Canada hosts French-speaking and Commonwealth summits. Apartheid and Africa's economic troubles are high on agendas
Ottawa — Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney will have more than a moment in the foreign policy spotlight in coming days and weeks. Beginning tomorrow in Quebec City, he hosts the three-day second summit of the heads of some 41 French-speaking nations.
``We are trying to give new life to this forum,'' notes the Prime Minister's press spokesman, Mark Lortie. The goal is to create a permanent French equivalent to the Commonwealth, the organization of 45 nations that once were part of the British Empire.
Then, in mid-October, Mr. Mulroney will host the biennial meeting of the heads of the Commonwealth nations in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Key issues at both these gatherings, with many of those attending from Africa, include apartheid in South Africa and assistance for the troubled economies of other African nations.
Canada gives $930 million (US$697 million) a year in aid to Africa, about half of its total foreign aid. Stephen Lewis, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations, was a key leader last year in organizing a $112 billion (US$84 billion), five-year international aid program for Africa.
At the French-speaking summit, discussions will also cover the Chad-Libya fight, troubles in Lebanon and the Middle East in general, the strife in Haiti, international trade, developing-country debt, and the price of commodities. A program for establishing and improving television links between French-speaking nations will be launched.
In preparation for both ``La Francophonie'' and Commonwealth summits, External Affairs Minister Joe Clark traveled earlier this month to four African nations - Ivory Coast, Zambia, Mozambique, and South Africa. It was the first official ministerial trip to South Africa in 25 years. As a strong opponent of South Africa's apartheid policies for decades, Canada is not popular in some governmental circles.
The Canadian government has been a leader in the drive to impose sanctions on South Africa. It spends $7 million (US$5.25 million) a year on scholarships for black students at schools both in South Africa and Canada, and provides another $1 million to support the families of ``political detainees and victims of violence,'' rousing the ire of the white government. Canadian embassy officials attend funerals of those killed in demonstrations and court sessions of blacks or others charged in regard to anti-apartheid actions.
Prime Minister Mulroney visited Senegal and Zimbabwe in January. In Zimbabwe, he held discussions on tensions in southern Africa with Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and the Presidents of Zambia and Botswana.
Mr. Clark's six-day trip also focused on apartheid and its repercussions. He met with senior African National Congress (ANC) leaders in Lusaka, Zambia, and with South African Foreign Minister Roelof Botha in Pretoria. (ANC leader Oliver Tambo may visit Ottawa within the next two weeks.)
At Clark's meeting with Mr. Botha, the two leaders agreed not to rehearse their differences on apartheid and the ANC. Rather, they explored the possibility of negotiations between the South African government and its black opponents. The Canadian foreign minister said on his return that there were no breakthroughs, but the meeting ``may prove to be productive.''
At the Commonwealth meeting two years ago, Mulroney helped negotiate a compromise on the sanctions issue that prevented a breakup of the Commonwealth. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had oppposed sanctions, and some African leaders insisted they could not remain in the group if strong action was not taken. An Eminent Persons Group set up by the Commonwealth had spent nine months trying unsuccessfully to work something out with South Africa. Some modest sanctions were agreed on.
Currently, Canadian sanctions against South Africa include bans on air links, voluntary bans on South Africa tourist promotion in Canada, and an end to agricultural imports. Canada has also banned the import of certain minerals and called for voluntary bans on bank loans, oil exports, and the sale of South African gold coins.
Canada hopes the coming Vancouver meeting will be less preoccupied with sanctions and concentrate on helping ``frontline states'' such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, and Zambia deal with South African subversion and economic pressures.