30. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter1

[Omitted here is an item unrelated to West Africa.]

2. My Meeting with Obasanjo: Following your meeting with Lt. General Obasanjo this morning,2 Andy and I met with him for two hours this afternoon.3 Our discussion centered on the forthcoming negotiations by Lord Carver and General Chand to determine arrangements for the transition period of Rhodesia. In addition, I summarized the present state of negotiations for a Middle East settlement, progress toward a SALT agreement, and the US position on the principal North/South economic issues.

The most significant aspect of our conversation was a remarkably frank exchange of views regarding the difficulties which we anticipate in dealing with Joshua Nkomo and Robert Mugabe. We pointed out that Nkomo in particular may, possibly with Soviet backing, hold out for arrangements which would make peacekeeping unworkable or cast doubt on the integrity of the election procedure. Obasanjo urged us to see that the negotiations are conducted in Africa—not elsewhere as David Owen and Nkomo have suggested—and said that we must stay in close contact with the Front Line and Nigeria. He promised, in so many words, that if Carver and Prem Chand come up with a workable arrangement which Nkomo or Mugabe reject, the Front Line and Nigeria would “take care of them” as well as, by implication, any objections which the Russians or Chinese might raise in the UN.

I emphasized our desire for an early report to the Security Council and a recommendation regarding a UN peacekeeping force. General Obasanjo underlined the importance of defining the responsibilities of [Page 82] the Resident Commissioner, and the eventual UN Commander, for administering Rhodesia during the transition, for maintaining law and order and for training a new professional Zimbabwe army. In response to our question, Obasanjo said he would not object if a Nigerian were appointed UN force commander or deputy commander. He urged, in great confidence, that we use our influence to see that Nigeria is entrusted with responsibility for training the new army which, in his words he said “must be loyal to Zimbabwe and not to any political figure.” This army, he said, would be the key to what is his greatest concern, i.e., post-independence stability.

Overall, on Rhodesia, we agreed (a) to work to get the Resident Commissioner and Prem Chand in motion as quickly as possible; (b) to urge that the negotiations take place in Africa with a wide variety of parties; (c) to seek a report to the Security Council on security arrangements as soon as possible; and (d) that in themselves these accomplishments would hasten the departure of Smith.4

General Obasanjo had no substantive questions following my summary of the Middle East and SALT. During our discussion of international economic issues, he expressed a desire for an experts’ meeting in Washington or Lagos to deal with outstanding bilateral and multilateral economic issues. He noted that this meeting could lead to the establishment of some form of a US/Nigerian economic commission and said that he expects to discuss this subject tomorrow. Dick Cooper summarized our opposition on oil prices but the General did not comment.

[Omitted here are items unrelated to West Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State) 10/77. Secret. Carter wrote “Cy, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1977–1980, vol. XVI, Southern Africa, Document 171.
  3. The memorandum of conversation, dated October 11, is in the Department of State, Files of Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, 1977–1980, Lot 84D241, Box 10, NODIS Memcons 1977.
  4. Carter wrote and underlined “good” in the left margin.