A newly published State Department history volume includes a record of a 1976 meeting at which then Tanzanian leader Julius Nyerere and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger cordially discussed ways of ending white-minority rule in Southern Africa.
The transcript of their conversation in Dar es Salaam shows the two men expressing mutual respect and sharing laughs as they discuss what Nyerere described as the
“big headache” of “classical colonialism” in Rhodesia and “racialism” in South Africa.
“We can’t do it without the assistance or at least the understanding of the big powers. We can’t live with South Africa as it is,” Nyerere tells Kissinger.
“We believe that without majority rule, there can’t be peace and independent African development,” Kissinger responds.
But the US did not always act in accordance with that view during the 1969-1976 period covered by the 751-page volume focused on American policy in southern Africa.
Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, the presidents during that era, each “pursued policies designed to maintain stability in the region and to avoid domestic and international criticism of US ties to the white minority regimes in South Africa and Southern Rhodesia,” says a State Department commentary accompanying publication of the volume.
The US also recognized black African leaders’ inclusive approach toward ending apartheid in South Africa and winning freedom for Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe).
“Men like (Zambian President Kenneth) Kaunda and Nyerere are indeed deeply committed to solidarity with the African majorities throughout southern Africa,” declares the State Department cable.
During their April 25, 1976, talk in Nyerere’s private office, Kissinger was effusive in his praise for the Tanzanian leader.
“I am really delighted to meet you because there are not many people in this part of the world who can philosophically shape events,” the US diplomat declared.
“I can’t tell you how much I’ve wanted to meet you,” Kissinger reiterates later, and Nyerere responds: “The feeling has been mutual.”
Kissinger was not so kindly, however, in remarks he made during a meeting in Washington four months later with RF Botha, South Africa’s ambassador to the US.
“It would be good if you see [Kenyan President Jomo] Kenyatta,” Botha suggested as the two men discussed diplomatic strategy. “Your relations are good.”
Kissinger agrees and then cautions, “But it is senseless to see the foreign minister.” The reference is to Munyua Waiyaki, who served as Kenyan foreign minister from 1974 to 1979.
“If they think Dr Kissinger is coming, that they like,” Botha says in regard to Kenyan leaders. Kissinger then draws laughter, the history account indicates, by saying in response, “For a practitioner of apartheid, you are throwing me in with a lot of blacks. I’ll have to go to the Ivory Coast, Nigeria.”
At the end of the meeting, the two men adjourned to a room for socialising with their respective entourages.