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West Germany helps nudge Angola closer to the West

The very cordial first visit by an Angola foreign minister to Bonn Sept. 15- 17 suggests a new opening to the West by Angola. It also offers a glimpse into the complex mix in Bonn's African policy of history, conscience, rivalry with the other Germany, and use of nonmilitary power.

The most striking aspect of the visit by Foreign Minister Paulo Texeira Jorge is the fact that it is taking place at all. West Germany has hoped for a dialogue for some time. Angola has been wary, and its wariness has presumably been reinforced by the several hundred East German security and technical advisers in Angola even more than by the estimated 15,000 to 19,000 Cuban troops in Angola or the Soviet ships that use Angolan naval facilities.

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As if to underline this connection, the East German Communist Party newspaper Neues Deutschland chose the week of Mr. Jorge's arrival in Bonn to publicize the dispatch of a fifth "brigade" of "internationalists" to Angola.

Bonn's contacts with Angola, by contrast, have been minimal since the African country's independence. West Germany gives no aid to Angola, and two-way trade in 1980 was a marginal 193 million deutsche marks ($80 million).

Jorge discussed development aid with his West German hosts, but nothing has yet been agreed on. In the area of official aid, Bonn seems to be playing a waiting game to see what will develop with the Cuban troops.

Nonetheless, Jorge was very warm indeed at a press conference in Praising Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and West German efforts to promote the independence of Namibia (South-West Africa).

For a decade Bonn has nurtured friendly diplomatic contacts with black Africa , as a whole. It gives its largest block of development aid to Africa, and its trade with almost every African land is the highest (or second highest, after the respective former colonial power) of any non-african country. Moreover, West Germany ran a successful technical training program for Robert Mugabe's nominees before Mr. Mugabe came to power in Zimbabwe (at a time when the Us mistakenly suspected that Mugabe might be tied to Moscow). West Germany has played a prominent role, too, within the Western "group of five" that has been seeking peaceful transition to black rule in Namibia (South-West Africa).

In recent years, West Germany has consistently thought that those African governments that now depend on Cuban troops would be more likely to oust those troops if the West offered them cooperation rather than confrontation. Conversely, it has thought that a more understanding view of South Africa's military invasions of Angola and occupation of Namibia -- such as Washington currently projects -- would only prolong the Cuban presence.

In particular, Bonn has held that Angola, as the most important "front line" state bordering on Namibia, would have to play a major role in any Namibia settlement.

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For all of these reasons, West Germany is a natural partner for Angola to turn to if it is in fact seeking a Western diplomatic and economic alternative to Cuban military support.

Whether or not this process has seriously begun -- and how far it can go -- will remain unclear even after Jorge's visit. One of the main unknowns is the position of the US. The group of the five is said by one knowledgeable source to have reunited after the UN split vote in which the US voted against, France for, and Britain abstained on censure of the recent South African invasion of Angola.

What this unity might mean in actual policy has not yet been made public, however.

For West Germany, the unity of the five on Namibia is crucial and might even take precedence over Bonn's own policy preference for more Western cooperation with black Africa than Washington wishes. It was this priority that made Bonn abstain (on procedural grounds) -- in the UN General Assembly censure vote. It was this policy preference, however, that made Foreign Minister Genscher roundly condemn the South African invasion in a public speech during the Angolan foreign minister's visit.

West Germany's motivation for active cooperation with black Africa is partly historical. In the case of Namibia, it's the obligation of the former colonial power to facilitate the transition to self-determination. West Germany accepts this obligation as a successor state to prewar Germany.

There is also a broader moral obligation felt by th government and activist Lutheran missionaries to promote racial equality, given the fatal claim of Hitler's Germany to racial superiority.

A third explanation lies in Free Democrat Genscher's putting his own political stamp on third-world cooperation -- an area that Social Democratic Chancellor Helmut Schmidt has had little interest in. As it turns out, this has been a policy ideally suited to a medium-size West Germany with only limited military but very powerful economic tools at its disposal.

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