happy. You don’t have to answer.

Nyerere: Oh, I’ll answer. We don’t want the big powers in Africa, entrenching themselves. When one does, the other will.

Kissinger: Inevitably.

On Southern Africa, we will be influenced heavily by your thinking. We will have to do it one step at a time. First, Rhodesia, then Namibia, and only then can we take on South Africa. We need their help on Rhodesia, and their toleration in Namibia. But in my speech I’ll say we look to the end of discrimination in South Africa at a definite date—even in South Africa.

You were summing up your three points.

Nyerere: Second was the United States is not going to support factions.

Kissinger: Peter [Rodman]. Add this to the speech. There’s something in there already, but we’ll sharpen it.

Nyerere: Third is calling for countries surrounding Rhodesia to close their borders.

Kissinger: Yes.

Nyerere: This is first class.

Kissinger: You won’t tell our press tomorrow? Because . . .

[Page 490]

Nyerere: No. I won’t give your speech!

Kissinger: We’ll get it to you on Tuesday morning.

Nyerere: Those three will make me very happy.

Kissinger: I’ll say we will work to repeal the Byrd Amendment, on chrome.6 And we’ll give help for the refugees.

Nyerere: Very fine.

Kissinger: We have a ten-point program. I won’t speak for you, but I can say we discussed it.

Nyerere: Tomorrow [at the press conference], I will express our position fully—so it’s understood by you and your colleagues. Our fears and our hopes. I won’t expect you to say in your answer things you’re saying in Lusaka.

Kissinger: You are meeting our press tomorrow, and I’m delighted. It would be helpful if it doesn’t look like my speech is yielding to you. It’s better if it’s our free decision.

Nyerere: First class. I understand.

Kissinger: You can say you’re satisfied, or you’re hopeful, or whatever.

What about Mozambique?

Nyerere: We helped build Frelimo. It was us and China.

Kissinger: And you noticed we never opposed it.

Nyerere: Our relations are very friendly. We don’t have the same system as they do. We didn’t fight a guerrilla war. We agitated a little—it was very British. [Laughter] They don’t fully understand what’s happening in Mozambique.

Kissinger: Nor do I. [Laughter]

Nyerere: But we get on very well with them. They very much respect the Chinese for building Frelimo.

Kissinger: We respect the Chinese.

Nyerere: But you see we disagreed with the Chinese on Angola. The Chinese Ambassador was sitting right here. I said we have to disagree. It is very painful for friendly countries to disagree. We differed with Zambia too. It was very painful.

Kissinger: Of course, we agreed more with Zambia.

Nyerere: Yes, you agreed with my friends more than I did! Can we still remain very friendly, even if we disagree? We disagreed with Zambia and the Chinese, but we move on.

You spoke of my friend Machel. Their system isn’t ours.

Kissinger: You said you’d send a message to Mozambique.

[Page 491]

Nyerere: I’ll send a message, and the message might be actually your statement in Lusaka. I’ll say they should send someone—the Foreign Minister.

Kissinger: It should be a political person, even though the meeting is . . .

Nyerere: . . . economic.

Kissinger: I’m giving a speech [at UNCTAD]7 because this is the only way to give impetus to it, and in our government. I could have sent the Economic Under Secretary, but I wanted to do it.

Nyerere: I’ll make a proposal to the Foreign Ministers in Mozambique, in Zambia, and in Botswana—and to make it easier, my Foreign Minister Ibrahim—could be in Nairobi.

Kissinger: Your Foreign Minister?

Nyerere: Oh, yes. My Foreign Minister will be with me [in Europe]. I’ll send someone else.

Kissinger: It would be very helpful if after I’ve made this speech . . . How will it happen?

Nyerere: I’ll let Mr. [Ambassador]Spain know.

Kissinger: Good. To let you know, I can do it Tuesday afternoon or all day Wednesday.

Nyerere: So you’ll speak on Tuesday? On Tuesday I’ll contact the President in Zambia and Mozambique and say that in view of your statement, wouldn’t it be useful to meet with you on the following Tuesday? It will be the first visible sign of a response.

Kissinger: Excellent.

Nyerere: I’ll let Mr. Spain know.

Kissinger: So we don’t have to approach them.

Nyerere: You don’t have to approach them. Good.

[Everyone gets up to leave.]

Kissinger: I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to meet you.

Nyerere: The feeling has been mutual.

[At 7:58 they proceeded to the large meeting room, where Nyerere introduced his colleagues to the Secretary’s party. Everyone is seated. Nyerere offers wine, but the Secretary demurs.]

Nyerere: You’re a teetotaler!

Kissinger: Yes. I almost never drink.

Nyerere: I was a teetotaler. Until the victory in Mozambique. I never dealt with Portugal. I never knew Portuguese wine. Then Samora [Page 492] [Machel] discovered stacks and stacks of wine in cellars there. He sent it to me. So they’ll serve it to you. [Laughter]

Since Samora sent it to me, I call it “Samora.” [Laughter] I always say: “Bring me Samora.” [Laughter]

Kissinger: How did Frelimo get started?

Nyerere: How did it get started? I used to go to the United Nations as a petitioner. This country was a trust territory under the UN, administered by the British. Twice I came to the United Nations. On one trip I met Dr. Mondlane. He had been teaching in the United States, but was then working for the UN. And we discussed liberation. I said: “Why don’t you come to Dar es Salaam, instead of working for the UN, and work for the liberation of your country?”

So he came in 1962. There were several organizations. [The President’s colleagues recite a number of names]. Mondlane helped put them together into a front for the liberation of Mozambique—FRELIMO. It was really a coalition of small parties. They started with agitation. That was all we knew, from our experience. They tried it, but it wasn’t enough. Then they started fighting—a year after the formation of the OAU.

Kissinger: But where did Machel come from?

Nyerere: Machel was one of the freedom fighters. When they came together, Machel was there. He was a hospital assistant—a dispenser. He escaped and came here and was recruited and came into the Army, and became the leader of the armed force. When Mondlane was assassinated.

Kissinger: Oh, Mondlane was assassinated?

Nyerere: He was assassinated here. The same thing happened with Cabral.

Kissinger: Do you have any idea who did it?

Nyerere: It was planned by the Portuguese, with infiltrators.

When he was assassinated, they came together to find a new leader. They were divided, as the politicians now fighting in Rhodesia. But at the Congress, the fighters came, so they chose Machel.

Kissinger: Senator Percy, whom you met, and who met Machel, was very impressed.

I’m seeing Nkomo in Lusaka, just to show the symbolism of meeting with someone from the Liberation Movement. I tried to meet the Bishop.8 He requested the appointment, and now he’s made a statement [denouncing me].

[Page 493]

I’d be delighted to meet him, or Sithole. We’re not interested in pitting one faction against another.

Nyerere: We have the same interest. We tell them we don’t support factions.

Kissinger: The Bishop is in the United States now.

Schaufele: He’s there for two weeks for a Methodist Conference.

Nyerere: Maybe he’ll meet you in Washington! Maybe after you made your speech, you’ll be more acceptable. [Laughter]

Kissinger: Maybe he’ll recruit me into his movement. [Laughter]

Nyerere: That will be the first sign that your statement was acceptable. Or he’ll reprimand you.

Kissinger: What sometimes happens is people meet me privately for a very friendly conversation and then reprimand me publicly.

Nyerere: Not only me!? [Laughter]

Kissinger: In Latin America, one leader told me very privately he was very concerned about Cuba. Then the next day he said the opposite on television.

Nyerere: They’re very democratic in that hemisphere. They have to say different things in public and in private. Here we’re not so democratic. We say the same thing publicly as we say privately. [Laughter]

Actually, Brezhnev has it easier than Ford.

Kissinger: Not really. Ford has a problem this year, but he’ll win. Brezhnev has 15 colleagues he has to worry about, and maneuver. [Laughter] Reagan is a former movie actor; he doesn’t know what he’s saying, but he says it effectively. [Laughter]

Spain: He could be a very good Ambassador. [Laughter]

Kissinger: So he’ll just read his instructions. [Laughter]

Any Ambassador who wants to get even finds a cable—they’re all signed by me—that they leak to the press.

Nyerere: Sometimes I read in the papers—“President Nyerere sent a message.” I don’t remember sending any message!

Foreign Minister Kaduma: At least you have confidence in us. [Laughter]

Nyerere: There is nothing that I do that isn’t in the newspapers.

Now you will have dinner with the Foreign Minister. He’ll make a speech at you.

Kissinger: Will it be very revolutionary?

Nyerere: [pauses]: Not very. [Laughter]

Kissinger: I’ll see you tomorrow.

Nyerere: Tomorrow we’ll watch a parade. It will not be very long—40–45 minutes. Then we’ll meet at the State House. I think I’ll have one or two of my colleagues.

[Page 494]

Kissinger: Very good.

Nyerere: And you can tell us all about American policy. We always want to know what worries you.

Kissinger: And we’ll have our economic minister [Robinson]tomorrow. Thank you very much.

[The meeting ended.]

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 344, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, January–April 1976. Secret; Nodis. Initialed by Rodman. The meeting was held at Msasani, the President’s residence. Kissinger visited Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Lusaka, Kinshasa, Monrovia, and Dakar April 24–May 6. He attended the UNCTAD Conference in Nairobi May 3–6. Brackets are in the original.
  2. See Document 9.
  3. Kissinger delivered an address that focused on southern Africa at a luncheon on April 27 in Lusaka. For the text of this speech, as well as other speeches and public statements made during his Africa trip, see Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1976, pp. 657–710. See also Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–6, Documents on Africa, 1973–1976, Document 40. The text of Kissinger’s April 27 speech in Lusaka was also printed in The New York Times, April 28, 1976, p. 16.
  4. April 27.
  5. Tab A is not attached.
  6. See Document 56.
  7. Kissinger delivered a speech on global economic development on May 6 in Nairobi. (Department of State Bulletin, May 31, 1976, pp. 657–672)
  8. Abel Muzorewa.