17. National Intelligence Estimate 70–711 2

Troubles in East Africa

(Supersedes NIE 70–67)

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[Omitted here is a table of contents.]

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The Prominent Personalities of East Africa

    President of Tanzania
    1st Vice President of Tanzania
    Dominant figure of Zanzibarʼs
    Revolutionary Council
    President of Uganda
    President of Zambia
    President of Kenya
    Former Vice President of Zambia
    Leader of newly formed United Progressive Party
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For the purposes of this estimate, we are defining East Africa to include Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. Though Zambia was not part of the traditional geographic area of British East Africa, its growing economic and political ties with Tanzania warrant its inclusion. Our principal judgments about the future of the area are contained in paragraphs 38–48.

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1. In the 1960s, the newly independent states of East Africa seemed to be off to a promising start. Under national rulers of considerable stature, the countries set about devising means of developing their societies and economies in an atmosphere of relative political stability. The brief army mutinies of 1964, which simultaneously afflicted Uganda, Kenya, and Tanganyika,3 were quickly suppressed with assistance from the UK and appeared to have a salutary effect on government relations with the military. In colonial times, the UK had established common transportation, communications, and monetary services for Kenya, Tanganyika, and Uganda. In 1967, these services were consolidated in an East African Community (EAC). Each of the national rulers confronted and overcame internal political challenges. President Kenneth Kaundaʼs leadership qualities were tested by adversities, and his friendship with President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania helped bring Zambia much closer to the EAC.

2. The euphoria of this immediate, post-independence period has since given way to frustration and disappointment. The rulers of East Africa, like their counterparts elsewhere on the continent, have gradually found themselves confronted with a host of worsening problems: for example, inefficiency and corruption in government, dimming prospects for sustained economic growth, growing rates of unemployment and urbanization, difficulties caused by replacing foreigners in government and commerce, and the resurgence of tribal jealousies. Domestic pressures, mutual suspicions of the national leaders, and the uneven patterns of development of the various economies have led to more nationalistic postures in foreign relations. Though spared the civil strife which afflicted Nigeria and the “revolving door” presidential changes of small West African states, East Africa is clearly passing through a period of change and challenge in which former arrangements and agreements are under increasing pressure.

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3. The overthrow of Ugandaʼs President Milton Obote by General Idi Amin in January 1971 significantly altered the traditional alignments in the area and underscored the critical importance of personality in African regional and national politics. And, to a large extent, the predilections of the national leader determine the character of relations with neighboring states. Obote was an ardent supporter of Nyerere; Amin considers Nyerere a dangerous radical and an enemy. Insults and sabre-rattling between the two leaders have worsened relations. Shortly after Aminʼs coup, Tanzanian troops headed towards the Ugandan border and Nyerere contemplated military action to restore Obote; he still does not recognize the new regime, and a variety of further provocations have kept the feud alive. Amin accuses Nyerere of harboring and training pro-Obote guerrillas. Small armed border clashes have aggravated the situation.

4. The dispute between Amin and Nyerere is both personal and ideological. It has contributed to an atmosphere of distrust among other African leaders in the area who also lean towards simplistic views of foreign relations (i.e., seeing neighbors as pro-Arab or anti-Arab, pro-Communist or anti-Communist). President Mobutu of Congo (Kinshasa) has talked with Amin about creating a belt of anti-Arab, anti-Communist nations (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and the Congo) to stem the southward flow of radicalism, which they fear, and to isolate Nyerere and Kaunda. Though no formal arrangements are in the cards, a variety of bilateral ties tend to bring the conservative states together. Kenya is providing assistance to the Ugandan security services. Kenya and Ethiopia have defense agreements against Somali irrendentist efforts. Uganda, Congo (Kinshasa), and Ethiopia are supporting the southern Sudanese in their struggle against Khartoum and are cooperating in various ways, but for different reasons, with the Israelis.

5. [text not declassified]

6. Meanwhile, Tanzania and Zambia are building a special relationship of their own. Nyerere and Kaunda are close friends and are both personally committed to the liberation movements in southern Africa. They provide support to a variety of freedom fighters and have become the leading spokesmen and lobbyists for their cause. In addition, Zambia depends to a large extent on the Tanzanian pipeline, road system, and port of Dar es Salaam. The most dramatic connection, however, is the Tan/Zam Railroad, which, after many years of study and planning, is now under construction and scheduled for completion by 1975. This huge and costly project will lessen Zambiaʼs dependence on transportation routes through Rhodesia and Portuguese territories.

7. The current political conflict between Tanzania and Uganda plus a host of unilateral economic moves by each member country have already limited the scope and effectiveness of the EAC. The trend is away from the [Page 7] idea of a common market. The EAC no longer has a common currency. Trade is more restricted than it was, and there is duplication of industries. In the past year, Uganda has expelled Tanzanian and Kenyan workers, Tanzania has set up exchange controls, and Kenya has imposed currency movement restrictions. Ugandan and Tanzanian officials have wrangled for months about appointments to the EAC staff, and President Kenyatta of Kenya has chosen not to intervene. In the past, the EACʼs success was largely due to the determination of Obote, Nyerere, and Kenyatta to cooperate for the common good. This spirit no longer prevails, though the leaders make public gestures of support for the community.

8. A fundamental problem in regional economic cooperation is the imbalance among the economies of the EAC member countries. Kenya earns a huge trade surplus in intra-community trade because its manufacturing sector is large (for Africa) and diversified. Kenyan manufactured exports have increased despite a transfer tax established to protect domestic industries in Uganda and Tanzania. By comparison, Uganda and Tanzania have small manufacturing sectors, and nationalizations in both have discouraged foreign investment. Various indirect subsidies compensate for their losses in trade with Kenya, however. For example, landlocked Uganda benefits from the favorable rates on rail shipments of agricultural products to the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

9. The EACʼs greatest success has been preserving the common services established by the UK: railways, harbors, airways, postal and telecommunications services, and electrical power. Other African countries (Zambia, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Somalia) have in the past applied to join the EAC, but none are prepared to give much to the community. Zambia wants to use the railways and roads; Burundi is eager to use ports and harbors but nothing else; Ethiopia hopes to enter the common market, but does not desire to participate in other activities of the community; Somalia, pleading poverty, asks for special considerations. Zambia suspended its application after Oboteʼs overthrow. Adapting to the EACʼs protective tariff would cause difficulty for Zambia, which has few manufacturing industries and already suffers from the high cost of trade diversion from southern Africa. Nevertheless, Zambia probably will join, assuming the EAC overcomes its current difficulties.

10. Kenyaʼs attitude, however, will continue to be the key to the future of the EAC. Kenyatta apparently believes that Tanzania is taking great advantage of Kenya monetarily and not fulfilling its EAC obligations. He is concerned that Chinese imports are replacing Kenyan imports in Tanzania and believes that Tanzania would be practically bankrupt without Chinese support. Kenya pays the largest share of EAC expenses, but the favorable trade balance is an inducement to stay in the EAC.


Kenya to Uganda to Tanzania to
Uganda Tanzania Kenya Tanzania Kenya Uganda
In Million of US Dollars
1967 41.4 31.9 28.5 6.8 9.2 2.1
1970 48.4 42.1 30.5 5.6 16.8 4.1
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11. The governments of East Africa are beset by problems common to other African lands: maintaining some kind of authority over disparate tribal, ethnic, and special interest groups; increasing government services to satisfy growing public demands while handicapped by severely limited resources; and reducing dependence on foreign entrepreneurs and advisors without greatly restricting the efficiency of either the government or the economy. Each country, however, has its own unique set of troublesome issues and national priorities. The styles of government differ from country to country, but all are run by tough, authoritarian rulers with strong personalities. This characteristic makes political stability dependent on the nature and staying power of the national leader.

A. Kenya

12. Kenya has for a decade ranked among the most stable and most prosperous countries in Black Africa, but tribal frictions—and the increasingly partisan performance of the national leaders—have created an atmosphere of tension and unrest. The Kikuyu tribal community, able, industrious, and aggressive, has been consolidating its hold on the government, reaping most of the economic benefits of independence, and seeking to improve its position in the army as well. The Kikuyu establishment, with President Kenyattaʼs knowledge and support, is making a power play, blatant and unconcealed, to assure its pre-eminence after Kenyattaʼs death or incapacitation. This approach, buttressed by chilling tribal oaths never to relinquish power, has built up resentment among other tribal groups and ensures a difficult period of political adjustment after Kenyattaʼs death. The Kikuyu with only about 20 percent of the population would find it very difficult to govern without the acquiescence of other tribes.

13. Opposition to Kenyattaʼs inner circle of southern Kikuyu politicians is found not only in the leadership of other major tribes (the Luo and Kamba) but also among clans of the northern Kikuyu, who have not gotten their share of the spoils of office. Although a majority in the National Assembly supports the regime, some backbenchers have attacked the government for corruption, nepotism, and inefficiency; they have also spoken out against all foreign interests in Kenya and have urged the government to follow a more militant policy on southern Africa. Potentially the most important focus of opposition, however, is in the armed forces, traditionally dominated in the upper grades by the Kamba. Some in the army think that political intervention by the army will be necessary sooner or later. These feelings were greatly strengthened by Aminʼs coup in Uganda. The army is also jealous of the Kikuyu-dominated General Services Unit ( GSU), a well-armed paramilitary police force. The Chief of the Defense Staff, a Kamba, was implicated with some Luo politicians and a few other Kambas in a recent coup plot and forced to resign. His colleagues remain on edge. As long as Kenyatta is in power, however, there are many factors which militate against a military coup.

14. The Kikuyus remain in possession of considerable assets with which to counter moves against their dominant position. They control a reasonably efficient police and security apparatus acutely sensitive to anti-regime activities. The GSU, unlike many other paramilitary outfits in Africa, is considered to be an effective force. And, even in the army, the Kikuyus are gaining strength, especially in the junior and middle grade officer ranks. But the old guard of Kikuyu politicians depends heavily on Kenyatta, who commands vast respect and power as father of his country. He is also a shrewd and skillful politician, as he demonstrated by his astute handling of the recent coup plotting. Though nearly 80 (no one knows for sure how old he is), Kenyatta continues to demonstrate vigor and authority. Yet, a few years ago, he had some mild strokes, and still complains of circulatory problems.

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15. Even with Kenyatta on the scene, the country will be increasingly affected by mounting unemployment and population growth. Kenyaʼs economy is growing at around 6 or 7 percent a year, and, among under-developed countries, Kenyaʼs growing output, price stability, and degree of capital formation are exceptional. The population is increasing, however, at a rate of about 3 percent a year, and there are not nearly enough jobs to satisfy the hundreds of thousands of partially educated youth and other migrants to the cities. The increase in the numbers of unemployed and underemployed African city dwellers has led the government to put pressure on Asian entrepreneurs and bureaucrats, thousands of whom have lost their livelihoods. Pressures are growing for a still more comprehensive assault on all foreigners holding jobs coveted by Kenyans.

B. Uganda

16. The tribal violence and breakdown of order, only a possibility in Kenya, is a reality in Uganda and is taking on some aspects of the Congo in its most turbulent days. The crime rate has jumped dramatically, and the police are unable to cope with nationwide assaults by armed bands. Aminʼs effort to purge the army of its pro-Obote elements got out of hand, as local commanders seized the opportunity to settle old scores and massacre tribal contingents. Soldiers from Aminʼs West Nile tribe have been fighting soldiers from the Acholi and Lango tribes (the latter Oboteʼs kinsmen). At the time of Aminʼs coup, the army numbered some 8,000 officers and men. Since then, approximately 2,000 of these have either deserted or been killed. Amin claims that most lost their lives in clashes with pro-Obote guerrillas from Tanzania, but he is clearly using the relatively small border clashes as an explanation for losses caused by domestic tribal clashes. The army, never well disciplined, appears to be out of control in some areas.

17. Amin has changed the character of the army in other ways too. He came to power largely with the support of devoted followers among the enlisted men. Many of them have been promoted to the senior officer ranks, thus infuriating many of the old timers as well as ambitious and better qualified junior officers. He has also packed the army with his own West Nile tribesmen. The size of the army has grown to approximately 10,000 despite the losses described above. And Amin has instructed his ministers to spare no expense in equipping the army with modern weapons, tanks, and planes (“to get to Khartoum or Dar es Salaam and back”).

18. Amin himself is a blunt and colorful speaker. He has spent much of his time stumping the country, and he has acquired considerable popularity despite his tendency to put his foot in his mouth. Until recently, he had handled the Baganda, Ugandaʼs largest and most advanced tribe, quite well. They were delighted to be rid of Obote, who had systematically excluded them from national politics. Shortly after Amin took over, they were permitted to bury their traditional tribal king, the Kabaka, who had died in exile. But, after raising hopes among the Baganda that they would be permitted to crown a new Kabaka, Amin announced that he would not permit the re-establishment of the kingdom. This is an important matter in Ugandaʼs tribal society. The Baganda elders yearn for a Kabaka to preserve their tribal identity, while other tribes [Page 12] fear a resurgence of Baganda hegemony. Aminʼs awkward handling of this troublesome issue will cause him problems with the Baganda for some time to come.

19. Aminʼs cabinet includes some capable technicians who are not allowed to make decisions, and the government is on the whole badly managed or not managed at all. The economy is in especially bad shape. Oboteʼs lavish spending on such projects as a huge assembly hall for the Organization of African Unity had already depleted Ugandaʼs foreign exchange reserves when Amin took over. Aminʼs appetite for military hardware seems to be insatiable. He has already made some expensive purchases, and his ambitious plans for further military expenditures are likely to produce a large budget deficit, despite some austerity in non-military spending. More borrowing abroad is going to be very difficult, given Ugandaʼs worsening financial situation and unfavorable prospects. Prices are rising, especially for staple foods. The government has moderated some of Oboteʼs more extreme nationalization schemes and reinstituted some incentives and guarantees to foreign investors. But continued instability and limits on overseas remittances will discourage foreign investment. The government may be forced to cut back both its payroll and imports, thus diminishing its popularity still further.

C. Tanzania

20. Julius Nyerere, who calls himself Mwalimu (the teacher), probably has the most ambitious plans of any African leader for reordering the structure of his society (e.g., through communal villages and educational reforms designed to convince students of the virtues of farming). His program is, in a sense, the reversal of the standard concept of modernization through urban development, industrialization, and the cultivation ofan educated elite. But, despite Nyerereʼs charm and personal appeal, his schemes have not caught on. The peasants resist changes in their traditional ways of doing things; the students still strive for desk jobs in the cities; and government officials, unlike Nyerere, are not convinced of the virtues of personal austerity. Though Nyerere does not have to contend with serious tribal problems, he nonetheless labors under some pretty heavy burdens.

21. Nyerere is an impulsive leader who dominates Tanzanian political life. He is occasionally influenced by radicals in the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU ), the official party. Two of his most recent initiatives, the Acquisition of Property Act and the creation of a Peopleʼs Militia,—taken after TANU prodding—have aroused considerable concern and some potentially significant opposition. The property act enabled the government to acquire all rental housing valued at more than $14,000. In one fell swoop, Tanzanian businessmen and officials were deprived of their last safe investment opportunity and much of their revenue and source of collateral. Most affected were the prosperous Asians, whose unpopularity and political weakness made them an easy target. Many of the most skilled and talented members of the Asian community have fled the country, including members of the Aga Khanʼs Ismaili sect. Most of the Ismailis had become Tanzanian citizens and contributed a great deal to the country, but the Aga Khan recently came to fear for their safety. He is now suggesting that they leave while they can still salvage something. The exodus represents not only a loss of critically needed skills and entrepreneurship, but a substantial drain as well on Tanzaniaʼs already slender foreign exchange holdings. Moreover, as Asians have closed down their businesses and halted their building projects, a large number of Africans have been thrown out of work. Consumer shortages [Page 13] and rising prices add to the economic malaise and, if prolonged, will feed the general dissatisfaction with Nyerere.

22. The establishment of a civilian Peopleʼs Militia, in the wake of the coup in Uganda, was designed in part as a deterrent to a military coup in Tanzania. It may instead have laid the groundwork for one. In other African countries, e.g., in Ghana and Mali, the creation of a rival militia of this sort triggered an angry outburst in the army. While we do not know much about attitudes within the Tanzanian Army, it is clear that the level of grumbling has increased. One of the most common complaints is over the presence of as many as 600 Chinese advisors with the armed forces; other grounds for dissatisfaction include the attention given to supporting Ugandan exiles and general misgivings over Nyerereʼs brinkmanship in dealings with Aminʼs regime. So far discontent within the army has been passive, and there are no identifiable cliques in the officer corps.

23. Mainland Tanzaniaʼs relations with Zanzibar have always been shaky. Nyerere engineered the federation between Tanganyika and Zanzibar in 1964 because he feared the spread of radical influences to the mainland. Sheikh Karume, the dominant figure in Zanzibarʼs Revolutionary Council, felt the need for support and protection so that he could consolidate his control over the island. These concerns are no longer so important. Despite the union, Zanzibar has retained independence in most fields and remains a brutal police state run on the whims of an arbitrary clique. Karume, who is also First Vice-President of Tanzania, resented Nyerereʼs interference in his persecution of the Arabs and Asians left on the island. He now fears that Nyerereʼs government is trying to gain control over Zanzibarʼs relatively hefty foreign exchange reserves. The two leaders will probably continueto make compromises in order to keep the union going, partly because their prestige would suffer if it were dissolved. Thus the union is likely to muddle along as long as Nyerere and Karume are in power, but few other Tanzanians would mourn its passing.

D. Zambia

24. Zambia is beset by tribal problems akin to those in Kenya. The aggressive Bemba are out to enlarge their already substantial share of national jobs and benefits. Large numbers of young Bemba have left their inhospitable homeland in the northeast to work in the copper mines where labor and urban unrest is growing. But, unlike the Kikuyu, their aspirations far exceed their political power. At the most recent conclave of President Kaundaʼs ruling party, Bemba representation was cut back and a high level party post held by a Bemba was abolished. Other incidents have brought some prominent Bemba leaders, including former ministers, to charge the government with persecution of the tribe.

25. In August 1971, Simon Kapwepwe, a former vice president of Zambia and the best known Bemba, announced the formation of a new party—composed almost entirely of Bemba—to compete with Kaundaʼs. The potential cooperation between this new party and the long dormant African National Congress Party is creating awkward political problems for Kaunda. Though the two parties have nothing in common except opposition to Kaunda, they have sought to capitalize on the electorateʼs discontent over rising prices, unemployment, and food shortages. In September, Kaunda cracked down hard on Kapwepweʼs party, despite its failure to generate much visible support even among the Bemba. About 100 of its leaders were arrested under Zambiaʼs security laws. The arrests may eventually lead to a formal banning of the party. [Page 14] Politically conscious Bemba will be further alienated, although few will probably risk public disagreement with Kaundaʼs stem measures.

26. Kaunda uses his personal stature, political skills, and control of national patronage to hold dissident politicians in line. Kaunda is one of the few Zambians, however, who has some sense of national—rather than tribal—identity. His disdain for tribal bickering is respected, though not always shared, by his followers. His stubborn insistence that unity be preserved is probably the major barrier to tribally-based political chaos.

27. The Zambian economy is dominated by the nationalized copper industry, which accounts for more than 90 percent of exports and gives the Zambian Government some options denied to less richly endowed African governments. In the Zambian order of priorities, considerable attention is paid to means of avoiding dependence upon white-ruled southern African states. Accordingly, much of the income from the copper mines has gone for pipelines, new transportation routes, and alternate sources of fuel and power. The Zambian economy remains undiversified, and the agricultural sector is unable to come close to satisfying domestic requirements for food. Consequently, Zambiaʼs import bill amounts to nearly $440 million a year, the second highest figure in Black Africa, exceeded only by Nigeria. For political reasons, Zambia has been shifting its trade from Rhodesia and South Africa, despite the resulting disruptions in reliability, efficiency, and cost to transport. Even so, the Zambian Government still has to depend on the white-controlled territories for food imports, coal, electrical power, and transportation facilities.

28. Zambia is vulnerable not only to the sharp fluctuations of the price of copper, but also to various kinds of retaliation from the white-ruled lands of southern Africa. Early this year, after five Portuguese civilians were kidnapped in Mozambique by a minor liberation movement and then killed in Zambia, the Portuguese refused to permit Zambian corn imports to pass through ports in Angola and Mozambique. Zambia suffered a period of food shortages and then purchased corn from Rhodesia to forestall another one. Zambians also realize that their security forces (6,600 men) are incapable of repelling an invasion by Portuguese, Rhodesian, or South African Armed Forces. Kaunda, who believes in keeping open lines of communication with the white-ruled states, has signed an agreement of sorts with the Portuguese, placed some additional curbs on the minor liberation movements, and sought a rapproachement with Malawi, which has acted as an intermediary during disputes. Although Kaunda has so far been unwilling to clamp down on the more important liberation movements, he is clearly trying to avoid another confrontation with the Portuguese.


A. Tanzania and Zambia

29. In undertaking to build the Tan/Zam Railway, which will link Zambiaʼs copper belt with the Tanzanian coast 1,100 miles away, Peking has embarked on its first major showcase project overseas. The Chinese have extended a $400 million, 30-year interest-free credit. The Africans have agreed to purchase Chinese goods to sell for the local currency needed. Approximately 13,000 Communist Chinese laborers are now in Tanzania working on the first phase of the railroadʼs construction. The Chinese offered to build the road less than a year after the World Bank turned it down. They probably did so largely to increase their prestige in the Third World and to associate themselves more directly with the supporters of the southern African liberation movements.

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30. On the whole, the Zambians, traditionally suspicious of all foreigners, are more wary of the Chinese than are the Tanzanians. The Zambian Government is alert to any attempts at political indoctrination, and its intelligence services try to keep close tabs on Chinese personnel. Moreover, Kaunda has stressed the need for caution in dealing with the Chinese workers, and his political party has instructed local officials not to fraternize with the Chinese. Nyerere takes a rather different approach. He admires the Chinese organizational ability and work discipline, and has expressed his hope that his countrymen can learn from the Chinese example. At the same time, Nyerere is wary of Chinese political indoctrination.

31. Since the departure of the Canadian military mission in 1970, the Chinese Communists have become the sole suppliers, advisors, and trainers of the Tanzanian Armed Forces. They are directing the construction of new naval facilities, rare in East Africa, at Dar es Salaam and helping to develop air and naval units as well. Nearly 350 Tanzanian naval and air force personnel are being trained in Communist China. Chinese advisors are working closely with Tanzanian army and militia units, but Tanzanian senior officers have been careful to keep Chinese advisors out of the general command structure.

32. The Soviets may be displeased about the magnitude of the Chinese effort in Tanzania and Zambia, but they have shown little inclination to compete with China to win friends and influence governments. Russian aid programs are small, credits extended earlier have not been drawn down, and terms offered by Moscow are not deemed very generous by Nyerere or Kaunda. In Zanzibar, the Soviet (and East German) aid programs have been displaced by Chinese programs.

B. Uganda and Kenya

33. Oboteʼs overthrow in Uganda cannot have been a subject of much concern in Moscow and Peking. Oboteʼs sporadic outbursts of anti-Western sentiment had won some favorable responses from Moscow and Peking, but neither Communist state had much of a stake in Uganda. Obote had purchased arms from China and Russia (and also Czechoslovakia), and the USSR was providing some pilot training for the air force. General Amin has appeared to be intensely anti-Communist and has terminated Soviet assistance for the armed forces. He recently said, however, that he would welcome Soviet economic aid. If he cannot get the arms he wants from the West, he might even turn to the Communists.

34. In Kenya, both the Soviets and the Chinese are making steady, if unspectacular, progress in repairing the damage caused by their own past blunders. It is well known in Kenya that the Communist powers were at one time competing among themselves to support former Vice President Oginga Odinga, but Odingaʼs eclipse (after a series of confrontations with Kenyatta) has in a sense freed the Communists from an albatross. The Soviets and Chinese have refrained lately from objectionable involvement in Kenyan politics, and the Kenyans have winked at disclosures of their past malpractices. Nevertheless, the Kenyan Government still restricts the movement of Communist personnel and is privately more suspicious of them than its public utterances would suggest.


35. The UK still maintains the most active interest in East Africa of any Western country, though even that is declining. Kenya is the linchpin of British involvement, largely because of the concentration of British investment [Page 16] (over $130 million), expatriates, and military and political ties there. The UK is also concerned about Soviet naval activities in the Indian Ocean. Yet, even if violence were to break out once again in Kenya, the British would probably not introduce troops in an effort to restore order. The British would have more logistical problems bringing in troops today than they did in 1964, and British public opinion would be far less inclined to endorse this kind of intervention anyway. The UK is much more likely to continue to work quietly behind the scenes to try to influence the direction of Kenyan politics.

36. The UK was initially delighted with Oboteʼs overthrow in Uganda, and its quick recognition of the new regime probably helped to deter Tanzania from mounting a military operation against Amin. Aminʼs subsequent behavior, however, has left the British with mixed feelings: pleasure that Amin has moderated some of Oboteʼs nationalization programs, but concern about Aminʼs jingoism, excessive military spending, and his disruptive effect on East African regional affairs. The UK has turned down Aminʼs more outlandish requests for military assistance against the Tanzanians and Chinese (e.g., mounting a naval blockade).

37. Neither the British nor the US Governments have much influence in Tanzania or Zambia these days. These regimes have nationalized most foreign holdings, and Zambia has a controlling interest in its copper industry. If Zambia should see advantages in changing the terms of settlement, it would not hesitate to do so. At this point, Kaundaʼs government seems satisfied. Both Kaunda and Nyerere proclaim non-alignment as the fundamental principle of their foreign policies, but this is often expressed in an anti-West fashion. Yet they want to maintain good relations with the West. This concern, plus thelack of many more foreign interests to nationalize, and the realization that there is no point in looking to the West for much assistance in the liberation of southern Africa, will probably combine to make for a less abrasive but also a looser relationship with the West in the long run.


A. Regional Cooperation

38. As long as General Amin remains in office in Uganda, relations with Tanzania will be strained. Some kind of detente or modus vivendi might be worked out, perhaps by way of high-level outside mediation. But the odds are against this kind of arranged settlement lasting very long. Both Amin and Nyerere are stubborn and quick to blow up each political squabble or border incident with self-righteous rhetoric. Nyerere is an idealist and would not necessarily drop the discredited Obote because it is the reasonable thing to do. Amin will continue to need foreign scapegoats to shore up his domestic political position. Yet neither president appears to want any further escalation of hostilities. They are both probably aware of potential problems with their armies and unwilling to risk the uncertainties that would accompany military adventures on a larger scale.

39. A prolonged period of hostility between Tanzania and Uganda would have seriously adverse effects on the functioning of the EAC. Even in the best of circumstances, it will be difficult to revive the spirit of compromise and accommodation to gain common objectives. There is still a potential for community development, but no sign of the impetus to give it life. Uganda and Tanzania are in dire economic straits, especially in terms of foreign exchange, and both governments will be acting in their own [Page 17] economic self-interest. The better-off Kenyans feel that they have been subsidizing their poor neighbors for years, and have received little tangible benefit in return. Increased Tanzanian purchases from China, in connection with the Tan/Zam Railroad arrangements, will reduce imports from Kenya. Kenyatta seems to look to a continuation of current economic ties with Uganda, but to no new concessions or favors for Tanzania. Despite these unfavorable trends, the EAC is likely to be useful to the three members and to go on providing certain basic services.

40. No matter what happens to the EAC, relations between Tanzania and Zambia will probably become closer. For example, the common fear of military assaults from the south may lead to modest cooperation in security matters. But the relationship between Tanzania and Zambia is not without its own strains and problems. Zambian officials are concerned about the inability of the port of Dar es Salaam to handle even its current traffic. The construction of five new berths, now underway, will ease the problem somewhat, but it is doubtful that the port facilities will be sufficient to handle the two million tons of goods expected to pass through upon completion of the Tan/Zam Railroad. Moreover, Zambian officials have made it clear that they do not want to become dependent on any one route to the sea. Thus, Zambia will have to use the ports of Beira in Mozambique and Lobito in Angola, even after completion of the Tan/Zam Railroad.

41. The political and economic ties between Tanzania and its northern neighbors have been deteriorating for some time. The new links with Zambia are being consolidated in several ways. Nevertheless, the new relationships of states in the area are very much dependent on the character and inclinations of the rulers in each country. Another drastic change of regime in any of them along thelines of the coup in Uganda might rescramble relations. Emotionalism, racialism, and nationalism will probably continue to influence the foreign policies of East African states more than ideology or alignments with the major powers.

B. Political Stability

42. In Kenya, political tensions will persist, at least until the issue of succession to Kenyatta is settled. The Kikuyu will try to hold onto the reins of power. This will cause wide-spread unrest and perhaps major tribal violence. According to the constitution, Vice President Moi, a member of a minor tribe but closely associated with Kenyattaʼs inner circle, would inherit the Presidency for 90 days until a parliamentary election could be held. But the army could step in at any time and probably would do so if tribal disorder seemed to be spreading. Tribal divisions within the army, however, would limit its effectiveness in this role and perhaps lead to bloodshed along Ugandan lines. Kenyattaʼs successor is certain to have more difficulty then Kenyatta in coping with tribal and regional differences.

43. Uganda is a very difficult country to govern. General Amin will probably be unable to survive in office for very long. He lacks the political skills necessary to hold together a quarrelsome and violent set of tribes; he lacks administrative talents as well. The army is likely to remain the dominant force in the land, but internal divisions and rivalries will persist. Coup attempts are possible from any of a number of factions, including Acholi tribesmen, junior officers, and the Baganda. The only sure thing for the foreseeable future is the continuation of disorder throughout the country.

44. In Tanzania, Julius Nyerereʼs main source of power lies in the support of the people for his position as the national leader [Page 18] and “teacher.” Nevertheless, despite the high esteem in which he is held by his countrymen, the people of Tanzania have never been very enthusiastic about his programs. This does not mean that we expect a popular uprising. Tanzanians are more likely simply to ignore exhortations or to grumble as they are adversely affected by his schemes. But, if the army threatened to unseat Nyerere, there would be little movement to support him. The army might seek to oust Nyerere if it felt threatened by the rival Peopleʼs Militia, Chinese influence, or witch hunts. Other moderate elements in the civil service, political elite, and business community would probably welcome a change. Nyerereʼs position will become less secure if the economy continues to suffer from his rash moves or if he embarks on repressive measures to enforce his nation-building efforts.

45. In Zambia, President Kaunda will have some difficulty in persuading Bembas to co-operate with his government, but there is no immediate threat to Kaunda as national leader. He retains the respect and affection of most influential Zambians, including the recently Zambianized army forces. His chief problems will continue to revolve around keeping open several routes to the sea and warding off retaliation by southern African white regimes for actions by freedom fighters. Yet, tribal tensions are normally very close to the surface, and can easily be brought to the flash-point. Zambian political institutions, including the ruling party, are in a rudimentary stage of development. Hence a change in regime could come quite abruptly.

C. Implications for External Powers

46. It appears that the USSR is not greatly interested in East Africa and foresees few favorable opportunities there. The Chinese, on the other hand, already have some influence in Tanzania (mainland and Zanzibar) and the potential for developing considerably more. Their extensive military assistance to ground, naval, and air elements of the Tanzanian armed forces, their economic aid program, and their support for African liberation movements contribute to this influence. Moreover, Nyerere and a few other high officials are favorably impressed by Chinese methods and attitudes. If the Chinese continue to perform quietly and effectively, they are likely to improve further their position in Tanzania and to develop their influence in Zambia. But the Chinese will be dealing with hypersensitive Africans quick to react to any interference in their internal affairs. Though the Tanzanians may continue to rely on Chinese military assistance, the value to China of the economic assistance program is almost certain to decrease after completion of the Tan/Zam Railroad. Some Tanzanians are already complaining about high import prices of Chinese goods, their poor quality, and the difficulty of getting spare parts. This kind of complaint will probably grow as Chinese products become more plentiful on the local market.

47. East Africa has gradually loosened its ties with the West. The UK still has the most important interest of any Western country, but its influence and concern have diminished over the years. The British will probably continue to work quietly behind the scenes in Kenya, but in the event of violence would probably not introduce troops. Elsewhere in East Africa, the British will seek to avoid involvement in political squabbles.

48. The significance for the US of developments in East Africa depends on what the US chooses to call important in the area. It can be argued that the US has no major interests in East Africa. The US depends on no East African products that it cannot obtain elsewhere. American investment is small compared to other parts of the underdeveloped world (no more than $200 million in Zambia, $100 million in Kenya, and $10 million each [Page 19] in Uganda and Tanzania). On the other hand, the US has a stake in continued progress in the area. Kenyaʼs relatively open political atmosphere and economic prosperity are models which the US would like to see other countries follow. Tanzania and Zambia are frontline states in the confrontation between black and white areas of southern Africa, and Presidents Nyerere and Kaunda have been important leaders of world opinion on the African race problem. Changes in the leadership of these two states would certainly affect the southern African situation and, therefore, the US relationship with the area. The denial of landing or overflight rights in East Africa would require considerable revision of US military contingency planning. Prolonged instability anywhere in the area would jeopardize pro-West regimes, endanger existing regional arrangements, worsen prospects for economic development, and lead to the spread of violence in a volatile part of the Third World.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, NIC Files, Job 79R–01012A, Box 421, Folder 1. Secret; Controlled Dissem.
  2. This NIE, “Troubles in East Africa,” examined growing domestic problems, communist activities, and other issues in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia, and discussed the outlook for those counties and the implications for external powers.
  3. Tanganyika federated with Zanzibar several months later in 1964 to form the state of Tanzania.