89. Airgram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Portugal1


Subject: Southern Africa. Ref: Lisbon 1663, 1749.2

If and when a suitable occasion arises, the Department hopes you will continue the exchange with Caetano on the future of Portuguese Africa. In future conversations, you may wish to draw on the following points which represent the Department’s assessment of the current situation in southern Africa and particularly the attitudes of Zambia and Tanzania.
We believe the policies of Zambia and Tanzania, both militant African states, reflect several factors: fear and suspicion deeply rooted in their colonial experience that southern African whites represent a genuine danger to their security; frustration over intractable internal political and economic problems; and deep concern about forces at work in the region which they are unable to control. Men like Kaunda and Nyerere are indeed deeply committed to solidarity with the African majorities throughout southern Africa. At the same time they [Page 207] have constantly emphasized their belief in multiracial solutions in southern Africa.
It is our feeling that the experience of the past decade, during which relations between most of the black and white-ruled states of southern Africa have steadily worsened, casts serious doubt upon Caetano’s expectation that a “better time” will come while the Portuguese continue present policies. We realize that the future of this area is fraught with uncertainties and imponderables; nevertheless it seems most likely to us that the gulf between the black-ruled states and Portugal is likely to widen, in the absence of any attempt at reconciliation. Despite their internecine quarrels and Portuguese military superiority, the insurgent movements are active on more fronts and receive more Zambian and Tanzanian support now than at any time in the past. Completion of the Tan-Zam Railway will end Portuguese control over Zambia’s access to the sea, removing a factor which has done much to moderate that country’s policies up to now. From time to time, it is true that certain of the black-ruled states may make pragmatic policy adjustments which favor Portugal (e.g., the Congo (K) at present). In the absence of some kind of modus vivendi between the two sides, however, the long-term prospects for meaningful progress do not seem promising. The Portuguese may be able to continue to contain the rebellions, but the protracted conflict will continue to drain Portuguese and African resources and will contribute to a prolonged state of insecurity and tension in southern Africa.
Such a situation is in no one’s interests. A continuation of the present climate cannot help but provide increased opportunities for communist influence. The current ability of the Portuguese to master the situation may conceal the extent to which other long-range factors (e.g., polarization of racial attitudes) will gradually undermine the Portuguese position in Angola and Mozambique.
We believe there are many in Zambia and Tanzania who are aware of these prospects for violence and are anxious to avoid them. The Lusaka Manifesto, largely a product of Zambian and Tanzanian initiative, appears to represent a genuine effort to find a peaceful way out, without abandoning the basic commitment to self-determination. The Manifesto, in which signatory states agree to urge cessation of guerrilla activities if the Portuguese accept the principle of self-determination, has now been formally and publicly endorsed by the African Chiefs of State at the September OAU meeting in Addis Ababa.3 The Tanzanian and Zambian leaders have privately emphasized to us the importance of the Manifesto. Some have even expressed [Page 208] their recognition that evolution away from a colonial relationship ought to be gradual and accompanied by intensified measures to spur development of the African populations. Others are doubtless much less flexible. Nevertheless, we have no reason to suppose that the present leaders of these states would seek in any way to prevent a multiracial solution in the Portuguese African territories.
It is impossible to judge the ability of African states to deliver on the promises in the Manifesto but we believe the Manifesto contains positive elements which could provide Portugal with an opportunity to determine whether the interests of the Portuguese on one hand and of the African states and nationalist groups on the other, might ultimately be reconciled. We believe that within the limits of their own needs and commitments, the Zambian and Tanzanian expressions of a desire to achieve a peaceful solution are genuine. We recognize Portugal has publicly stated its eagerness to reestablish normal relations with its African neighbors and believe the Manifesto may provide Portugal opportunities to take positive steps in that direction, or at least to test the willingness of African leaders to discuss the problem.
FYI: In making these points, we have sought to address two major aspects of Caetano’s earlier assessment (Lisbon 1663). Caetano appears to see black racism as the major motivation of the militant black states. We do not deny that racism is a factor in their political dynamics, but as noted in paragraph 2 above there are other important factors involved and Caetano’s conclusion strikes us as too pessimistic, or at any rate, as premature.
We infer from Caetano’s comments that he foresees a time when the emotionalism which currently characterizes African attitudes toward these problems is likely to wane. We have endeavored to explain why we believe the trends are generally in the opposite direction.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 AFR. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Frank Crump, Mark Lore, and Everett Briggs on December 31, 1969; cleared in AF/E, AF/S, AF/C, AF, INR/RAF, and EUR/SPP; and approved by Tibbetts. Repeated to Dar es Salaam, Kinshasa, Lourenco Marques, Luanda, and Lusaka.
  2. In telegram 1663 from Lisbon, August 15, 1969, Knight gave an overview of his initial conversation with Caetano. With regard to Portuguese Africa, Caetano remarked that if “various elements of population could cohabit peacefully—as they do in Brazil—he would favor independence for Angola and Mozambique in immediate future.” The Prime Minister did not believe that this was possible due to outside interference. (Ibid., Central Files 1967–69, POL PORT–US) Telegram 1749 from Lisbon was not found.
  3. See Document 9.