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African rulers focus on southern region and economic recovery. Leaders denounce S. Africa, call for West to send aid it promised

Lines of Mercedes carrying African heads of state pass a park with a huge statue of Vladimir Lenin as chauffeurs turn into the driveway at the headquarters of the Organization of African Unity. Here in Marxist Ethiopia, focus of worldwide relief during the 1983-85 drought, African leaders are meeting to address two key topics: the conflict building in southern Africa, and the economic recovery efforts of this continent's many nations.

The topics are being addressed on two levels - one public, one private - at the meeting that began here yesterday, following a similar gathering of their foreign ministers.

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The international community will be watching this meeting to see if any resolutions are adopted on plans for aid to southern Africa or economic recovery in Africa.

Southern Africa. Publicly, African leaders condemn South Africa's white-minority rule and what is widely held to be a strategy by Pretoria to destabilize the black-ruled nations of southern Africa.

Privately, there is another effort under way. A small amount of military weapons and economic aid is being provided to South Africa's neighbors by some of the other African states. But calls for ``assistance'' to these nations is barely mentioned in the public statements at the OAU gathering.

Military aid by African nations to these nations is provided so ``discretely'' it is not even an agenda topic for the closed-door discussions here, a high-level UN official told The Monitor. The African donors do not want to further antagonize South Africa by broadcasting the assistance, he added.

Economic recovery. African leaders are calling for establishment of an African Economic Community and other steps to spur greater trade among African nations.

To have more goods to trade, African nations should selectively develop more industries, especially to support agriculture, said one government official. And African nations would be better off developing industries ``complimentary'' to those of neighboring nations rather than trying to be ``self-sufficient.'' The West, he added, should help with such development.

Another official said three things are needed to spur African development: ``a state of law'' - where people are protected from arbitrary power including that of their own government; encouragement by governments of individual ``energy and creativity''; and economic reforms.

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Regarding economic reforms and Western response to such reforms in Africa, there is a united expression of disappointment that Western donors are not keeping their part of a deal struck at a May 1986 special session on Africa's economic crisis held by the UN General Assembly.

The `deal' African leaders thought they had made with the West is this:

African leaders would make some politically dangerous, economic, belt-tightening reforms - devaluation of currencies, reduction of federal spending, and privitization of key industries; the West would increase aid to Africa.

The reforms are under way in many African nations. But not much new aid has been forthcoming.

The finances of the UN deal were never specific. But Western nations, especially the US, pushed hard for the reform plan that was adopted. Since the plan calls for more Western aid to support the African reforms, officials here believed funding would follow their reforms.

Beneath the overall common consensus that the West is not doing what it promised to do, there are divisions over how to respond to their disappointment, says the high-level UN official.

A group of African nations that already has close economic ties with Western donors do not want to be told by other African nations that they must condemn donors for not doing more. A second group of nations, mostly small ones, desperately needs more aid and does not want to anger Western donors. And a third, less desperate, group is more boisterous in their condemnation of the West's failure to provide more aid.

To compromise on this issue, the OAU will likely publish statements noting the need for more Western aid, but without an all-out condemnation of donors.

Based on a report released here, the economic reforms many nations are making have had mixed results. On the bright side, there are higher food prices to encourage production; improved irrigation and water management; shifts in education to better promote development; gains in literacy, and promotion of local businessess.

But there has been little progress in regional crop protection, famine early warning systems, rural savings, land reform, or land reclamation.

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