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The President's Trip to Africa Remarks During a Briefing for Reporters on Board Air Force One en Route to Monrovia, Liberia

April 03, 1978

SECRETARY OF STATE VANCE. Why don't we start off by talking about the release which was just issued on the meetings which the United Kingdom and ourselves are going to call on the Rhodesian question.

As we announced this morning, this follows the meetings which the President had with General Obasanjo and which I subsequently had with the foreign ministers of several of the frontline states. As we indicated, there will be two meetings.

The first of the meetings will be with the participants to the Malta Conference, namely, with the leaders of the Patriotic Front, plus the Foreign Ministers of the frontline states and Namibia, who will be invited to attend as well.

That will lead up to an all-parties meeting which we hope to have with all of the parties to the Rhodesian matter.

As to the dates on which these meetings will be held and the exact places, they are being worked out with the respective parties in the capitals. The first meeting, I would hope, would take place around April 15. If that's convenient to all of the parties, that would be convenient for both David Owen and myself and Andy Young, who will be there, 'and it would also be convenient to the foreign ministers of the frontline states in Namibia.

We have not heard yet whether that will be a convenient date for the leaders of the Patriotic Front, and I also will have to check with the Secretary General tomorrow to see whether General Prem Chand can attend on that date.

Q. Is he head of the OAU?

SECRETARY VANCE. No. Prem Chand is the U.N. Representative who was appointed by the Secretary General to work on the Rhodesian problem and to report back to the Secretary General and the Security Council.

Q. Where would this meeting be, at the U.N.?

SECRETARY VANCE. No. It will be in Africa. The final place of the meeting has not yet been selected. But if I had to guess, I would guess it's going to be in Dar Es Salaam.

Q. That means you will have to go back.

SECRETARY VANCE. That means I'll have to go back.

Q. Shortly?


Q. Oh, joy. [Laughter] Strike that. [Laughter]

SECRETARY VANCE. As I say, the invitations are being conveyed to the various parties by the British and American representatives today.

Q. Have you sounded out anyone preliminary to the invitations to see whether they'd accept them or not?

SECRETARY VANCE. I am informed that the leaders of the Patriotic Front have agreed to attend such a meeting and to also attend—

Q. The leaders of the Patriotic Front?

SECRETARY VANCE. And when I say such a meeting, I mean both the meeting, the preliminary meeting with the leaders of the Patriotic Front, and an all-parties meeting as well.

Q. Is Ian Smith and the internal settlement group going to be the toughest nut to crack?

SECRETARY VANCE. Yes. We haven't heard from them, of course, because the invitations to attend such a meeting are merely being extended today, and we haven't heard anything from them yet. And I don't expect to hear from them in the immediate future.

Q. Do you anticipate they'll be the most difficult to get into the meeting?

SECRETARY VANCE. I would think so, yes, because we already heard from the others. We know the others are going to come.

Q. Were invitations to both meetings going out today, Mr. Secretary?


Q. Is that what you are indicating?


Q. Have you sounded many out at all on the subject?

SECRETARY VANCE. We have not, no. As I say, the invitation will be conveyed to him today.

Q. What is new about this from yesterday?

SECRETARY VANCE. From yesterday, we have now set specific times for the meeting and have confirmed that the Patriotic Front is prepared to attend both sets of meetings, so that we have more specificity on that. We also know that the frontline states will attend both meetings, and that is in addition to what we had yesterday. And now we are are getting down to the specifics of how to put it all together and get it going.

Q. What is your thought for a date on the second meeting, then?

SECRETARY VANCE. I would hope—this is just my hope—that it could be around the 25th or 26th of April.

Q. The same place?

SECRETARY VANCE. No. I think it would probably be in another place, but where it would be is still very much up in the air—in Africa, but where, I don't know.

Q. Was there any reason to stress this to Great Britain today?

SECRETARY VANCE. No, no. The British are with us all the way on this.

Q. What are our expectations now as far as Smith and the three internal leaders? Do we expect that they ultimately will come?

SECRETARY VANCE. Well, we certainly hope that they will come, because if one wants to find a way to stop the fighting, then you have to get all of the parties together. And that's everybody's ultimate objective, to have a cease-fire, and then to move on to free elections. And the way to get that is to get all the parties together and have them sit down around the table and agree on the transition arrangements necessary to bring that about, to bring about a cease-fire, and then to move on to elections.

Q. Who else, the transition people and the interim government?

SECRETARY VANCE. Yes, the internal people.

Q. You haven't heard from them either?


Q. How did you interpret paragraph 5 of page 6 or paragraph 6 of page 5, where General Obasanjo talked about external groups being involved? 1

SECRETARY VANCE. I interpret that as being a strong statement on his part that it is Africa's desire to settle their own disputes in their own way, and he was merely emphasizing the fact that when outside powers intervene, that this makes the settlement of African disputes more difficult because it gets them involved in the ideological concerns of the great powers. And I think what he's saying, really, quite clearly there is, let the Africans handle their own problems in their own way, and there it specifically refers to the OAU. And it's quite logical that be should emphasize this because Nigeria itself has the responsibility in, for example, the I torn, as the head of the Special Committee which is charged with the responsibility of trying to bring about a peaceful solution of that problem.

Q. Why was not something to that effect included in the communiqué? I mean, you certainly would've liked that.

SECRETARY VANCE. We didn't press for anything like that in the communiqué, because they have a special role to play, as they are the head of the mediation group. But I think it's well and that we were very pleasantly surprised to see that on his own he stated this.

Q. He could be talking about the French, Biafra, or us in Angola, as well as the Cubans, too?

SECRETARY VANCE. Yes. I think he's got his general principle. He's stating a general principle which I think be believes in very strongly, that African problems ought to be settled by Africans, and we agree with that.

Q. Did the question specifically of Cubans in the Horn come up?

SECRETARY VANCE. Yes. That was discussed in our conversations with President Obasanjo and his advisers.

Q. But he doesn't seem to be as concerned as we are.

SECRETARY VANCE. I think he should speak for himself on that issue. I think, you know, you have the language as contained in his toast last night, and I would think you could draw your own conclusions from that.

Q. The implication that we got yesterday was that Nigerians had expressed somewhat different views on that, and that specifically they had taken the position that African countries have the right to have whatever relations they want to have with the Soviets and the Cubans. That is what we were told by State Department officials in the backgrounder yesterday.

SECRETARY VANCE. Well, I think that it is true that they believe African countries do have a right to have such arrangements as they want with outside powers, but he is expressing in his toasts his views that, basically, African countries should settle their own problems.

Q. Is it a matter that they think African countries should settle their own problems or they just don't like being told by the United States?

SECRETARY VANCE. I don't think it's the latter.

Q. What is the relationship? This is the primary result of the meeting, isn't it?

SECRETARY VANCE. No. I think that that's one of the important results of the meetings in Nigeria, but I think, also, the discussions which we had on a number of our bilateral matters were of great importance. The trade relationships-

Q. Was there any difference in the 4060—you know, the 40 percent-60 percent Nigerian management in foreign investment?

SECRETARY VANCE. Well, there are three different sets. Forty-sixty is only one of the various percentages. They have three categories, and the percentage of Nigerian ownership of the local corporations depends upon the importance of that particular industry to Nigeria. And certain ones where it's not that important, then there's a lesser percentage, and it increases in percentage up to a figure of 70 percent in the most critical kind of industries.

Hi, Mr. President. Do you want this seat?


Q. How did you enjoy your trip to Nigeria? We were talking about the results.

THE PRESIDENT. I thought it was a great trip to all three countries so far, much better than we had anticipated in every way. Of course, our ties with Venezuela have been permanent and assured by two former visits between me and President Perez, but I think the results of the Brazilian trip were more than we had any reason to expect.

The response by the Brazilian Government and people was extraordinary in my opinion, and Nigeria is a country with which we have just entered a new era of consultation, improved trade and diplomatic relations, and obviously it's one of the major new national leaders in the world.

We also enjoyed the trip very much. It was a good experience for us.

Q. There any low points?

THE PRESIDENT. NO, I thought the translations [laughter] .

Q. You only have yourself to blame.


Q. In Nigeria, was very bad.

Q. I've got a question for you.

THE PRESIDENT. I understand that when we get to Liberia, we're going to be having some southern accents instead of British accents.

Q. Listen, I had a little trouble understanding Obasanjo.

THE PRESIDENT. That's British, but you won't have any trouble in Liberia because they still speak with a southern accent.

Q. Which is hotter, Nigeria or a peanut field in Georgia?

THE PRESIDENT. A peanut field in Georgia. [Laughter] I think it was 87 in Washington yesterday.

Q. It was. I talked to my wife last night.

THE PRESIDENT. It was a good trip, though.

Q. You were pleased with your meetings with Obasanjo? You really thought you had some new understandings or anything? We're mainly concerned about this business in the Horn, that they don't seem to put the same emphasis that you do on it.

THE PRESIDENT. I think his comments last night, both when we signed the joint communiqué and at his toasts, showed that he's very concerned about foreign troop presence in Africa.

I know that Tolbert in Liberia has been even more outspoken on this subject. Mobutu in Zaire is very concerned about increasing Cuban presence in the nations around him. Secretary Vance is much more conversant with the latest developments.

SECRETARY VANCE. The same is true with respect to Senghor and to Houphouet-Boigny, too. They both expressed concern about this.

Q. On Brazil, Mr. President, how do you read the communiqué statement on human rights, the expression of preoccupation with the subject by General Geisel, in view of the fact that there obviously are deficiencies in the country? Is there a real indication that they're going to return to democracy any time soon?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there are real deficiencies in our own country as well, but I think if you judge the progress over the last 10 years, it is a matter of some satisfaction on the part of President Geisel.

I was there 6 or 7 years ago, and there was no room for public debate or controversy. The press was very reticent in their criticism of the government. I think Cardinal Arns' ability to speak as freely as he does is all a sign of improvement. The number of political prisoners has been reduced 90 percent. There are still a few.

Q. Do you think General Obasanjo shares your concern? Did you get the impression from your private conversations with him that he shares your concern about the Horn and the Soviets and Cubans there?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I think that there's a difference in emphasis. Obviously, we don't see everything from the same perspective. He has been deeply concerned, as he expressed to me in months past, that the international borders in Africa be observed rigidly because, as is the case all over the continent, these were arbitrarily drawn by European colonial powers in decades gone by, and for any of those international borders to be changed sets a precedent that concerns all the national leaders in Africa.

So, the invasion of the Ogaden area was of deep concern to him because of that reason. We, of course, joined in with Obasanjo, the frontline presidents, and all others, to urge the Somalis to withdraw. I think that was his main preoccupation.

Our main concern there is the permanence of any Cuban or Soviet military forces in Ethiopia. He shares their concern. But I think the emphasis has been different.

We have a difference in approach to South Africa. I think he would be much more aggressive in total embargo against South Africa. We feel that the interest of southern Africa is best served by the policy that we are now pursuing.

Q. Did he understand the difficulty of your position there?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, as I say, I don't think we have any disagreement. I understand his position; he understands mine. We understand that we looked at it from a different perspective, but we honor each other's differences. There's no dispute between us.

He realizes that we had an arms embargo against South Africa before the United Nations acted to impose a worldwide embargo on arms shipments to South Africa.

Q. What did you sense his feelings are on a price increase in OPEC?

THE PRESIDENT. It's obvious that both Nigeria and Venezuela prefer a price increase.

PRESS SECRETARY POWELL. We've only got about an hour to get this wrapped up. It is about 1 hour.

Q. I thought in your speech that you were hinting on stronger action on South Africa if they continued the policy of apartheid.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, we are approaching a time of testing of the South African Government's position on Namibia. We don't have a final and definitive answer from them on the United Nations proposal, which we and the other four Western powers on the Security Council are putting forward.

I think if South Africa should reject a reasonable proposal and move unilaterally on Namibia, it would be a serious indication of their unwillingness to comply with the legal position of the United Nations and the rest of the world. This would be one thing that can precipitate a more serious difference between us and South Africa.

MR. POWELL. Thank you all.

REPORTER. Thank you.

1 The reporter was referring to a portion of the transcript of the state dinner toasts which appears on page 657 of this volume.

Note: The briefing began shortly after Air Force One had departed Murtala Muhammed Airport in Lagos,

Jimmy Carter, The President's Trip to Africa Remarks During a Briefing for Reporters on Board Air Force One en Route to Monrovia, Liberia Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/244863

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