Aid Effort Tied To Africa-Wide Security Needs

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

THE drought relief program in southern Africa reflects changing views of regional and global security and the hopes of many that this region can eventually play a role in the revival of sub-Saharan Africa.

"Failure to address the cycle of drought, war, and famine in the Horn of Africa now poses a real threat to international security," says a Western diplomat here. "In southern Africa, forward planning by the international community - in close consultation with the region - has averted a famine, so that security problems in Mozambique and Angola can probably be resolved with more modest international intervention."

International diplomats are redefining global security in a way that identifies as an essential element the stabilization of war- or famine-ravaged countries.

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"In the past, the motivation for aid to the third world was solidarity and assistance," says Aldo Ajello, United Nations special envoy in Mozambique. "There is a serious threat that the cold war confrontation between East and West could be replaced by an even more intense conflict between North and South. To prevent instability and martial law on a wide scale, we must be prepared to invest in the South."

Potential investors in Africa - particularly the United States, Japan, and the European Community - have long looked to a post-apartheid South Africa as the one country with a sufficiently developed economy to be the conduit for substantial investment to the region. As South Africa resolves its internal political problems, sub-Saharan countries are anticipating new trade and investment ties to help boost their economies.

"The fact that southern Africa is seen as the hope for reviving the [sub-Saharan] region has made [relief aid] donors more forthcoming," says David Morton, director of the UN World Food Programme in Zimbabwe. "If the international community can help southern Africa through this rough patch, it will be in a far better position to recover and play the role expected of it."

But getting over "the rough patch" will not be easy. The drought threatened to devastate the region at a critical stage in processes of democratization, economic reform, and resolving conflict through negotiation. Angola and Mozambique are in early, fragile stages of demobilization and the holding of elections. South Africa remains a tinderbox, with talks stalled and violence continuing.

These same countries are inching out of a period of regional animosity, in which black-ruled states provided havens for South African guerrillas and Pretoria in return carried out a covert destabilization policy against its neighbors, using surrogate groups such as the Mozambique National Resistance Movement and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola to sabotage rail lines and strategic installations.

A 1989 UN report estimated that this destabilization cost neighboring countries a staggering $60 billion.

"Transcending the era of destabilization is not going to happen overnight," says a Western diplomat. "But the kind of cooperation the drought relief effort has made a necessity is a very good start."

Regional integration is likely to be a complex and troubled process because of the huge imbalance between South Africa's economy and the much smaller and more vulnerable economies of its neighbors. These countries will seek "an equitable and balanced relationship," says Southern African Development Community executive secretary Simbarashe Makoni.

The drought relief effort appears to be providing a means for closing the book on a decade of cross-border hostilities and mutual suspicion and opening the way for discussion of a more stable, joint economic future.

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