97. Intelligence Note Prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research1



The Portuguese proposal, in mid-November, to hold discussions on their African territories with independent African states is a step forward from traditional Portuguese intransigence on this subject. However, such discussions, if held, are unlikely to resolve conflicting views of “self-determination and independence” for the territories. On November 15 the Portuguese Permanent Representative to the United Nations proposed to African representatives—November Security Council President Cisse of Guinea and OAU Representative Sahnoun—that a “dialogue” be initiated in New York this January between Portugal, the African countries (either singly or together), and/or the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The Portuguese indicated their readiness for ministerial discussions, in the context of the principles of the UN Charter, over the following issues: 1) the situation in the Portuguese African Territories—Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea; 2) relations with neighboring African countries; and 3) general [Page 225] African problems. But, at the same time, they emphatically ruled out discussions with representatives of the liberation movements in the Portuguese territories. (On November 14, Prime Minister Marcello Caetano had publicly stated that Portugal’s national honor would not permit such discussions.)

The Portuguese offer may have been only a tactical maneuver in anticipation of the then-upcoming Security Council debate on the Portuguese territories and in recognition of the strong African voting position in the UN. Nevertheless, by specifically including a discussion of the situation in the overseas territories in the agenda, the Portuguese significantly broadened the subject matter which they had previously been willing to discuss—usually on a bilateral basis—only with a few African countries. Another new development is Portugal’s willingness to talk with the OAU.

UN Calls for Negotiations with “Parties Concerned.” In a rare show of unanimity, the Security Council resolution,2 adopted without a dissenting vote on November 22, calls upon Portugal, inter alia, to negotiate with the “parties concerned” with a view to ending the present armed confrontation in the territories and permitting them to exercise the right to self-determination and independence. The original draft had specified negotiations with the representatives of the liberation movements. However, after lengthy consultations, the co-sponsors accepted the broader and more ambiguous terminology. Whether negotiations will follow is still uncertain.

While the African countries still favor direct negotiations between Portugal and the insurgent groups—particularly with the African Party for the Independence of Portuguese Guinea and Cape Verdes (PAIGC)—some may be willing at least to begin talking with the Portuguese themselves in the hope that a way may be found to bring the liberation movement representatives into the discussions at a later stage. (From time to time there have been rumors that the Portuguese have had secret contacts with some of the insurgents.) Commenting on the SC resolution, OAU Secretary-General Ekangaki urged the Western Powers to “help” Portugal embark on the path of negotiations. A surprisingly moderate Foreign Ministry statement on the same resolution reiterated Portuguese willingness to have conversations with “qualified representatives” of African countries.

What Can Portugal Talk About? Last year’s much-debated revision of the Portuguese Constitution, which theoretically lays the basis for increased “autonomy” (in local affairs) for the overseas territories, has not, in fact, altered Lisbon’s dominance. Moreover, following the [Page 226] re-election of 78-year-old President Thomaz in July and the August Cabinet shifts, which left only one “Liberal” in the Cabinet, Prime Minister Caetano is in no position—even should he wish to—to challenge the conservative military and commercial elites who see their interests tied to Portugal’s continued retention and control of its overseas territories. In his inaugural speech the President emphasized that defense of the overseas territories was the principal task of the nation, taking precedence “even over national economic development.”

Recent government statements, however, have noted a need to increase the participation of the local populations in the affairs of the territories. In October the Overseas Minister and the Governor of Portuguese Guinea both made statements encouraging this development, and on November 14 the Prime Minister publicly declared, “We are willing and ready even to examine and increase the process of the participation of Africans in local administration and government.” It is the prospect of greater local African involvement, and its long-term consequences, which the Portuguese apparently propose to discuss with the African representatives in New York.

Any Talks Unlikely To Be Productive. Such an approach could hardly satisfy the Africans, who have successfully publicized the demands of the liberation movements for recognition and independence this year. This publicity has included the following: In January, the Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa (for which the Portuguese refused to pay their share of the costs) heard representatives of the liberation movements; in April, a three-man special mission of the Committee of 24 (the UN Decolonialization Committee) visited parts of Portuguese Guinea, a visit which the Portuguese denied had taken place; and during this year’s General Assembly, representatives of the liberation movements were granted the status of “observers” in the Fourth Committee’s debate on southern Africa. In addition, continued pressure was put on the Specialized Agencies to comply with last year’s resolution 2874 (XVI),3 which called on them to render “all possible moral and material assistance” to the liberation movements.

Under these circumstances, the Africans will want more movement on the question of the eventual independence for the overseas territories than the Portuguese can possibly agree to. Thus, the most likely result of such talks, if they are, in fact, ever held, would be a clearer realization of how little either side has to discuss, and how irreconcilable their conflicting views of “self-determination and independence” really are.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL AFR–PORT. Confidential; No Foreign Dissem. Drafted by James Connell on December 8, cleared by Martin Packman, and released by David Mark (INR/Europe and USSR).
  2. Resolution 322 (1972). For the text of the resolution, see Yearbook of the United Nations, 1972, p. 598.
  3. See Yearbook of the United Nations, 1971, pp. 528–529.