13. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1

2446. For the President and Secretary of State from Andrew Young. Subject: US Africa Policy: Shaba Soviet/Cuban Involvement.

1. It is important that we not allow the Africans to escape the lesson of the Shaba.2 It is the Africans who have by commission or omission permitted the Soviets and Cubans to play an increasingly active military role in Africa, enough to influence some very important African political developments. It is important that the Africans understand that tolerance of a Soviet/Cuban role inevitably will lead to Africa’s becoming an East-West cockpit in which outside powers will contend. It is important that these countries—so vulnerable to outside intervention—understand precisely that Cuban intervention does legitimize intervention by others and Africa’s long run interest lies in strengthening the political and institutional obstacles to outside intervention.

2. I believe it essential therefore that we go on to challenge the Africans and to show them how to meet that challenge. By that I mean we should press the Africans to go beyond slogans and to act as [Page 35] Africans to solve African problems, and to develop the kinds of African approaches required for this purpose. This is a tall order, and at least initially will require a more realistic assessment by Africans of the OAU, which has failed miserably to meet African needs—witness Chad, Ethiopia/Somalia and the Shaba.3 We should offer to assist Africans in finding ways, without direct U.S. involvement, to deal more effectively with African problems. For example, we could encourage the Africans to develop institutions and codes of conduct to deal with the problem of ethnic minorities—the most explosive political problem in the continent because of the irrationality of colonial borders. There are some foundation stones on which to build. At the last General Assembly the Nigerians proposed the creation of regional human rights commissions in regions that now did not have them.4 We could push this idea along with the thought that the first task of the African commission should be to deal with the rights and responsibilities of ethnic minorities in African states.

3. In the area of peacekeeping we should urge the Africans to have recourse to the Security Council where their influence can command the resources needed for effective peacekeeping in Africa. In the Council, the Africans can most effectively control the rivalries of outside powers. The UN has the experience and status to do the job.

4. We might also challenge other involved outside powers to agree to establish certain limits on their actions. Thus, we could declare our intention never to introduce nuclear weapons or new more dangerous forms of conventional weapons into Africa and work to exact similar pledges from others: We could offer never to support intervention in an African state without seeking Security Council endorsement provided the Soviet Union made the same commitment.

5. Specifically we might offer to work to stop all intervention in the Zaire-Angola conflict and attempt to secure borders against all overt and covert attack.

6. I recognize that there are complexities in such proposals. But I urge that you commission an urgent study aimed at developing specific ideas, such as the ones I suggested, on how Africans can more effectively act to deal with their own problems. The study should consider political, economic and military options. Ideally, we should develop [Page 36] our conclusions in consultation with Nyerere, Obasanjo, Sadat and other principal African leaders in advance of the Khartoum meeting of OAU heads of government and thus offer our efforts towards assuring that the focus of that meeting will be a serious effort at African problem-solving.5

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P840163–2657. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.
  2. See Documents 99111.
  3. Reference is to the Libyan intervention in Chad and the Ogaden war between Ethiopia and Somalia and the Cuban and Soviet intervention on behalf of Ethiopia. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVII, Part 3, North Africa, and vol. XVII, Part 1, Horn of Africa.
  4. On March 8, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted Resolution 24 (XXXIV) which requested that the Secretary-General consider arranging regional seminars to discuss “the advisability of establishing regional commissions on human rights where none existed.” (Yearbook of the United Nations, 1978, p. 720)
  5. In telegram 155074 to OAU Collective, June 19, the Department reported that the OAU Council of Ministers would meet at Khartoum July 7–15, followed by the OAU Summit July 18–21, and suggested several issues to watch, including: views on Soviet-Cuban military involvement in Ethiopia and Angola, reaction to Shaba II, debate on Western efforts in Namibia and Rhodesia, attitudes toward political versus military settlement in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia, Western Sahara, and Chad. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780255–0354)