212. Telegram From the Embassy in Zambia to the Department of State1

2599. Subj: Letter to Secretary from President Kaunda.

The following letter addressed to the Secretary was delivered to me this way.

Your Excellency,

Your message of Sunday, September 26, 19762 came at a most opportune time as it reached me in the midst of our summit. It clarified a number of points which have been a source of worry to us and helped in facilitating the discussions. Our conclusions were reached in the light of the continued commitment which you have shown in this important programme.

I therefore want you to know, once again, that we genuinely value your efforts. We can only urge you to continue. As you say, so much has been gained and success appears so near.

As Ambassador Low will have reported to you, the summit was unanimous in its conclusions that a breakthrough has been made. We were, of course, concerned, as we believe you were, about the manner in which Ian Smith presented the proposals which raised some doubts as to whether or not he could not once again upset the apple cart. With our knowledge of him and his colleagues, it is necessary to proceed in this exercise with caution while maintaining the momentum in the implementation of the Anglo-American programme. Our tactics must, therefore, be correct.

To this end, it is essential that Smith should not himself call the meeting since he has earned such a bad reputation. In order to speed and maintain credibility right from the beginning, it should be clear to everybody that it is not Smith who has the power to organise and manage the meeting of the representatives of the nationalists and the whites. I need not mention that Smith’s performance in this respect in the past left a good deal to be desired.

We, therefore, resolved to call upon Britain to organise and chair the meeting. The purpose of the meeting should be:— [Page 598]

to discuss the structure and functions of the transitional government;
to establish an African majority transitional government;
to discuss the modalities for convening a full constitutional conference to work out the independence constitution;
to establish the basis upon which peace and normalcy can be restored in the territory.

We believe that these requirements are within the general framework of the Anglo-American proposals and that there is no contradiction between what you put forward and our stand in this connection.

During our meeting we found some problems in the emphasis given by Smith to the Council of State. We were happy though to note that the selection of the Chairman would be based on the consensus of all those involved. This would remove Smith from the scene; and this is important to the nationalists. It would certainly remove the possibilities of a break-down in the negotiations to establish the transitional government.

The Council of State will certainly cause some anxieties. British presence in the Council of State would be a source of confidence to the nationalists and I believe to the whites as well. You should, therefore, consider the possibility of parity between nationalists and the Rhodesian Front in the Council of State, but the Chairman being a Briton appointed by the British Government. In this case, the smaller the size of the Council of State, the better.

Another problem is the allocation of portfolios. At the moment, all the military commanders and police are white and will presumably remain so throughout the period of transition. The political head does not appear to be an over-riding factor in a situation like this one. It should, therefore, not come as a surprise if the nationalist side demands a more realistic approach in this matter and asks for slight adjustments to reflect the situation which will exist after the transitional period. We believe that after confidence has been built up between whites and blacks and there is an acceptance of the transitional government, the whites could possibly be made to realise that there would be greater security in making this readjustment at this time.

When the details are being worked out, it is problems like these that are bound to arise, and it is in this context that you should read our penultimate paragraph in the statement issued by the five heads of state at the end of their summit in Lusaka on 26th September, 1976.3

Against this background, I therefore urge you to put maximum pressure on the British to organise the meeting to establish a transitional government very quickly indeed. I also urge you to pressure the [Page 599] South Africans to ensure that the whites in Rhodesia understand that they should go to the conference with an open mind to establish peace and stability. The question of the cessation of the guerrilla war and the lifting of the sanctions will automatically follow the agreement to establish the transitional government. The point is that we should form a transitional government with the degree of credibility that enables it to actually call upon the guerrilla fighters to cease fire.

Once again, I want to say how timely your letter was. I also greatly appreciate the message4 I have received today giving me your reaction to our statement. I want to assure you that all our efforts are directed towards achieving the objectives we discussed.

With greetings to President Ford and warmest personal regards to you.

Yours sincerely,

Kenneth Kaunda

President of the Republic of Zambia

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, Presidential Country Files for Africa, Box 8, Zambia—State Department Telegrams, To SecState—Nodis (5). Secret; Cherokee; Niact Immediate; Nodis. A typed note at the end of the telegram requests that it be passed to Gaborone for Schaufele.
  2. See Document 211.
  3. For the text of the statement, see The New York Times, September 27, 1976, p. 8.
  4. In telegram 239446 to Lusaka, September 27, Kissinger categorized the statement by Front Line Presidents as being “on the whole a positive step forward.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy Files, P840105–0489)