OAU summit: short-term answers for long-standing problems

Organization of African Unity leaders are returning home from a meeting dubbed by Boutros Ghali, Egyptian minister of state for foreign affairs, "the summit of interim solution."

There was predictable criticism of South Africa's racial policies, and a unanimous condemnation of the Reagan administration for being in collusion with Pretoria in trying to block efforts to end South Africa's rule in vast, barren, but mineral-rich Namibia (South-West Africa).

But these were easy ideological stands to take for an organization that today is characterized less by its unity than its deep divisions on a number of critical political issues.

The organization also is deep in the red through the failure of many members to pay their dues. The result: It has neither the funds nor the machinery to provide the inter-African peace-keeping force proposed for Chad.

Other intra-African disputes, such as those in the Horn between Somalia and its neighbors and the recent border flare-up between Nigeria and Cameroon, were shunted to new or existing ad hoc commissions.

On southern African issues, several members criticized the United States in stronger terms than they had done in previous years for its alleged "unholy alliance" with "the racist, terrorist regime" in South Africa.

A notable undercurrent at the summit was the resentment felt by many black African delegates at the time taken up with purely Arab issues.

The outstanding event of the OAU gathering was the announcement personally made by King Hassan II of Morocco, agreeing that a referendum be held in western Sahara, where his troops have been embattled with Polisario guerrillas since Spain's withdrawal from the territory in 1975.

Polisario has been supplied with Soviet arms by Algeria and Libya. The United Nations and the OAU have repeatedly called for a referendum, a proposal hitherto rejected by Morocco but accepted by Polisario.Both the Carter and Reagan administrations continued to supply Morocco with weapons while pressing for a negotiated settlement.

The cool, even hostile, reaction to the King's statement by Polisario and its backers at the conference may have been partly tactical. But it does augur a tough struggle before the OAU-appointed committee is able to supervise the proposed plebiscite on separate independence or incorporation with Morocco.

Resolution on Chad's civil war, while calling for a pan- African peace-keeping force, seemed to lean in favor of President Goukhouni Woddei, whose faction has been installed and maintained in power with Libyan troops.

At the gathering, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was accorded a status akin to that of the three remaining southern African movements, instead of being counted among other observers, such as those from United Nations bodies.

Among more than 80 resolutions approved by the heads of state and government were half a dozen dealing with Middle East affairs.

During the conference the Nairobi Standard, which is close to one faction within the Kenyan government, ran a campaign against Libya's allegedly aggressive and subsersive role in Africa. In one editorial, the newspaper accused Libya of using its oil wealth to attempt to lead Africa to take an unbalanced stand on Middle East issues.

This position found some support among delegations, but the consistently anti-Israeli tone of the declarations did appear to reflect the views of most African countries.

What they took exception to was the introduction of intra- Arab disputes into the resolutions and functioning of the OAU.

Some OAU members, who are also Arab League members, staged a walkout when the Egyptian representative spoke, in conformity with their diplomatic boycott for its unilateral peace with Israel.

This led President El Hadj Omar Bongo of Gabon to declare: "When are we going to have peace with Egypt? The OAU is not an Arab affair: It is African and we should treat it as such. Arabs should deal with their problems within the Arab League."

The Arab boycott of Egypt has prevented the convening of the Afro-Arab summit , since Egypt would participate as an OAU member, although it is suspended by the Arab League.

After a long debate, the OAU summit included a mild and indirect rebuke of Egypt's separate peace with Israel in its mai n Middle East resolution.

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