Africa Badly Needed a
Successful U.S.-Soviet Summit
OCTOBER 17, 1986/MONTROSE VOICE 9
By A.M. Babu
Pacific News Service Commentary
Special to the Montrose Voice
Despite shrill accusations of superpower collusion by some Third World
leaders, poor countries had much to
gain if the recent summit had been successful.
Third World countries, especially in
Africa, are inherently unstable—many
are artificial colonial creations suffering from economic stagnation, border
conflicts, coups and counter-coups, liberation movements.
Again and again, the superpowers
have exploited these conflicts for their
own global interests, further destabaliz-
ing the Third World. That is why
genuinely non-aligned African leaders
had wished for a Reagan-Gorbachev
summit that would have minimized
Africa contains two of the most dangerous trouble spots that could trigger
superpower confrontation: the Horn of
Africa, with its proximity to oil-rich
Saudi Arabia, and South Africa, with
its Cape route through which oil supertankers pass on their trip from the Gulf.
Moreover, a large part of Africa is Arab
and therefore directly involved in Middle East conflicts.
The urgent need to resolve any one of
these conflicts must not he underrated.
But the most important step the superpowers could take would be to tackle
Africa as a whole—to end their rivalry
on the continent and work jointly to
stop its deterioration to utter misery and
The most glaring examples of countries in deep trouble are those which
have identified themselves with one or
another superpower. Not accidentally,
these also happen to be countries with
intense internal conflicts: Mozambique,
Angola, Ethiopia, Zaire, Sudan, Somalia, for example. The conflicts not only
are sharpened by superpower meddling,
they feed off the frustrations and impatience of an emergent youth who see the
older generation as having messed up
their lives and left them with unbearable debt and mangled economies.
It is sickening to see an ambitious
man like Angola's rebel Savimbi
received on a red carpet by top U.S. officials simply because he makes anti-
Soviet noises. But it is even more
dangerous to international stability for
every ambitious braggart to be assured
of superpower support if he delcares war
on his own government so long as it
happens to be a favorite of the other
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On the economic front, the situation is
a question of life and death. If millions
now perish either through starvation,
malnutrition or related disease when
the continent has only 400 million more
mouths to feed, what will happen by the
turn of the century when there are 400
A tiny fraction of the
expenditure on arms
and space exploration
could transform even
the Sahara into fertile
and lush green fields
This is a question which requires the
superpowers to go beyond minimizing
world tensions to some form of real constructive cooperation.
The greatest and immediate need is
water. Though Africa abounds in rivers,
water is scarce on much of the continent. The United States and the Soviet
Union have accomplished miracles in
water works—the Soviets have just
embarked on another gigantic scheme
to redirect water down a 2000 kilometer
canal to arid parts of Soviet Asia at a
mere cost of $10 billion.
A tiny fraction of the superpowers'
expenditure on arms and space exploration could transform even the Sahara
into fertile and lush green fields.
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With their combined expertise and
resources, the United States and Soviet
Union could embark on a joint enterprise to change the face of Africa
through irrigation canals, land fertilization, reforestation—and even guarantee it future rain.
The responsibility for such a project
could be extended to include other permanent members of the UN Security
Council, Japan and Germany. If the
summit process had gotten the discussions going, the UN could have then
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summoned a special conference of the
Security Council and the Organiztion of
African Unity to work out a 20-year program for water and land transformation for Africa.
This was the best and only way to end
the Cold War in Africa, rescue the continent and further world peace in the process.
PNS associate editor A.M. Babu. a former economic
development minister of Tanzania who has taught a!
Amherst and other U.S. colleges, is a veteran analyst
of African and Third World affairs.
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