Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

New push on Namibia

If a two-track voting process is democratic enough for West Germany, shouldn't it be democratic enough for an emerging African state? Indeed, the controversy over such a process for Namibia has less to do with its merits than with a surrounding atmosphere of suspicion. Dispelling this suspicion must be part of the new push to accelerate resolution of Namibian independence issues by the so-called contact group of five Western nations. It was encouraging that the foreign ministers of these nations, including the United States in its leadership role, took time from a NATO conference in Luxembourg to announce renewed determination to meet their target of getting started on self-rule this year.

This determination ought to include increased efforts to persuade the front-line black African states to use their influence with the SWAPO insurgents of Namibia as they did with the previous insurgents of Zimbabwe. As it is, they have joined SWAPO in rejecting the proposed voting system after all parties had accepted the constitutional principles in phase one of the negotiations.

About these ads

SWAPO leader Sam Nujoma reportedly was concerned about the system less as an influence on the outcome of elections for a constituent assembly than as one concession too many to South Africa, which now rules Namibia in defiance of the United Nations. The system, roughly comparable to West Germany's, would combine direct voting for candidates and proportional representation voting for parties.

Here is where suspicion figures in the Namibian context. For the mechanism was adopted at least in part to meet South African concern for protecting ''ethnic rights'' or white minority representation. Mr. Nujoma called it too complicated. But there was speculation that he was suspicious of it as something acceptable to South Africa and backed by the Reagan administration with its leanings toward South Africa. One view was that his doubts about the administration were such that he would never complete negotiations under its auspices.

On the other hand, since the voting mechanism was widely acceptable in itself , some thought he was nudged against it for political reasons by Soviet supporters. There was said to be some evidence to this effect. Certainly it would serve Moscow's purposes to sow unnecessary discord in this way. Its opportunities for doing so could be reduced by US and other Western efforts to allay SWAPO suspicions of sell-out to South Africa.

In any event, the Western contact group seems wise not to let a snag in phase one of the negotiations prevent it from going on to phase two. Phase two directly addresses the matter of suspicion on South Africa's side -- suspicion that its interests will not be treated impartially by the UN as a supervisor of the turnover of power, and that the composition of a UN force to oversee the process might work to the disadvantage of South African security.

The foreign ministers in Luxembourg said they expected to put forward proposals on these issues soon. It can hardly be too soon.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.