THAW IN MIDEAST; VOLCANO SMOLDERING IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
For the moment, the news headlines continue to be dominated by events in the Middle East. With the rejection of the Camp David accords by the other Arab states to one degree or another, it looks more and more now that Egypt will proceed to sign a separate peace treaty with Israel. President Sadat is more or less committed to this course of action; he is an Egyptian nationalist first, a pan-Arabist second. Sadat has an "out" to the myth of Arab solidarity; he has told the other Arabs that they can join the peace process on their own timetable, according to the "Framework for Peace in the Middle East" he worked out with Israeli Prime Minister Begin.
Sadat's next move toward normalizing relations with Israel, of course, has been expedited by the approval granted by the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to the painful provision in Camp David accords calling for the removal of Israeli settlers from the Sinai. Thus, Sadat will have what he wants most of all, the eventual full restoration of Egyptian sovereignty over the Sinai.
While events appear to be moving toward some sort of a partial settlement in the Middle East, a catastrophe is brewing in southern Africa. So far it has received but scant attention in the world press, but you'll hear more about it as the issue moves through the United Nations.
On September 21, South Africa announced it was forced to reject the U.N. formula for independence for South West Africa (Nambia), a territory Pretoria has ruled since 1920. It instead announced that it was proceeding with its own independence formula, including preparations for free elections.
Earlier this year South Africa agreed to a U.N. plan put forward by five Western nations acting on the U.N.'s behalf — the U.S., Canada, France, Britain, and West Germany. On April 25, Pretoria, despite reservations, accepted the U.N. formula on good faith. In turn, the "Big Five" assured South Africa they would see to it that no changes were made in the plan.
Subsequent events reveal how weak the Western "powers" are in holding to a steady course in the wake of determined opposition. First of all, the Marxist-supported SWAPO group, which is determined to lord it over all of South West Africa's racially divergent peoples, demanded changes in the formula. SWAPO's leaders stalled for time, then announced they basically accepted the plan.
SWAPO also stepped up its acts of terror and violence, striking out from bases in Angola and Zambia. The U.N. said nothing regarding SWAPO's activities, but professed shock and dismay when South African forces launched a heavy attack against SWAPO camps in Zambia. The South African countermeasure served SWAPO's cause well, earning it sympathy from the Third World dominated U.N.
Then finally, last week, a vastly revised U.N. proposal was nut forward calling for 7,500 U.N. soldiers plus another 1,200 "observers" to "supervise" elections (as opposed to no more than 3,000 in the original plan). Another new innovation was the introduction of a U.N. "police force" to more or less shadow the South African police.
Elections were also to be put back some time into next year, since SWAPO wasn't ready to fight the battle of the ballot. (Two years ago South Africa was condemned for waiting "so long" — until December 31, 1978 — to hold elections).
Such a heavy U.N. troop commitment would, in Pretoria's eyes, not be an election-monitoring force but would amount to military presence obviously tilted toward SWAPO's side. (This massive commitment would also soak up half of the annual U.N. budget!) Since the U.N. is already on record as saying that SWAPO represents the sole and authoritative representative of the Namibian people — a gross exaggeration — the U.N. troops would hardly be an impartial body.
SWAPO knows it can't win a free election. Over 85% of Namibia's population (only 900,000 in the whole territory) have already been registered for a vote to elect a constitutional drafting body — despite the fact that SWAPO told its followers to boycott the registration.
However, true to form, South Africa has been cast in the role of the villain for not meekly turning Namibia over to SWAPO on a silver platter.
The upshot of it all is that the U.N. will not recognize any "internal settlement" in Namibia brought about by South Africa's own efforts; SWAPO will turn even more to violence (it has already called for Soviet and Cuban help); and there will be calls in the U.N. to punish South Africa with trade sanctions.
Pretoria has made its decision to draw the line at this point, even with the realization that there may be sanctions levied against it. But the South Africans feel they simply can't back away and subject 900,000 people to an uncertain fate at the hands of a gang of thugs. As the Cape Town newspaper, die Burger, noted: "SWAPO obviously does not want peace in South West Africa and is doing everything in its power to make a peaceful settlement impossible. Its leaders want violence and bloodshed. In this horrible way they want to subject the people of South West Africa to their tyranny."
The news magazine To The Point, in its September 15 issue editorialized: "While in Western capitals some men are charmed by the idea of liberation and talk continually of including savage "liberators" in civilised negotiation, in the rugged terrain near the Zambezi the liberators blast civilian aircraft with missiles and butcher the helpless survivors — all in the name of freedom. Referring to the Air Rhodesia plane downed by the Patriotic Front.
"Yet, if we are to believe some commentators, these same men, purveyors of wholesale murder, must be included in the conclaves of civilised men. Not only must their counsel be weighed, but they must be among the guardians of law... Tomorrow, we are to believe, these men will happily put away their guns and bombs and become humane administrators and model politicians."
The actions of the "liberation" forces remind one of a passage in Psalm 64, verses 3-6, speaking of wicked men "who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows, shooting from ambush at the blameless, shooting at him suddenly and without fear. They hold fast to their evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly, thinking, 'Who can see us?'"
— Gene H. Hogberg, News Bureau
Postscript: Since the above column was written, the world has been stunned by news of the sudden death in Rome of Pope John Paul I after a scant 34 days' reign as Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church. Once again cardinals from around the world are converging on the Vatican to enter into conclave to choose another papal successor. Observers are suggesting that many of the names of possible papal candidates which featured so prominently in speculation before the last conclave may finally come to the fore in this conclave. Among those now being most frequently cited as a good bet is Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, mentioned in an earlier column in the PASTOR'S REPORT as having been the prime promoter of the candidacy of Albino Cardinal Luciani (Pope John Paul I). Benelli — a strong advocate of a united Christian Europe — is widely respected by his fellow cardinals. His relative youth (he is 57) is also a factor in his favor, as cardinals may want to opt this time for a "younger" man who in all probability would enjoy a lengthier reign than his predecessor. In any case, developments in Rome bear closer scrutiny. Further developments will be reported in this column as they occur.