68. Paper Prepared in the Bureau of African Affairs1

Policy Planning Memorandum No. 1


  • U.S. Relations with the African Liberation Movements


The cumulative effect of a number of ad hoc decisions and international developments affecting U.S. relations with the African liberation movements may be to impart an unintended direction to our overall policy. This memorandum assesses the current state of U.S. relations with the liberation movements. It suggests a need to clarify our objectives and to develop criteria for choosing among policy options in this area.


The African liberation movements are targeted at South Africa, South West Africa (Namibia), Southern Rhodesia, Angola, Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea. Most of the liberation movements date [Page 166] from the period when the greater part of sub-Saharan Africa became independent, that is, the late 1950’s and early 1960’s.

None of the targeted African countries and territories have a single unified liberation movement. All are represented by at least two and often by more groups (see attached list).2 Within each movement there are competing leadership factions. These cleavages have a number of causes including tribalism and Sino-Soviet rivalry.

The principal sources of support for the liberation movements have been the Communist world and the African Liberation Committee of the Organization of African Unity. A strong campaign led by the Afro-Asian bloc has also begun in the United Nations and other international organizations to obtain explicit UN sanction for the liberation movements similar to the approval already contained in the OAU Charter. These pressures have begun to affect US working relationships in nearly all of the UN organizations including such highly technical bodies as the Universal Postal Union and the World Health Organization.

While their goals of independence for the Portuguese African territories, the return to constitutionality and independence on the basis of African majority rule in Southern Rhodesia, independence for South West Africa, and the termination of apartheid and political and legal restrictions on South Africa’s non-whites are all close to official U.S. policies favoring self-determination and opposing racial discrimination, we do not support the use of force or violence in pursuit of these goals.

We officially abhor the racial policies of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia and continue to hope Portugal will recognize the long-term advantages of adopting a policy of self-determination for its African territories, stressing that Portugal’s African policy is an important factor in the West’s ability to influence the direction and pace of events in Africa as a whole.


U.S. policy toward the various liberation movements has been to maintain discreet and unobtrusive but hopefully useful contacts, avoiding measures which could be interpreted as hostile to friendly governments. While our ability to assist these movements is severely circumscribed by the fact that we oppose force as a means of promoting change, one of our principal goals has been to encourage, if possible, the various liberation movements away from over-dependence on Sino-Soviet assistance.

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Programs: SASP and EATP:

Since most of the liberation movements, with the exception of those of Portuguese Guinea, have had serious difficulty in recruiting supporters within their target countries and territories, members have been recruited largely from refugees who have been attracted by offers of education or employment. In an effort to exert a positive and non-violent influence we therefore adopted a few programs beginning in the early 1960’s to train Southern African refugees in occupations other than armed insurgency. Our major effort was based on two activities, the Southern African Student’s Program (SASP) and the East African Training Program (EATP).

SASP was created in 1961. Its aim is to develop educated leaders from among the young African refugees who have fled white dominated areas and who could be of service to their people if political conditions improve. Since 1961, 511 students have received SASP scholarships. There are 162 students currently in the program and the FY–71 cost was $569,000. As recently as FY–67 the SASP budget was $1,800,000 or more than one half of CU/AF’s budget. In an effort to reduce the cost of the program no new students were accepted in FY–68 and FY–69. The program was resumed on a limited scale in FY–70 and it is anticipated that in the future approximately five new scholarships will be awarded annually to graduate students.

The principal difficulty with SASP has been that upon graduation the participants have been unable or unwilling to return to their home countries and other African countries have been most reluctant to receive them. Although more than 150 have gone to independent African countries, arrangements have had to be made for many others to remain in the United States until they can find employment in Africa.

EATP was begun under AID sponsorship in 1963 to provide refugees, who were not qualified for SASP university level scholarships, with secondary educations. Two schools were established: the Kurasini International Education Center in Dar es Salaam, and Nkumbi International College in Zambia. Due to difficulties in attracting students and a decrease in the flow of refugees into Tanzania and Zambia in the late 1960’s, a decision was taken by AID to turn the two schools over to the Government of Tanzania in December 1969 for training clerical workers for civil service employment. Nkumbi was turned over to the Government of Zambia in December 1970. Nkumbi is still maintained primarily as a school for refugees and AID has offered scholarships for refugee students there. At present approximately 120 students receive scholarships at a cost of $240,000 per year. Annual intake of new students is expected to be about 25 per year. We also make substantial contributions to UNHCR which devotes much of its resources to southern Africa.

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In addition to training refugees to play useful roles some day in their home countries, SASP and EATP have had the instrumental effect of demonstrating U.S. concern for the problems of refugees from the white dominated areas and of legitimizing contacts between representatives of the U.S. government and those of the liberation movements which nominated training candidates. Although most of the liberation movements appear to be sincerely interested in keeping ties open to both the West and the Communist world, the curtailment of SASP and EATP has therefore had the practical effect of restricting the basis for our communication with the movements. It has also increased their dependency upon Communist sources of support for educational training as well as military aid. This, in effect, works against one of our principal policy goals vis-à-vis the liberation movements. That is, influencing them to move away from over-dependence on Sino-Soviet assistance.

Portuguese Trends:

One of the key policy initiatives of the Portuguese Government of Prime Minister Caetano is his constitutional amendment giving a measure of autonomy to the overseas territories. This development has potentially important consequences for another aspect of U.S. policy affecting the liberation movements, that is, our hope that Portugal will recognize the long-term advantages of a policy of self-determination for its African territories. One of the purported purposes of this constitutional amendment appears to be to make some gesture toward self-determination without in any way turning over political control to the blacks. (Lisbon 1622)3 The implicit danger is that eventual administrative autonomy in the Portuguese territories could result in the establishment of new Rhodesias. Moreover, as a result of growing U.S. investment in Angola, our facilities in the Azores, and our NATO ties, the United States is identified with the Portuguese in both their and insurgent eyes.


The principal conclusion of this assessment is that the cumulative effect of a number of recent ad hoc decisions and international developments affecting U.S. relations with the African liberation movements may be to impart an unintended direction to our overall policy. A number of options, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive, for adjusting and/or reaffirming this policy should be considered. These include: [Page 169]

recognition of the importance of the liberation movements as symbols in Africa and as channels for Soviet and Communist Chinese influence and a decision that the United States accordingly should:
continue discreet contact with the movements’ leadership;
continue to provide educational and humanitarian assistance to refugees;
provision of discreet help to pro-western leaders and their movements short of providing arms and military equipment;
avoidance of any contact with the liberation movements as being inconsistent with our policy opposing the use of force in providing a solution to southern African problems.

The following are possible courses of action relating to options one and two:

adoption by all U.S. diplomatic posts in Africa of an agreed plan of action for handling contacts with liberation movement leaders;
consideration of alternatives to SASP and EATP for providing U.S. assistance to the refugees and maintaining contact with their leaders, if such educational programs are either impractical or inadvisable (feeding and health programs through volunteer agencies are suggested as possible alternatives).
efforts to influence the liberation movements to adopt non-violent methods of promoting their cause—to convince them that they will rally more international and governmental support in Western countries by such methods and that peaceful methods will be more effective in accomplishing independence.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 AFR–US. Secret. Drafted by Frank R. Golino (AF/PPS) on November 10; revised on December 2. Sent to all Africa n diplomatic posts as an attachment to CA–5713, December 23.
  2. “African Liberation Movements,” attached but not printed.
  3. Not found. For details on the constitutional amendment, see Keesing’s Contemporary Archives, 1971–1972, pp. 24855–24856.