Interview with operative reaffirms Washington’s role in the destabilization of the continent
By Abayomi Azikiwe
A further confirmation of United States efforts to prevent Africa from reaching its full potential in the areas of genuine self-determination and national liberation, resurfaced in mid-May when damning reports about the pivotal role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the arrest of African National Congress (ANC) and South African Communist Party (SACP) official Nelson Mandela in 1962 were circulated in the international press.
Donald Rickard, who in 1962 was the United States vice-consul in Durban, said he and his superiors believed that Mandela was “the world’s most dangerous communist outside of the Soviet Union” and he had no reservations in regard to alerting the apartheid regime about his location. (Telegraph, UK, May 15, 2016)
Mandela was stopped at a police roadblock in Howick, KwaZulu Natal on August 5, 1962 and arrested. His capture provided the legal and political basis for a number of trials which culminated with the Rivonia Treason convictions resulting in him spending over 27 years in prison. The CIA’s pivotal role in his arrest after 17 months of underground work has been repeatedly documented going back to at least 1990 on the eve of his first visit to the U.S. after his release from prison.
Rickard claimed that ANC informants made him aware that Mandela was traveling to the seaside city and relayed this information to South African police noting that the ANC-SACP leader was planning to return to Johannesburg.
Secret Travels from South Africa
Mandela had traveled outside of South Africa, then under the subjugation of the racist apartheid system of settler colonialism, to garner international support for the national liberation movement and to receive arms training aimed at building the military wing of the ANC, Um Khonto we Sizwe (MK). By early 1961, the ANC declared that it was futile to continue peaceful methods of struggle in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre of March 1960 and other atrocities committed by the Boer-dominated Republic of South Africa.
In March of 1962 Mandela undertook military instructions from the Algerian National Liberation Front (FLN) at their bases across the border in Morocco. Mandela in his testimony in the South African court during the Rivonia Trial in 1964, said that “In Africa I was promised support by such men … Ben Bella, now President of Algeria …It was Ben Bella who invited me to visit Oujda, the Headquarters of the Algerian Army of National Liberation, the visit which is described in my diary, one of the Exhibits.” (nelsonmandela.org)
This diary in question detailed his instruction in Oujda and other Moroccan locations. At present these documents are stored in the national archives under the ANC-dominated government.
An autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” written by Mandela during the transition process of reshaping South African political control from the racist Nationalist Party to the ANC in 1994, he recounted the following: “… we spent several days with Dr. Mustafa, head of the Algerian mission in Morocco … At the end of the three days, he sent us to Oujda, a dusty little town just across the border from Algeria …”
In another publication by Mandela “Conversations with Myself”, includes numerous extracts from his 1962 diary, all of which verifies his military training at Algerian National Liberation Front facilities in Morocco.
Around the same time period Mandela also took military courses in Ethiopia then led by Haile Selassie I. According to an article published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), it says “In July 1962, Col. Fekadu Wakene taught South African political activist Nelson Mandela the tricks of guerrilla warfare – including how to plant explosives before slipping quietly away into the night. Mr. Mandela was in Ethiopia, learning how to be the commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).” (Dec. 9, 2013)
Col. Fekadu later praised the future South African president saying “Nelson Mandela was a very strong and resilient student, and he took instruction well and was really very likeable. You couldn’t help but love him.”
The Ethiopian officer was part of a specialist police force – the riot battalion – located in the suburbs of Kolfe, in barracks that were still being utilized in 2013 at the time of Mandela’s death at the age of 95. Col. Fekadu recalls a “happy, cheerful person” who “concentrated on the task in hand. He was polite, always happy and you never saw him lose his temper.”
South Africa Reflective of Continent-wide Strategy
This phenomenon was part of a broader policy extending from the 1960s to the present.
In 1960, the CIA and the U.S. State Department plotted to overthrow and assassinate Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. Immediately after the former revolutionary Congo prime minister won the largest bloc of votes for his Congolese National Movement (MNC-Lumumba), his government was neutralized and displaced in a coup.
Lumumba later fled to the east of the country where he was kidnapped by forces allied with the imperialists. He was subjected to torture and a brutal assassination. Army Col. Mobutu Sese Seko, a CIA asset, served as the front man for Washington and various mining corporations for 37 years when he was displaced in a national uprising in 1996-97.
Later in the West African state of Ghana, the first prime minister and President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was overthrown in a military and police coup on February 24, 1966 which was coordinated by the CIA. Nkrumah had been a staunch supporter of Lumumba along with dozens of other liberation movements across the continent. (See In Search of Enemies by John Stockwell)
The former Portuguese colony of Angola in southwest Africa was on the verge of national independence in November 1975 when the country was invaded by the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and the CIA in order to prevent the revolutionary government led by Dr. Agostino Neto from taking power. The Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) was aligned with the South West African People’s Organization (SWAPO) of Namibia and the ANC of South Africa.
55,000 Cuban internationalist forces were deployed by the-then President Fidel Castro who worked in conjunction with national and regional forces to drive back the SADF, establishing Angola as a rear base of the struggle to eliminate white-minority rule in the sub-continent.
Between 1975 and 1989, approximately 350,000 Cubans served in Angola. The defeat of the SADF and the CIA in Angola represented a major turning point in the overall movement of the African people for self-determination and sovereignty.
As recent as 2011, the administration of President Barack Obama dispatched hundreds of CIA operatives to Libya setting the stage for a massive bombing campaign which lasted for seven months toppling the government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, a former chair of the African Union (AU), a continental organization that he co-founded in 2002.
Business Insider reported this fact at the time saying “CIA operatives have been working in Libya along with MI6 agents and other spies to gather information for use in airstrikes. They are also finding out details about the rebels who may come to power after Qaddafi. They claim not to be directing rebel actions, according to the New York Times. Obama signed an order several weeks ago authorizing the CIA to provide arms and other support to the rebels. Supposedly they have not supplied arms yet.” (March 30)
These instances represent a few important cases highlight the legacy of U.S. interference in the internal affairs of the African continent. Such occurrences reveal that Washington has never been a supporter of African independence contrasting its stance with that of the socialist countries such as Cuba and the former Soviet Union.