Kissinger’s Footprints in Namibia

DETENTE … Former American diplomat Henry Kissinger, who cast a shadow over world affairs for decades, died this week at the age of 100. Photo: KDVR

Henry Kissinger, the controversial American diplomat, also played a key role in the push for an independent Namibia where his legacy still divides opinion.

The United States (US) diplomat died this week at the age of 100.

While the Nobel Peace Prize winner was lauded by some, he is also seen as a divisive figure and “warmonger” who fuelled regime change and whose power and influence was used in the exclusive interest of the American presidents who roped him into their global political chess game.

One of the officials who met Kissinger was Riaan Eksteen, a diplomat who was a member of the South African Foreign Service for 27 years.

Although Eksteen told The Namibian yesterday that Kissinger was not involved in any peace process in the 1980s to negotiate independence for Namibia, a series of leaked diplomatic cables from the 1970s show that he was involved in trying to broker a deal between apartheid South Africa and Swapo.

Eksteen said he met Kissinger twice, including once when the US diplomat travelled to Namibia’s Etosha National Park.

He said nothing was discussed about Namibia’s future since Sam Nujoma was out of the country at the time.

“The Namibian question was not the major objective . . . although it was discussed.

“Nothing came of Kissinger’s diplomatic endeavours as president Ford lost the presidential election to Jimmy Carter in November 1976 and Kissinger left the administration.

“When the Namibian question was tackled by the group of five, which eventually led many years later to the adoption of Resolution 435 and still much later to Namibia’s independence, Kissinger had no role and was not involved in any of those processes,” he said.


Former prime minister Nahas Angula, however, describes Kissinger as “the devil incarnate”, who stood for white minority interests.

“Don’t ask me about Kissinger. Kissinger was the devil incarnate as far as Africa is concerned. You are just pushing the imperialist agenda. He never cared about Africa,” he says.

“He just served the Americans. He regarded Africa as a backyard of white empire, and I do not think that he even respected black people in America there.”

Ambassador Tuliameni Kalomoh says: “Henry Kissinger’s world view was predominantly based on the strategic American interests . . . He didn’t care about the rights of black people.”

Namibia’s former minister of fisheries and marine resources and Swapo stalwart Helmut Angula says: “I know nothing that we benefited from Kissinger as far as Africa is concerned.”


In 2013, WikiLeaks released more than 1,7 million US state department cables dating from 1973 to 1976, which they have dubbed ‘The Kissinger Cables’.

The cables show that Kissinger played a role in the discussions about Namibia’s independence.

During this time, the cables reveal that Nujoma had expressed disappointment with the US government’s failure to recognise Swapo as the sole representative of the Namibian people.

“Following these exchanges in New York, Nujoma travelled to Monrovia, arriving on 12 October specifically to determine what response, if any, president Tolbert had for him.

“President Tolbert indicated he had no response and undertook, on Nujoma’s behalf, to write to secretary Kissinger,” reads one cable.

One of the cables shows that the Kissinger team pushed for a deadline of 31 December 1976 for Namibia’s independence.

In one cable, an unnamed official is quoted as saying: “I have talked with (then South African ambassador Pik) Botha about how far you might go in your consultations in New York on Namibia. He suggests, after touching base with Pretoria, the following talking points, which he is in the process of clearing with Pretoria. I have been urging him that South Africa must accept a fixed date for independence not later than 31 December 1976.”

Another demand from Kissinger’s team was that South Africa was to send a “representative to negotiate issues which bear on South Africa’s relationship with independent Namibia”.

A meeting is reported to have taken place in 1976 between Nujoma and Nigeria’s Olusegun Obasanjo, which further confirmed the diplomatic power Kissinger exercised over Namibia’s future.

According to the declassified information, Nujoma “asserted that (the) ball (was) in secretary Kissinger’s court to comment on ‘Swapo’s conditions’ and give an update on progress achieved in talks with the South African government”.

Nujoma is reported to have been in a collaborative mood towards a conference to discuss the independence of Namibia, but remained adamant that prisoners had to be set free, as a precondition to negotiations.

The cables reveal that Nujoma himself said he had “passed Swapo’s conditions to secretary Kissinger and was awaiting his response”.

“Obasanjo then presented (the) view that conditions in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa are intolerable and totally unacceptable. The situation is different in each, and solutions sought must differ from one another, but it is essential to find acceptable resolutions in all three.

“He said he realised that it was difficult for secretary Kissinger, having gained Vorster’s cooperation ‘as an ally’ in a joint approach on Zimbabwe, to put pressure on Vorster with respect to Namibia, but this must be done,” reads the cable.

Further revelations are that Nujoma was against the idea of Clemence Kapuuo being part of his delegation to the conference.

He, however, was open to embracing former South African collaborators who had defected to his side.

Obasanjo pressed hard on Nujoma to accept Kapuuo.

“Nujoma said he would, but he did not sound very convincing about it,” reads the cable.

Efforts to get comment from Nujoma’s office were not successful.

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