1. Memorandum From Fernando Rondon of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1 2


  • Africa South of the Sahara: Recommendations for Action

During the first term, the Administration’s principal policy objective in Africa South of the Sahara was to inject some needed realism into US-African dealings. Unlike previous Administrations, we made it clear to Africans that we could not afford unlimited economic assistance and that we could neither back the armed liberation of southern Africa nor support measures designed to isolate Portugal or South Africa. Our hard-headed positions may have disappointed Africans but they did not result in the type of criticism that was to come in 1972 as a result of the Azores renewal—particularly the highly publicized aid package that accompanied it—and the Byrd Amendment on Rhodesian chrome. African critics, prominently the Nigerians, then accused the United States not only of being unsympathetic to Black Africa but of shifting to a policy favoring minority-ruled southern Africa. [South Africa and Portugal, which suffer our arms embargo, might, of course, question this.]

With the foregoing in mind, I believe that our overall interests in Africa South of the Sahara, to which I call your attention (Tab B), require some positive steps on our part during the next four years. I do not propose any immediate policy changes. Rather, I recommend the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for Africa who might be able to expand US-African economic relations to the benefit of both sides; I urge a Presidential visit to Black Africa, particularly to those few states where our interests are significant; I suggest a NSSM series on Africa South of the Sahara as well as a contingency paper on Portuguese Guinea, where rebels may proclaim an independent state in 1973; and I recommend reviewing the possibility of repealing the Byrd Amendment, both on international law and African policy grounds.


1. Promoting US-African Economic Ties. Whereas it seems unlikely that African aid levels will go up significantly or that we can be sufficiently responsive to Africa’s commodity (terms of trade) problems, a greater [Page 2] effort should be made to try to foster a role for American private enterprise in African development. It may be that not much more can be done than is presently being accomplished, but I suggest that consideration be given to the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs with trade and investment experience. This would show a concern for African development, give a needed push to US exports to Africa (which fell surprisingly in 1972), and further private investment in African minerals and oil exploration as well as in agricultural projects.

RECOMMENDATION—That consideration be given to the appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for Africa with trade and investment expertise interested in fostering economic ties with the developing African states (US-South African economic ties are already strong].

2. Study of African Policy. The President apparently wants a reappraisal of US policy in Africa. I recommend that you initiate such a study following the outline at Tab A. It is based partially on Professor Huntington’s letter to you about the Third World at Tab A.

RECOMMENDATION—That you initiate a NSSM series on sub-Sahara Africa along the lines shown at Tab A.

3. Presidential Contact with Africa. We should act to counter the impression that this Administration is not sympathetic to Africa. In this connection, I strongly urge a Presidential visit to Black Africa. This has never been done and would demonstrate the President’s concern for all of Africa although the visit would presumably be limited to those few countries worth cultivating from our own self-interested point of view, i.e., Nigeria, Zaire and possibly Ethiopia, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Kenya. Goodwill, rather than substantive negotiation would characterize the trip.

[Page 3]

I also strongly counsel a more generous policy on office calls, if not formal State Visits. Most African visitors neither expect nor merit more than fifteen minutes of the President’s time. Yet, a succession of such visits would show that the President is actively interested in Africa’s future.

RECOMMENDATION—That you discuss orally with the President the possibility of his visiting Black Africa in 1973.

ALTERNATIVE RECOMMENDATION—That a memorandum for the President be prepared outlining the desirability of a 1973 Black African trip.

4. Portuguese Africa; Bissau Study. Over the next four years, we are going to witness mounting international pressure against Portugal’s African policy. We may also see the increasingly sophisticated liberation movements in Portuguese Guinea (Bissau) and Mozambique inflict heavier casualties on the Portuguese. If the latter occurs in Mozambique, the Portuguese may retaliate against sanctuaries in Tanzania. In the United Nations, we may well find ourselves in the lurch on Portuguese African questions as our NATO partners court African favor and disassociate themselves from Portugal’s African policy.

The question of Portuguese Africa and its relationship to our worldwide interests will be reviewed in the African study at Tab A, if approved. However, we should give more immediate attention to United States policy toward Portuguese Guinea (Bissau). Already in control of part of the territory, the Soviet-guided and Cuban-assisted Portuguese Guinea rebels reportedly intend to declare an independent state of Bissau in 1973. This will not be a government in exile but a government in control of part of the territory it claims. Once proclaimed, it appears likely that a majority of the world’s states (including some of our NATO partners) will recognize the new state of Bissau. This will lead, in turn, to an application for UN membership. We may [Page 4] then find ourselves under pressure from Portugal to veto the admission of Bissau to the United Nations. There is no reason to hope that the Portuguese will not pressure the United States because the acceptance of a rebel Bissau government would in time lead to the establishment of similar governments in Mozambique and Angola. If the UK and France abstain on this issue, which could be a divisive one for NATO, the United States will be isolated as the most prominent defender of Portugal’s African interests. This would probably focus more public attention on the Azores than has previously been the case and result in renewed Congressional demands that the Azores agreement be submitted to the Senate. Furthermore, should we thwart the will of the General Assembly over Bissau, we might find it very difficult to do business in the United Nations. No decisions need be taken until Bissau is created but a NSSM study on the subject and its impact on our foreign interests, i.e., the Azores, Portugal and NATO, the pursuit of US objectives in the UN and Africa, appears justifiable.

RECOMMENDATION—That a NSSM study be prepared on the probability of the declaration of an independent state of Bissau and its implications for United States worldwide interests, including the Azores, Portugal and NATO, the United Nations and Africa.

5. Byrd Amendment. Even if the UN’s 1965 imposition of sanctions against Rhodesia was unwise, I believe that it is in our overall foreign policy interest to respect those sanctions pending a British settlement with Rhodesia. I realize that Senator Byrd’s legislation allowing for US imports of Rhodesian chrome and other strategic materials has:

  • —resulted in a 20 percent reduction in the price of Soviet chrome;
  • —pleased American conservatives;
  • —pleased our chrome interests (Foote Mineral, Union Carbide).

[Page 5]

On the other hand, it:

  • —has placed the United States in violation of its international legal obligations (in the words of Acting Secretary of State Irwin to Senator McGee) at a time when we are urgently seeking universal adherence to and enforcement of worldwide conventions on subjects such as hijacking (including a sanctions convention), narcotics, terrorism, etc.;
  • —has forced the United States into the spotlight on an international issue that is mostly British; and
  • —served to fuel arguments that the United States is unsympathetic to African self determination.

Well aware that this issue is a hornet’s nest, I feel obliged, on African and International Organization grounds, to recommend working for the repeal of the Byrd Amendment.

RECOMMENDATION—That the Legislative Interdepartmental Group be asked whether it would be politic to give strong White House support to expected Congressional efforts to repeal the Byrd Amendment.

[Page 6]

Tab B



Our priorities in Africa South of the Sahara may not rate highly on a global scale but we do have interests and problems on the Continent which merit our attention.

1. Natural Resources

Africa South of the Sahara is virtually the sole source of certain products that are essential to US strategic or economic needs: chromite, platinum, tantalite, petalite, gold, long-fibered asbestos, phosphate rock and natural industrial diamonds. Most of these key minerals are found only in white-dominated southern Africa. Africa is also a major source of low-cost commodity and mineral imports, including antimony, bauxite, cobalt, cocoa, coffee, copper, manganese ore, pyrethrum, uranium oxide and vanadium. Although sub-Sahara Africa now supplies a small fraction of the world’s petroleum, including natural gas, many countries already offer promise of untapped reserves which will become important as our energy crisis grows. Africa’s resource potential can only climb as the Continent’s unpenetrated interior is surveyed. Both Europe and Japan are most anxious to discover and exploit these resources.

2. Investment

US investment in sub-Sahara Africa constitutes less than 3 percent of the worldwide total but it is growing fairly rapidly as we seek to exploit natural resources. However, the increasing trend toward nationalization in Black Africa must be taken into account. Our investment there totals about $1.5 billion and is concentrated in Nigeria and a few other African states. The Black African figures compare with over $1 billion invested in South Africa and Angola. [More than $1 billion is invested in North Africa, giving us an overall $3.6 billion total for the Continent.]

3. Trade

In 1971, US trade with sub-Sahara Africa totalled $2.4 billion or 2.7 percent of our worldwide total. Up until last year, we enjoyed a favorable balance of trade with Africa but growing US imports of [Page 7] Nigerian petroleum and falling US exports reversed the trend in 1972. Trade with South Africa, however, continues to yield a surplus.

4. Strategic Military Facilities

South Africa offers naval repair and bunkering facilities unmatched elsewhere in Africa. We have NASA tracking stations in South Africa and Madagascar as well as an important communications station at Kagnew, Ethiopia, and regional communication facilities in Liberia, where we have port and airfield rights in time of emergency. In terms of shipping lanes, the friendly presence of France (at Djibouti) and Ethiopia on the Red Sea are of strategic importance to the United States Navy as is South Africa’s presence astride the Cape of Good Hope. In the Indian Ocean, Mauritius offers port and airport facilities and we are building communication facilities at Diego Garcia.

5. Monitoring Soviet and PRC Facilities and Intentions

Strong nationalism makes it unlikely that either the USSR or PRC will be able to wield dominating influence in Africa, South of the Sahara, thereby controlling its resources. Nonetheless, both of these communist powers seek advantages in Black Africa. On the Atlantic the Soviet Navy has ready access to the port of Conakry, Guinea and is maintaining an almost continual presence off the coast of West Africa. In Somalia, Russian access to ports and air fields has strengthened Soviet capabilities in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. As for the PRC, at this point their interest in Africa appears to be more political than strategic. But the Chinese probably view Tanzania as a potential site for missile tracking operations.

6. Forestalling Conflict

Although not believed imminent by our intelligence community, racial warfare is an ever-present possibility in southern Africa. This could possibly lead to pressures for US involvement. Therefore, the US has an interest in engaging in whatever preventive action it can in order to forestall conflict in the area.

7. Science-Technology

South Africa has purportedly developed a new technique for enriching uranium. We would like to find out whether the new process [Page 8] is more economical than existing methods and we want to ensure that any enriched uranium is handled according to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. South Africa is not a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

8. African Voting Power

Black Africa has 35 of the 132 votes in the United Nations (or 41 votes if all the Organization of African Unity countries—that is, the North Africans—are included).

9. Growing Domestic Interest in Africa

Last May’s demonstration in Washington by 10,000 blacks seeking changes in our southern African policies was intended by its sponsors to prove growing black American awareness of Africa. Church groups are also showing greater concern about southern Africa. With the winding down of Vietnam, we may see far more racially motivated attention given to Africa by black Americans and sympathizers. This will result in domestic pressure being brought to bear not only on policy-makers but on US corporations doing business in southern Africa.

10. Humanitarian Interests

With sixteen of the world’s twenty-five least developed nations in sub-Saharan Africa, there will be a continuing humanitarian desire on the part of governmental and private institutions to assist Africa.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 747, Country Files-Africa, Africa General, vol. II. Secret. Sent for action. Kennedy concurred. No action indicated. Kissinger wrote in the margin next to recommendation 1, “Like who?” and next to recommendation 2, “What makes you think that?” Tab A, “Guidelines for a NSSM Study on Africa South of the Sahara,” is attached but not published.
  2. Rondon presented a plan of action for Africa during the second Nixon Administration. His recommendations were not acted upon.