Shultz to get earful of pleas, and criticism, from African leaders
Abidjan, Ivory Coast
African leaders are likely to take advantage of United States Secretary of State George Shultz's first visit to black Africa to press for more American aid to end Libyan aggression in Chad. They are also seeking a new initiative to resolve the continent's financial crisis, and greater pressure to end the apartheid system of racial segregation in South Africa, according to observers here.
One of Mr. Shultz's longest stopovers during his week-long six-country tour will be in the Ivory Coast, where he will meet the veteran and influential President F'elix Houphou"et-Boigny.
The 81-year-old President has made no secret of his hostility for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and what is seen as repeated Libyan attempts to destabilize the region through support of rebels in northern Chad.
Moderate Francophone leaders, disappointed by French reluctance to more actively support Chadian President Hissein Habr'e's attempt to reconquer his country's Libyan-controlled northern region, are likely to urge increased US military aid, observers say. The US recently shipped $15 million of military aid to Chad.
According to Ivorian officials, President Boigny may take the opportunity to point out to Shultz the serious damage caused to his country's export earnings by speculators on international commodity markets. They point out, that one way to help resolve Africa's financial crisis would be to protect commodity exports from artificial price fluctuations caused by speculators.
Ivory Coast is the world's main producer of cocoa and robusta coffee while the US is one of its main export markets. An Ivorian foreign affairs spokesman described bilateral relations with the US as ``excellent,'' adding that ``the visit will help to strengthen ties.''
African leaders headed by President Abdou Diouf of Senegal - Shultz's first stop - are likely to press the Secretary of State for American support for an international conference to discuss ways to ease the continent's estimated $170 billion external debt burden.
Many African officials feel Latin American countries have been given privileged treatment in dealing with their debt. Though Africa's debt is much smaller in absolute terms, it is often greater in per capita terms than the Latin debt. And the level of poverty is much greater in Africa than in Latin America, they say.
The Reagan administration has strongly urged African nations to move toward market-oriented economies. Senegal and Nigeria - another stop on the Shultz trip - are among a number of African countries to have introduced sweeping economic reform programs. They will be looking for debt relief and increased financial aid to help carry out the reforms, which include measures to give more incentive to entrepreneurs and farmers, and to reduce government bureaucracy.
Although South Africa is bound to feature in discussions in all six host nations, Shultz is unlikely to receive much criticism about American policy except from Nigeria's President Ibrahim Babangida.
As one of the main supporters of the outlawed African National Congress, South Africa's most prominent black nationalist group, and advocate of sanctions against South Africa, Nigeria is likely to urge tougher US action against Pretoria.
More diplomatic criticism could come from Senegal's President Diouf, the former chairman of the Organization for African Unity. However, Ivorian Boigny is closer to the US line on Pretoria, and has repeatedly stated his belief in ``dialogue'' rather than ``force'' as the best means to persuade South Africa to abandon apartheid.
Shultz's visit, which will also include Kenya, Cameroon, and Liberia, may help to stimulate US trade with Africa, bankers say. Following the sharp depreciation of the US dollar against the CFA franc - the common currency used in Francophone Africa and guaranteed by the French treasury - US exporters are becoming more price competitive, they add.
Commenting on Shultz's visit, one African academic said: ``It is long overdue. Apart from southern Africa and famine in Ethiopia, the rest of Africa has often seemed to be the forgotten continent as far as the Reagan administration is concerned. Perhaps this will now change.''