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The role of the OAU liberation committee in the Southern African liberation struggle

By Paul T. Shipale
For those Namibians who are complaining about the four million worth of donation of a house to the Former and First Zambian President, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, I hope the extracts from a lengthy chapter, on "The role of the OAU Liberation Committee in the South African liberation struggle by Elias C.J Tarimo and Neville Z. Reuben will prove them wrong.

When On 25 May 1963, independent African heads of state and government met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the historic meeting which launched the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), besides coordinating the political, economic, social and cultural affairs of African member states for the common good of the African people, the OAU was charged with the task of spearheading the liberation struggle in the territories which were still under colonial domination and white minority rule. The Committee of Nine (later renamed as the Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa), consisting of Algeria, Congo (Leopoldville), Ethiopia, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanganyika, Uganda and United Arab Republic, was set up to carry out this task.

Dar es Salaam was chosen as the headquarters of the Coordinating Committee for Liberation because of Tanganyika's proximity to the unliberated territories of central and southern Africa. A special liberation fund was also established to which every OAU member state had to contribute a certain per cent of its income.

The OAU Liberation Committee The functions of the Liberation Committee included inter alia: Mobilisation of resources for the liberation struggle; Mobilisation of international solidarity for liberation; Assisting the liberation movements financially and materially to execute the liberation struggle; Assessing the performance of the liberation movements and giving the necessary advice and assistance. The analysis of the contribution of the LC in the support of the Southern African liberation struggle follows on the basis of the outline above.

The first task of the LC in support of the liberation movements was to identify the authentic movements. Luckily enough, many of the southern African movements, including the ANC, PAC and SWAPO had their based in Tanzania and the OAU recognized them as the sole and authentic liberation movements of South Africa and Namibia respectively and campaigned for their recognition and support internationally. Such campaigns eventually led the UN to accord representatives of the ANC, PAC and SWAPO observer status in the General Assembly. Other international bodies like the Non- Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth of Nations, and progressive movements worldwide recognised and supported the liberation movements and their noble cause.

The earliest camp was Kongwa in central Tanzania established in 1962 to host members of all liberation movements. But as the liberation struggle gained momentum and the number of freedom fighters increased, it became necessary to open more camps. Nachingwea, Itumbi and Mgagao were duly set up. The latter two hosted ANC and PAC cadres as well as those from Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Nachingwea was reserved for the FRELIMO fighters because of its proximity to Mozambique.

The ANC also secured a training camp at Kinguluwira and a residential site at Msanvu, while PAC trained its cadres at Masuguru but later moved to Msungura. Both camps were in the Coast Region. In the 1970s, Masuguru became a settlement camp for PAC cadres who migrated in larger numbers into the country in that period. Other camps were established for PAC cadres at Kitonga and Pongwe in the 1980s. In 1976, more South African refugees flocked to Tanzania following the Soweto uprising in South Africa, so the ANC requested additional settlement and training camps from the government of Tanzania. Through the coordination of the LC, the ANC was granted a 100 acre stretch of land at Mazimbu in Morogoro which was later on extended to 250 acres. On this site, the ANC built its first educational institution in 1978 to teach the youngsters who had fled South Africa in the aftermath of the Soweto killings. In 1979, the institution was renamed the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) in honour of an MK cadre who was hanged by the apartheid regime in 1979.

The young Mahlangu had escaped the Soweto massacre in 1976, fled to Tanzania and was one of the first group of students that enrolled at SOMAFCO. He was infiltrated back into South Africa to take part in MK operations, but was arrested by the security forces.

The LC's second task was to support the liberation movements financially and provide other material assistance. The LC also located their representatives in offices, and saw to it that they had residential and training camps and operational bases. The financial assistance from the LC was of two types. Funds were provided for material goods (including procurement of military equipment, transport, training and other logistical support). The second type of allocation (normally less) was for administration and publicity.

Mobilisation of resources for the liberation struggle The most crucial task undertaken by the Liberation Committee from its formation until its dissolution was the mobilisation of resources. These resources were in the form of contributions by the OAU member states to the special fund for liberation; or donations from individuals, friendly countries, international and local organisations. The contributions from member states proved to be the most dependable source of funding.

However, such funds were grossly inadequate and unreliable because certain member states failed to honour their commitment to the special fund.

Malawi, for instance made no contribution at all to the fund, while some countries, such as Lesotho, Comoros and Cape Verde, which were beneficiaries of the special fund before their independence, failed to contribute to help other countries. Most of the former French colonies like Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Chad and Ivory Coast declined to contribute for fear of being isolated by their imperial master, France. Liberia did not contribute to the special fund after the military coup that brought Samuel Doe to power in 1979. The same applied to Equatorial Guinea under Francois Macias Nguema.

Some countries expressed exceptional commitment in their contributions to the fund. These included Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Algeria, Angola and Nigeria. Because of the inadequate and unreliable contributions by the OAU member states, the LC was always constrained by lack of funds to execute the formidable task of liberation.

Mobilisation of international solidarity for liberation The second source of funds for the LC, as already mentioned, were donations from friendly countries, individuals and organisations. The flow of these resources depended on the way and extent to which the LC and the OAU managed to popularise the liberation agenda. The countries that participated most actively in assisting the liberation struggle in various ways included the African countries, socialist countries like USSR, and the countries of Eastern Europe, Cuba, China and the Democratic Republic of Korea. Assistance also came from countries belonging to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). From the West, the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland) and the Netherlands were among the most active.

Individuals like President Nyerere and various anti-apartheid organisations and progressive movements also donated to the liberation fund. For instance, donations from various countries and movements from June 1965 to May 1966 amounted to US$12,067.29 Donations from governments, individuals and institutions that passed through the Liberation Committee's special fund in 1977 amounted to US$27,884,131 made up as follows (all in US$): Liberia ($608,009); Libya ($82,000); Indonesia ($4,600); government of Iran ($5,000); Yugoslavia ($20,000); President Nyerere ($8,537); Jane L. Glanco ($1,000); overseas donors ($1,865); individuals and institutions in Tanzania (S$672); Niger ($10,000); Venezuela ($100,000); G. Inniss ($1,020); Finland ($36,023); J.L. Brown ($100); local donations from Tanzania ($185).30. Remittances from the governments of Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Kuwait to the LC amounted to US$4,020,658.31. These financial donations notwithstanding; available funds were often inadequate to supplement the shortfall in the special fund. However, donations from the international community were not only in the form of money. Material assistance such as medicines, foodstuff, clothes, military equipment and other humanitarian aid was also provided.

The 1976-1980 period was characterised by both diplomatic and military strategies to dismantle the Smith regime and force South Africa out of Namibia. In 1978, for instance, several resolutions were passed by the UN Security Council to address the Namibian question, including Resolution 435. This demanded the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia and stated that the UN would assume the responsibility of supervising the transition to majority rule in Namibia. The intensification of armed struggles in Zimbabwe by the ZANU and ZAPU PF forced the Smith regime to the negotiation table for majority rule in 1979. In February 1980, free and fair elections were held in Zimbabwe and ZANU came to power, leading to the independence of Zimbabwe in April 1980. The Namibian question remained unresolved as the Reagan administration came up with the new condition of linking this with the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. Angola had requested Cuban forces to assist her to confront the South African forces that were deployed to Angola through Namibia to carry out destabilisation campaigns.

The 1981-1994 was the final and decisive phase for the liquidation of apartheid. Zimbabwe having gained her independence, the OAU concentrated its attention squarely on the apartheid regime, both for its illegal occupation of Namibia and its brutal apartheid policies. In 1984, the priority in the allocation of funds went to SWAPO (US$250,000) then ANC and PAC (US$150,000 each).

Apart from financial support, the LC extended material and logistic support to the Southern African liberation movements. Such assistance included securing of offices and camps for the movements as well as residential houses/quarters for their leaders.

For example, the ANC and SWAPO had their headquarters in Morogoro and Kongwa from early 1960s before they shifted to Lusaka, Zambia and later SWAPO shifted to Luanda, Angola. But the ANC also had several residences in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro for its leaders. In order to keep them safe from sabotage attacks by the apartheid regime, these offices and homes were heavily guarded by the police and security organs under the coordination of the LC and the government of Tanzania. The LC collaborated with the government of Tanzania to secure camps for settlement and military training.

These extracts by Tarimo and Reuben prove beyond reasonable doubt that we were assisted by other countries especially by the front-line states such as Tanzania under Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, who deserves the John Meinert Street to be named after him, Zambia under Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, Angola under Dr. Antonio Augustino Neto who also deserves that the tal street behind KFC and going to FNB Ausspannplatz be named after him, Mozambique under Samora Machel including the Federal Republic of Nigeria under Mutala Mohammed

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


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