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Africa Confidential, March 2003

Caught in the crossfire
Africa Confidential's Special Report on Africa/Iraq and the United Nations Security Council

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The proposed war against Iraq is as unpopular in Africa as it is in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. African governments, none of whom except Sudan have close ties with Saddam Hussein's regime, fear more economic and security problems arising from a new conflict in the Middle East. Many Muslims in Africa, about half the continent's people, see a war against Iraq as some sort of attack on Islam.

Angola, Cameroon and Guinea ­ Africa's three non-permanent members of the United Nations Security Council this year ­ are being wooed energetically by the pro-war (United States and Britain) and anti-war (France, Russia and Germany) factions on the UN Security Council. Alongside Chile, Mexico and Pakistan, the three African states make up the key 'Undecided Six' that either faction has to persuade to win the vote. Despite speculation that all three African states had been persuaded by substantial financial and diplomatic inducements from Washington, at least outweighing anything France would offer, we hear that none of the three have signed up irreversibly to the US/UK position yet.

One problem is that Africa's own organisations, and those international organisations in which there is a strong African voice, have passed anti-war resolutions. African leaders have voted against war on Iraq in four international organisations this year. And these organisations have called on Angola, Cameroon and Guinea to vote accordingly on proposed Security Council resolutions on Iraq. We hear that South African President Thabo Mbeki, African Union Chairman, has personally telephoned the governments of all three countries to encourage them to vote according to the AU position.

The extraordinary meeting of the AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 4 February expressed clear opposition to military action against Iraq. The AU's central organ for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution stated: 'The Central organ is of the view that a military confrontation in Iraq would be a destabilising factor in the whole region and would have far-reaching economic and security consequences for all the countries of the word, and particularly Africa. The territorial integrity of Iraq should be respected, all diplomatic means should be pursued by the international community to ensure that the Iraqi government complies fully with the provisions of Resolution 1441 and that, in any case, any new decision on the matter should emanate from the UN Security Council, after a consideration of the final report of the inspection team.'

The Southern African Development Community, currently chaired by Angola, has endorsed the AU position. At the Non Aligned Movement Summit in Malaysia from 20-25 February, its outgoing Chairman, President Mbeki, endorsed the Summit's resolution on Iraq: that Iraq should disarm in cooperation with UN weapons inspectors but that no military action should be taken against Iraq. The new Chairman of NAM, Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has written to all the UN Security Council members urging them to vote against military action.

And at the Franco-African Summit in Paris on 19-21 February, 41 out of the 42 heads of government or state in attendance backed a French-drafted statement calling for the UN weapons inspectors to be given more time in Iraq and that military action should a last resort, undertaken only with the explicit authorisation of a UN Security Council resolution. Rwanda, whose President Paul Kagame attended a Franco-African summit for the first time, was the only country to vote against the statement. President Kagame told journalists that he opposed the way the statement was introduced at the conference by French officials and without opportunity for serious discussion. Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade and Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio have since expressed reservations on the positions adopted by NAM and the Franco-African Summit and demanded that greater pressure be put on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the form of a NAM delegation to Iraq, calling on him to destroy remaining stocks of chemical and biological weapons and explain what has been done to the former stocks, said by Iraqi officials to have been destroyed.

African American activists, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, have called on Angola, Cameroon and Guinea to oppose military action against Iraq: 'Africa, in particular, would suffer significantly from the global consequences of war at a time when Africans are facing the truly greatest global threat to human security, namely the HIV/AIDS pandemic,' Jackson said in a letter to the Ambassadors of Angola, Cameroon and Guinea to the UN.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the current negotiations at the UN Security Council would involve 'robust discussion' ­ that is political and economic pressure. 'I'm willing to speculate that my good friend Dominique de Villepin, who is currently perambulating around Africa ­ going to Cameroon, Angola and Guinea, to take three countries at random ­ that in his perambulations he's not just having café and a little conversation with those he is meeting. I suspect he is reminding them of their loyalty to Francophone Africa and how that loyalty can be proved or disproved, ' Straw told the British parliament on 12 March.

Two major African American lobby groups in Washington ­ TransAfrica and Africa Action ­ have written both to the US and African governments, objecting to the planned war. In a joint letter to African governments, TransAfrica and Africa Action said: 'We urgently call upon your governments to stand firm against the efforts by the US, Britain and Spain to undermine the work of the UN weapons inspectors now working in Iraq and to initiate a war against Iraq . . . At least 13 African states lost 1 per cent of their gross domestic product due to spikes in the oil prices during the 1991 Gulf War . . . .'


President: Lansana Conté ­ Ambassador to UN: Mamaday Traoré ­ Foreign Minister: François Lonsény Fall

Diplomatic position

Guinea has backed the African Union, Franco-African summit, Non Aligned Movement and Organisation of Islamic Conference statements on Iraq, all of which call for more time for United Nations' weapons' inspectors and oppose use of military force. Conakry's Ambassador to the UN and current Chairman of the UN Security Council Mamaday Traoré favours a consensus on the Security Council, and has suggested drawing up a new resolution with clear benchmarks to measure Iraq's progress on disarmament. Traoré suggested this to British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who drafted a new resolution incorporating such benchmarks in the week ending 15 March.

Publicly Guinea has remained studiously neutral on Iraq but the fact that more than 90 per cent of Guineans are Muslim will feed into the government's decision making on the issues, as will the substantial amount of foreign aid to Guinea from oil-rich states in the Middle East. It is harder to judge how Guinea's current political uncertainties would affect foreign policy. President Conté is debilitated by diabetes and there is no clear process for choosing a successor: many believe a military officer will seize power if the civilian government doesn't clarify the position. It is assumed however that a military regime would be closer to Washington and less susceptible to public sentiment against a war on Iraq.

USA/UK relations

US Assistant secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner met with President Conté on 22 February and delivered a US dossier on the Iraq crisis which hasn't been made public. Kansteiner is said to have promised continuing education and training programmes for Guinea's national army. US military aid currently amounts to about US$3 million to train 800 'rangers'. Guinea's Foreign Minister François Fall met US Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on 11 March for closed door discussions.

Also on 22 February, Britain's Minister for Africa and the Commonwealth, Baroness Valerie Amos, visited Conté in his natal village of Moussayah, 50 kilometres north of Conakry, and pledged a further US$7 mn. to assist Guinea's management of refugees fleeing the wars in Côte d'Ivoire and neighbouring Liberia. Britain and Guinea have a common enemy in Liberia's President Charles Taylor, seen by both as a destabilising force in the region. Britain has worked closely with Guinea since it sent troops to Sierra Leone in May 2000 to shore up the government of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah against rebels of the Liberian-backed Revolutionary United Front. Britain's military force in Sierra Leone has been reduced to a minimal protection unit, although its warships periodically patrol the West African littoral and a company of its Gurkha soldiers landed in Sierra Leone at the end of February.

American aluminium conglomerate Alcoa is a major investor in Guinea's bauxite sector but much of the rest of Guinea's mineral wealth ­ gold, uranium and diamonds ­ has been barely exploited so far. Guinea also wants to access trade concessions available under the US Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Eligibility criteria include several economic policy tests plus an explicit political measure: beneficiaries should 'not engage in activities that undermine US national security or foreign policy interests'. Washington has approved Guinea's eligibility for trade concessions under the AGOA.

French relations

French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin called on the Guinean government in mid-February and on 11 March to urge it to maintain support for the French position of allowing UN weapons inspectors more time to supervise Iraq's purported disarmament. Paris remains the biggest provider of development aid in the form of cheap loans and grants to Guinea, amounting to more than Euro 200 mn. (US$ 205 mn.

Franco-Guinean relations were poisoned in 1958 when French President Charles de Gaulle offered Independence leader Sekou Touré the choice of joining France's post-colonial African community with a French franc-linked monetary system or total Independence. Touré chose the latter stating that he would prefer 'poverty in freedom to riches in slavery'. On De Gaulle's instructions, French colonial officers then withdrew all technical officers and shipped out most of Guinea's non-indigenous technology. Touré then took Guinea into a closer relationship with the former Soviet Union, distancing Guinea from both France and the USA. But since the death of Sekou Touré in March 1984, General Lansana Conté's government has steered a middle road diplomatically, attempting to maintain good relations with Washington, Paris and Moscow. Of the three African states, Guinea would be most likely to abstain if support for a war against Iraq was tested in the UN Security Council.


President: José Eduardo dos Santos ­ Foreign Minister: João Miranda ­ Ambassador to the UN: Ismael Abraao Gaspar Martins

Diplomatic position

'War is inevitable and we're worried about the future of the United Nations .... we're worried about the aftermath of war but I won't reveal Angola's position now, ' said Foreign Minister João Miranda after France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin visited Luanda on 10 March. He added: 'We are not giving into pressure. Angola's position is neither closer to the US nor to France. It is Angola's position. Angola is for peace but the disarmament of Iraq is a primary question.'

Angola's Deputy Foreign Minister George Chicoty told the UN Security Council on 7 March that: 'The Iraqi authorities have to allow immediate and unconditional access for the UN inspectors to pertinent places and information so they can carry on with the process of verifying the existence of weapons of mass destruction.' However, Chicoty reminded the Security Council that the African Union (AU), the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), the Arab League and international public opinion had serious concerns about the use of force in Iraq and supported a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Angola is currently President of the Southern African Development Community which subscribes to the AU position of opposition to a war against Iraq; later this year Angola will host the AU summit and take over the chairmanship of the organisation from South Africa. However, Angola regards itself as a regional rival to South Africa and relations between the two have been awkward in recent years, with Luanda accusing South Africa of failing to prevent illegal arms and fuel consignments to the rebel União Nacional para a Independência Total de Angola, which finally signed a ceasefire agreement after the assassination of its leader, Jonas Savimbi, in February.

Africa's diplomatic strategy cannot be divorced from its mineral reserves, oil, gas and diamonds. Angola's produces some 920,000 barrels of oil a day, most of which is exported to the United States and China. Its oil and gas sector has attracted substantial foreign investment: the USA's Chevron/Texaco is the biggest foreign investor producing some 63 per cent, France's TotalFinaElf produces some 25 per cent, followed by the USA's ExxonMobil and Britain's British Petroleum. The linkage between Angola's oil output and diplomacy is nuanced by Luanda's national strategy: it is happy to pull in US investment, technology and customers for its oil industry expansion but wants to maintain a diversified investment and customer base, which means keeping ties with France and China. This has made Angola even more reluctant than Cameroon or Guinea to choose between the USA and France at the UN Security Council.

USA/UK relations

US Assistant secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner met President José Eduardo dos Santos on 21 February. US oil imports from Angola of just over half if its 900,000 barrel a day production mean that it is Angola's biggest trading partner. And with investments by US oil companies Chevron and ExxonMobil, the US is also the biggest foreign investor in Angola. Last year the US was also the biggest aid donor, providing some US$128 million of mostly humanitarian relief.

A week before Kansteiner's visit both US President George W. Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney had telephoned President Dos Santos to discuss 'international developments'. For Angola, the key issues are securing international support for: (i) a Consultative Group meeting early this year to secure finance for a post-war recovery programme; (ii) an International Monetary Fund-monitored reform programme that could make Angola eligible for low interest credits and substantial relief on its $11 billion foreign debt. But there is no agreement on the conditions for such a programme: so far IMF strictures on public spending and accountablity have proved unacceptable to President Dos Santos' government ­ despite the appointment of some economic reformers in recent years. Equally Luanda is aware that its plans to hold a Consultative Group meeting require it to reach some sort of accommodation with the IMF and World Bank.

Washington might be able to push forward the schedule for the Consultative Group meeting, to be held in Brussels. However the Dos Santos government has an abysmal record on financial accountability; an IMF report leaked last October described how about $1 bn. a year of Angola's oil revenues was unaccounted for each year. It will require more than just pressure from the US Treasury to persuade the IMF Executive to approve new loans and grants for Angola and endorse its economic reform efforts.

President Dos Santos and his advisors at the Futungo di Belas (the President's office overrules the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the high order diplomatic issues) must decide how to target their international relations. Relations have improved over the past decade after Washington finally recognised the Luanda government in 1993. The message from senior officials in Washington to the Dos Santos government is that future relations (including aid flows, investment levels and even oil purchases) will be determined by Luanda's performance on the Iraq issue.

However some historical baggage in Washington-Luanda relations has yet to be dealt with. From 1975 to 1990, Washington and South Africa's apartheid government helped finance Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebels, who claimed to be fighting for multi-party democracy and market economics. More than a million Angolans died in the civil war, which at its peak was killing 1000 people a day. Two of the main US protagonists behind the funding of UNITA as a bulwark against communism, Vice-President Cheney and Secretary for Defense Donald Rumsfeld, are today senior figures in the current US administration ­ and the plan for war against Iraq. Despite this, some senior US diplomats claimed they had secured Angola's support in the UN Security Council for the US government's policy on Iraq.

On 27 February, Britain's Minister for Africa and the Commonwealth, Baroness Valerie Amos, visited President Dos Santos in Luanda to discuss 'regional issues . . . and wider international issues, including the situation in Iraq.' Then on 11 March, Baroness Amos returned to Luanda to meet Foreign Minister Miranda. Prior to her visit, British Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned President Dos Santos to invite him to London for a state visit this year ahead of scheduled elections. Implied in this invitation is British support for a Consultative Group meeting on Angola in the near future.

French relations

France's Foreign Minister De Villepin met with Dos Santos on 9 March to discuss Angola's stance on Iraq. France's direct development support for Angola is lower than the US but France's BNP/Paribas is helping to arrange a $1 bn. oil-backed credit for the Angola government, which currently faces a chronic shortage of foreign reserves despite the sharp increase of oil receipts in recent years. France and Germany, like the USA, are believed to have promised support at the IMF Executive to help Angola secure an agreement with the IMF and a Consultative group meeting on poast-war reconstruction.

However, bilateral relations between France and Angola have soured since President Jacques Chirac state visit to Luanda in June 1998. The main cause was the French judicial investigation into the Angolagate scandal that implicated businessmen Pierre Falcone and Arkady Gadymak in a sanctions-busting oil-for-arms deal in the early 1990s, which accessed French government credits. When the French investigation was under way, President Dos Santos unprecedentedly criticised French policy when receiving the credentials of the French Ambassador to Luanda in 2000. Since then several efforts have been made quietly to improve relations including a series of meetings between the respective heads of the Angolan and French foreign intelligence organisations, General Fernando Garcia Miala and Pierre Brochand. The apparent stalemating of the investigations into Angolagate in France may have shored up the Luanda-Paris axis, although French officials insist that political interference in the issue would be impossible and unthinkable.

In cost-benefit terms, the US is more important than France to Angola in investment, trade and diplomatic weight, even if many in the ruling Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola sympathise with France's anti-war stance. Like others on the Security Council, Angola is reluctant to make public its preference but, if pressed, it would lean towards Washington.


President: Paul Biya ­ Foreign Minister: François-Xavier Ngoubeyou ­ Ambassador to the UN: Martin Belinga-Eboutou

Diplomatic position

Cameroon's position on Iraq, articulated by Yaounde's Ambassador to the United Nations, Martin Belinga-Eboutou, has been that the UN weapons inspectors should have been allowed time to complete their mandate and that the use of military force should be only a last resort. This mirrors the French position almost exactly, which would be likely to be the main external influence on President Paul Biya's decision-making. Biya been fairly inactive in both regional international diplomacy.

USA/UK Relations

US Assistant secretary of State for Africa Walter Kansteiner met President Biya at the end of the Franco African Summit in Paris on 22 February to lobby support for the United States' position on Iraq. Subsequently President George W. Bush telephoned President Biya to reinforce the message. Like Guinea, Cameroon is eligible for bilateral trade concessions with the USA under the African Growth Opportunity Act rules, which also stipulate that participants should not jeopardise Washington's diplomatic and security interests (which would presumably include voting against US-backed resolutions in the UN Security Council). US diplomats, we hear, have been struggling to arrange meetings with Ambassador Belinga-Eboutou at the UN in recent weeks. Washington has far less sway on aid and trade with Cameroon, although US-owned Amerada Hess is a growing player in Cameroon's oil exploration plans and ExxonMobil has the lead contract on the Chad-Cameroon pipeline. In that project all the oil production is in Chad, which reaps most of the economic benefit.

Britain's Baroness Valerie Amos called on President Biya in Yaoundé in mid-February and on 11 March without, we hear, getting assurances of support for the US-UK position in the UN Security Council. Cameroon is a member, albeit an apparently unenthusiastic one, of the Commonwealth. The Biya government's record on tolerating grand corruption and running unfair, unfree elections has attracted criticism from opposition politicians and non-governmental organisations question Cameroon's continued eligibility for Commonwealth membership.

French relations

Cameroon continues to enjoy the warmest relations with France. As Cameroon hosted the last Franco-African summit, President Biya was placed next to President Jacques Chirac at the consultations and banquet, reinforcing Biya's caim to be one of the doyens of Africa's club of Francophone leaders. Biya and Chirac speak regularly on the telephone and meet at least once a year in Paris. It is almost inconceivable that Biya would instruct his Ambassador to the UN to vote against France's position. Although as with Angola and Guinea, France would perhaps be satisfied with an abstention ­ which would still deny the US-UK resolution the nine votes required in the Security Council.

Biya is grateful for France's long diplomatic and economic support. Paris has rebuffed any attempt to censure the Biya government for electoral irregularities, and also helped to secure substantial debt relief for Cameroon from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank under the Heavily-Indebted Poor Country initiative. This is despite HIPC rules which stipulate that only countries classified as International Development Association states would be eligible; this should have ruled out countries classified as poor to middle income, such as Cameroon and Côte d'Ivoire. Paris is also the biggest provider of aid to Cameroon and plans to increase levels still further over the next three years. After the chaos and war in Côte d'Ivoire over the past year, Yaoundé looks set to replace Yamoussoukro at the top of the constellation of Paris' favoured Francophone capitals. This makes a Biya vote against the French resolution even more improbable.