44. Minutes of a National Security Council Meeting1 2


  • Secretary Kissinger’s African Trip


  • Principals:
    • The President
    • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
    • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff George S. Brown
    • The Director of Office of Management and Budget James Lynn
  • State:
    • Deputy Secretary of State Charles W. Robinson
  • Defense:
    • Deputy Secretary of Defense William Clements
  • Treasury:
    • Deputy Secretary of Treasury George Dixon
  • CIA:
    • Deputy Director of Central Intelligence Lt. Gen. Vernon Walters
  • White House:
    • Brent Scowcroft
    • William G. Hyland
  • NSC Staff:
    • Harold Horan
[Page 2]

The President: Before Henry went to Africa he gave a quick rundown on what we were trying to do by this trip and our hopes for the visit. We recognized that since the fiasco of Angola there was a growing radicalization of the situation in southern Africa and that if we didn’t do something we would be creating serious problems for ourselves. Henry has now gone to Africa and he has carried out a good, responsible policy. We got a little political flack out of the trip; but it was totally without merit. If we are going to hold our position in the world we cannot have a foreign policy in limbo in an election year. We will continue to do what is right regardless of the primaries. This will sometimes be tough but it is right.

I think that from what Henry has already told me and will expand on further here, we have halted the radicalization in Africa and opened the door for movement in a positive direction. I don’t want to hold you up for the ballet, Henry. (Laughter)

Secretary Kissinger: As they say, Mr. President, in foreign policy timing is everything. (Laughter)

The President: The Queen is a very charming and impressive person.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, let me first explain the situation with regard to the timing of the trip, the situation in Africa within which we attempted to make our decision on timing. First of all, it was dictated by the UNCTAD meeting and also by the fact that Nyerere was leaving for Europe on April 27. It was important that I see Nyerere before I saw anyone else, for he holds the key in southern Africa, and it was also desirable to get him nailed down to a moderate position before he made too many statements on his European trip. So the timing of my trip was the most suitable from foreign policy considerations.

The point of view of the situation as the President and I saw it last year was that a communist victory in Angola would quicken events in southern Africa, encourage radicalism and discourage moderates. When you added to that the Cuban troops and the congressional action preventing us from giving further support in Angola, we left our OAU supporters high and dry and all trends toward radicalization in Africa were speeded up. Even Kaunda of Zambia, a moderate, was announcing the beginning of an armed struggle in southern Africa. With respect to southern Africa, all black states bordering the area were calling for armed struggle and guerrilla attacks. The CIA estimate was for a sure escalation over a six-month period, that Rhodesia would defeat the rebels and that this would result in outside interference. Such a development would put us in the position of either acquiescing to another Cuban move in that area and thus destroying governments on our side or resisting in the name of white supremacy, and the latter would be impossible to do.

[Page 3]

Africa is important to us, many key products—coffee, cocoa, cobalt, chrome, iron ore, diamonds—come from Africa, thirty to sixty percent of our consumption; and for our European allies, the figures are even higher. The radicalization of Africa would turn the Europeans, vis-a-vis Africa, into commercial enterprises rather than governments.

In the face of this situation we attempted to do the following:

Find a platform on which we could rely that would arrest the armed struggle in southern Africa, preclude foreign intervention, and give the moderate regimes something to hold on to and the radicals something to think about. The strategy was to slow down the struggle and get control of the process as we did in the Middle East.

I saw Nyerere first, and I told him that if there was Cuban and Soviet involvement we could stop it and that if he would work with us we would find some way to make progress on solving the problems of southern Africa. That was why it was important to make my Lusaka Speech, to give us a platform on which we could stand. There was really very little that was new in that speech. We have always supported majority rule—you have said it yourself many times, Mr. President,—supported repeal of the Byrd Amendment, and supported UN sanctions.

In return for our commitments Nyerere, Kaunda, Machel, and Khama have agreed:

There will be no call for Cuban troops.
There will be no direct dealings by outsiders with the liberation movements, a decision designed to prevent the communists from influencing the Rhodesian struggle.
All arms shipments are to go through the neighboring governments.
While they could not prevent armed struggle, Nyerere said that that struggle had to be ended by negotiations.
It was agreed that we would deal more actively with South Africa and that we would not continue to treat them as pariahs. Thus we have gained more freedom of movement with respect to South Africa.

I talked to Nkomo and he told me that the issue in Rhodesia is that if he takes over through negotiation there will be civilian rule in Rhodesia, that if the military takes over through force there will be a regime in Rhodesia like that in Mozambique. He said that if a negotiated settlement [Page 4] does not come within two years he will be destroyed and we will face another Mozambique. If we are concerned about chrome, dealing with a military Mozambique would be more difficult than dealing with a civilian Rhodesia.

The President: What will be our approach as to getting negotiations going again with Smith, Nkomo, Callaghan and the rest?

Secretary Kissinger: We have to talk to South Africa to give us a hand to bring Smith to negotiations, which have to end with majority rule and the protection of minority rights. I have a basic sympathy with the white Rhodesians but black Africa is absolutely united on this issue, and if we don’t grab the initiative we will be faced with the Soviets, and Cuban troops.

If the four presidents back out of their understanding with us then we will be in a better position to resist if Cuban troops show up.

I think we can succeed in getting the Cubans out of Angola and that African states will help. We have thrown fear into the Cubans and Soviets by some of the statements we have made. I cannot point to concrete evidence, but that is my gut feeling. If we succeed in giving the African states a positive program to rally around, then the moderates would be able to show the benefit of working with us and the radicals may begin to feel differently. This was the reason for my suggestions for a reconstruction program for the Sahel. There was no specific fiscal tag on my suggestion and in fact, what I proposed would probably cost us less in the long run than the way we are going now. I’m not suggesting that we should finance the program ourselves but to lead the Africans into cooperationg with an international consortium.

When I started on my trip I was getting daily blasts from Uganda and Nigeria, but by the end, I won’t say they were being friendly but at least they were quiet. Nyerere got the four foreign ministers of Mozambique, Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania to talk with me in Nairobi, and we had an understanding. I spoke to Giscard and told him there has to be a western contribution. He made a speech today proposing that a group of industrial countries—I told him it was senseless for each western country to have its own separate programs—work with a group of African countries and the President of the Ivory Coast was to accept this on behalf of Africans. The African group would be composed of moderates.

This is the overall strategy that we have pursued, Mr. President, and I must say that the reaction in Africa has been uniformly favorable, especially by states like Zaire, that doesn’t give a damn about southern Africa. Our friends in Africa were frightened by Angola, that the US had withdrawn from Africa, and that they faced Soviet domination. [Page 5] Now, on my trip I did find there are two military problems, Zaire and Kenya.

In Zaire we have a territory larger than Western Europe. Mobutu told me that in Angola he faces 350 tanks, 50 heavy lift helicopters, and I don’t know what they face in Congo, Brazzaville, which is just across the river. Mobutu said he couldn’t survive indefinitely unless he can show his people he has the forces to withstand. I feel that the small scale of MAP we have been discussing for Zaire is insufficient. Mobutu said he is being told by the American military advisers he doesn’t need tanks, but if Angola has them, why not him? He needs to show his people he has the strength.

I don’t think, Mr. President, that you want to make decisions here, this is not the proper time. But if Zaire goes, it will be catastrophic. Next to Nigeria, it is the richest state in Africa, it is larger than Nigeria and except for Nigeria’s oil, it has vaster resources.

Clements: The Nigerians are also more sophisticated.

Secretary Kissinger: Because of its area, its size, Zaire’s collapse would have a major impact.

Walters: Thirteen states border on Zaire.

Secretary Kissinger: Mr. President, in the Congo, Zaire, we won the war we lost in Angola. If Zaire goes, every African state will draw the conclusion that the Soviet Union (which they don’t like all that much) is the wave of the future. Countries like Senegal, which is closer to New York than Nairobi and far away from Angola, felt they had to know if the US was going to be active in Africa, if not they would have to make their own accommodations. And I do not feel decisions can wait for next year. With every month that passes there is an acceleration of the Rhodesian situation.

As for Kenya, it borders Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda, and Somalia and Uganda claim pieces of it. There we have agreed to a $65 million military program and they seem relatively satisfied.

In these situations there is relatively little money involved except for Zaire.

If we conduct a subtle diplomatic offense I think we can defuse the southern African situation so there will be no outside intervention. We will confine the situation to a black/white African war, and we can get black/white African negotiations.

[Page 6]

Those are, Mr. President, the conclusions I drew from my trip. I shared them with the British and with Giscard, and can count on the support of the West, moving us closer together.

The President: What, if any, involvement is there on the part of the People’s Republic of China?

Secretary Kissinger: The Chinese are playing an intelligent game in Africa. They are engaged in technical assistance and they are doing it well. The Zairians told me that the Chinese there refuse to accept higher wages than their Zairian counterparts and insist on living in the peasant huts. The foreign country making the biggest impact in technical assistance in Africa is the PRC. In Tanzania I was told the Chinese have supported us on Angola. The Chinese Ambassador saw Nyerere several times on that question. But the crucial thing was Nigerian recognition of the MPLA. I was told on the trip that the Nigerian switch on Angola resulted from a $25 million Soviet bribe.

Walters: In Tanzania the Chinese are building the largest overseas project, a $600 million railroad.

Secretary Kissinger: The railroad also goes through Zambia and the Chinese completed it on time. While they are right now more or less on our side in the long run we can’t count on them. Next to us they have been the most discredited on Angola. But if they gain dominant influence in Africa it will be almost as bad for us as Soviet dominance. So we can work with them on a counter-Soviet program, but the longer term trends of increased Chinese influence in Africa work against us. They have been opposing us with the Africans in UNCTAD, for example.

Walters: They denounced us today, so did the Russians.

Secretary Kissinger: We have a chance in Africa. One of the problems is that we have to bring Nigeria around. If the Sahel policy takes hold and Zaire does well, I think they will come around—and if southern Africa does not become inflamed. If we have no position, Africa will unite. If we have a position, many countries like Senegal, Zaire and the Ivory Coast can go along with us.

The President: Would someone point out to me on the map the exact area of the Sahel?

(General Walters delineates the area on the map.) Is it ecologically possible to roll back the desert, or is this just talk?

[Page 7]

Secretary Kissinger: Well, I think we have to start a pilot project. After all, the Sahel was the grain basket of the Roman Empire. To what extent we can be successful—we will have to get a pilot project started that will give us some evidence.

Walters: If we could redevelop Lake Chad that would be a tremendous source of water.

Secretary Kissinger: There are a number of major rivers in the Sahel and we have to consider building dams and irrigation systems.

Clements: Have you ever been to West Texas?

The President: Don’t go there! (Laughter)

Clements: Come to West Texas. We need help there.

The President: So did I! (Laughter) Does anyone have any questions?

Scowcroft: We have a policy review on southern Africa underway, and we ought to crank in what Henry has found out, and look at what we do.

Secretary Kissinger: I am not necessarily suggesting that we should take the lead, particularly financially. We should start with an international group and perhaps Giscard’s plan is the way to do it.

Lynn: Would this be totally outside the UN system?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes

Clements: Are the Arabs in support of this program?

Secretary Kissinger: Well, the Saudis are and the Egyptians are in support and I have kept them informed.

Walters: Morocco would help too. It borders on the Sahel.

Secretary Kissinger: I believe Iran would also be helpful. The Shah sent me a letter supporting my African trip.

Clements: That support is very important.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, because Algeria and Libya are really causing us problems in black Africa.

[Page 8]

General Brown: Mr. Secretary, when you talked about the military Situation in Zaire and Kenya, you said that Kenya was reasonably satisfied. Did you mean to say more about that?

Secretary Kissinger: Well, they are reasonably satisfied but they would like to have A-4s. They would like attack aircraft. We had only agreed to give them F5-Es. Also Kenyatta asked that we speed up delivery of these. He said that even if they didn’t have pilots trained to fly them, it would be useful for his neighbors to see the F5-Es parked on his airfields.

These countries are like families. They are more like families than legitimate organizations. The leaders are not obeyed because of their constitutional authority but because the whole state is a family structure and there is one-man rule. Appearance in these countries is as important as reality and they are basically more oriented toward the West than the East. If we act we can reduce Soviet influence in southern Africa and break the penetration of Africa by the Soviets, the Chinese, Algerians and Libyans.

The President: Was it universally agreed in your discussions that no one wanted Cuban involvement?

Secretary Kissinger: If we can keep the four states together—Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana—then we can use Botswana and Zambia as a brake on Mozambique and Tanzania will be somewhere in between. While we have to realize that African promises are not necessarily for eternity, they did agree to no Cuban troops.

Walters: Seretse Khama is a sick man.

Secretary Kissinger: I didn’t meet him.

Walters: He has heart trouble, kidney trouble, diabetes and blood problems.

Secretary Kissinger: He is coming to Washington. He is a moderate and so is Kaunda. Nyerere also is not keen on Cubans. They have agreed to act together and consult with us so that if the Cubans do show up then we will have a different platform from which to react.

The President: Any questions? Lynn, this did not require you to open the purse.

Lynn: Yes, but I have a hunch I will have to at the next meeting.

Secretary Kissinger: The first priority is Zaire, if we could send a senior military officer to Zaire just to look—if Bill could go

[Page 9]

Clements:—and General Brown

Secretary Kissinger:—a senior military officer, just to look, Mobutu said it would make a difference. We used to send the Commander of the Strike Force once a year to Zaire but that has been stopped, and Mobutu said it made a difference. So a mission there, even though we delivered nothing immediately, would be important.

Clements: Mr. President, I am willing if those are your instructions. I agree that this would be a strong signal.

The President: When do you want to leave—tomorrow? (Laughter)

Clements: I will go and take George.

Secretary Kissinger: Or a senior officer. The programs that our embassies design are based on what they think we can bleed out of Congress. But this is usually too little. What we need to consider are major programs in countries like Zaire, Senegal, Kenya and Zambia and I think it would be worth dropping some of our third-rate programs in other countries, even though our Ambassadors would scream their heads off. We have to look at programs that would make a real difference. In Zaire we could get the French to do the training. We should try to push Europe and Giscard has now given us the opportunity to do so.

The President: Is Giscard’s proposal a Development Bank proposal?

Secretary Kissinger: Well, it is not clear exactly what he intends. I have not seen the full speech yet but basically it is to create a group of donor countries that would work together for the development of Africa with African moderates. Aid would go to Zambia but not Mozambique. To the Ivory Coast but not Mali and therefore create incentives.

Walters: In other words, an African Marshall Plan with an OECD role.

Secretary Kissinger: We are not really talking about huge amounts. These countries are relatively underpopulated and are undeveloped. Chuck has talked with the Arabs about using Arab money for transportation and irrigation systems and these talks have been encouraging. The beauty of this is that these countries are so uninformed on Africa that once we are in there, we can have a major impact. Once we become involved diplomatically and get the British out in front in Rhodesia once again, I think we can get the Cubans out.

Robinson: The Saudis have asked us which countries in Africa are good and which are bad. I am encouraged that the Arabs will be a major financial resource.

[Page 10]

Clements: All they have is money.

Secretary Kissinger: We can design the programs we have in mind but we would not want the Arabs to play a technical assistance role in Africa. I think we have an unusual opportunity.

The President: Is the African study underway?

Scowcroft: Yes, but we will need to modify the instructions.

Secretary Kissinger: If we could speed up the study and by the end of June have some practical decisions this would be good. Also, if we could send a mission to Zaire within the next three-four weeks and within the next two weeks tell Mobutu it is coming, that would give them an uplift.

The President: (turning to Clements) Why don’t you talk to Rummy about the idea?

Clements: One of the problems we have, Henry, is that as we travel around the country talking about African policy we need to have ideas about how to respond to questions about your trip.

Secretary Kissinger: I am testifying at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meeting Thursday in public hearings and that should do it. I am going to make a formal statement and lay out the strategy to assure that what we are going to do will prevent a bloodbath. The CIA estimate was that an armed struggle would accelerate in six months and that the temptations for foreign troops would be overwhelming as Rhodesia resisted. This is a process we had delayed and can delay further with diplomatic action. We need South Africa’s help and additional support and if Africa sees that is helping, I think they will go along.

The President: Once again, thank you, Henry, and don’t miss the ballet. (Laughter)

  1. Source: Ford Library, National Security Adviser, NSC Meeting File, Box 2. Secret; Nodis. The meeting took place in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
  2. Secretary of State Kissinger reviewed his trip to Africa, covering Angola, aid to the Sahel, and the need to support key countries such as Zaire, Senegal, Kenya and Zambia.