Peace and prosperity for Africa are distant, Zambia's Kaunda says. Africa's `elder statesman' sharply criticizes West for not taking stronger action against S. Africa

``Peace in southern Africa and economic stability'' for the continent's 450 million people are Kenneth Kaunda's primary goals during his one-year chairmanship of the 51-member Organization of African Unity. But attainment of either goal appears to be a distant prospect, says Mr. Kaunda, President of Zambia.

Africa is headed for a full-blown conflict in southern Africa and economic decline throughout the continent, the newly elected OAU chief said in a recent interview.

While Western nations stand by, President Kaunda said, South Africa's white minority government is igniting a regional conflagration in which ``hundreds of thousands will perish.''

``The whole thing is set for a massive explosion because of apartheid,'' he said.

As evidence to support his bleak view, Mr. Kaunda cited the July massacre of some 400 civilians in southern Mozambique allegedly by South African-backed rebels; continued South African attacks inside Angola; and repeated into neighboring states, including Zambia.

The major Western powers, Kaunda said, have failed to take meaningful action, such as comprehensive economic sanctions, to curb Pretoria's violence against South Africa's black majority and its neighbors.

Racism, he suggested, lies at the heart of the matter.

``Can anyone tell me that Western leaders cannot foresee what will happen here?'' he asked. ``Why is it that when there was a Hitler ... killing whites, the Western world got up to fight? Here we are told that we must be patient.'' The reason, he claimed, is that ``the black man is not worth anything in their minds. They're happy as long as they get their gold, platinum, copper.''

The 63-year-old Kaunda has led Zambia since its independence from Britain in 1964. Today, he is considered by many observers to be Africa's elder statesman. A deeply religious man, Kaunda was born at Lubwe mission in northern Zambia where his father, David, was a Church of Scotland minister. That conviction led Kaunda to form his philosophy of ``humanism,'' a mix of Christian morality and socialist ideals.

He does not share Western concerns about Marxist influence in Africa, saying it resulted from the West's failure to match Soviet readiness to provide military aid to African liberation movements. ``The ideology that made those weapons will surely follow those weapons. I am not afraid of communism because of my belief in Jesus Christ.''

Marxism is not the key problem facing southern Africa, he argued. Rather, it is ``that entrenched clique of racists'' ruling South Africa and the occupied territory of Namibia. For the rest of Africa, economic decline appears almost inevitable. The main culprit, Kaunda said, is a world market in which prices for Africa's raw materials are falling and those of imports from the West are rising.

``The economic order is upside down. Everything we are producing is going away to the developed countries. It's slave conditions again.''

To pay the import bills, Africa, like Asia and Latin America, has borrowed heavily from Western banks. Today, the world's poorest continent has a $200 billion foreign debt, about one-fifth of the third world's total.

Kaunda said Africa cannot repay that debt right now. ``If you have nothing, you have nothing,'' he said. ``So long as the prices of our raw materials are depressed, we can do nothing.''

Bad economic policies and mismanagement have contributed to the continent's economic mess, Kaunda admitted. ``We have made mistakes, of course. We are human.''

Zambia is a microcosm of Africa's problems. It has been a target of South African attacks, ostensibly directed against the banned African National Congress, which is based here.

The Zambian economy has been on a downward spiral since independence, as production and prices of its mainstay, copper, have fallen. The government has failed to diversify its increasingly centralized economy away from copper into agriculture. Zambia's income in 1985 was about one-third of its 1974 level.

On May 1, Kaunda broke off Zambia's four-year-old economic adjustment program with the International Monetary Fund after stiff austerity measures sparked widespread popular unrest.

``I had to drop the IMF because they were asking for the impossible,'' Kaunda said. ``We were living to pay off debts.'' Zambia will unveil a new economic program this month, Kaunda said, and he hoped the IMF would approve it.

But in the short-term, the growing regional conflict is impeding economic development in southern Africa, by disrupting transport, creating millions of refugees, and forcing increased military spending.

The West's lack of resolve in standing up to Pretoria, Kaunda suggested, is costing it ever scarcer political capital in southern Africa. ``Those young people in Soweto, what are they going to think of the West? They are the important ones, not me.''

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