Commonwealth chief jets in unexpectedly

The frenzied round of negotiations between South African politicians and potential international mediators reached a new pitch last night when Commonwealth Secretary General Chief Emeka Anyaoku flew into Johannesburg for an urgent and unexpected meeting with President FW de Klerk. At the meeting, held in Pretoria, Anyaoku offered the Commonwealth's services as monitors of the current violence, observers of peace initiatives and facilitators of the col­ lapsed negotiations process.

Sources said that high on the agenda was likely to be a proposal-support­ed by the United Nations, the Organisation of African Unity and the European Community to resolve government-African National Congress differences over controlling the violence by giving foreign monitors a role in running South Africa's wobbly Peace Accord structures. While the four international organisations favour a higher level of involvement, this proposal may be more acceptable to the government and would, at the very least, call for foreign lawyers and policemen to be incorporated into all peace-resolution commit­ tees throughout the country.

Despite De Klerk's open call for international fact-finding missions, his government is still highly sceptical about inviting foreign observers and monitors, which is a primary demand of the ANC to be met before the resumption of negotiations .The international community believes that despite official nervousness, the South African authorities have already accepted the principle of foreign monitoring. De Klerk and Anyaoku have met twice already and relations between them are, according to sources from sides, "cordial and close".

In the next few days, Anyaoku will also meet ANC officials, Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi and National Peace Accord chairman John Hall Anyaoku is en route from the OAU summit in Dakar, where he met ANC leader Nelson Mandela, Foreign Affairs Minister Pik Botha and United Nations Secretary General Boutros Boutros Ghali. His rapidly arranged visit pre-empts the arrival of Boutros-Ghali, who is expected here soon, and demonstrates again the Commonwealth 's desire to be the primary peace-broker in the South African conflict.

Commonwealth officials stress, however, that any initiatives will be made in conjunction with the other three international organisations interested in mediating. Sources from all four organisations stress that most of the pressure is on De Klerk, who is being urged privately to go further than ever in creating conditions necessary for the resumption of negotiations. "Governments and not oppositions have the responsibility for maintaining law and order, "commented one ambassador.

While Anyaoku consults local parties about what mode of mediation or observation would best suit them, South African 'human-rights lawyers are planning a conference, probably to be held in Durban, to examine and flesh out the bones of the proposal to incorporate foreign observers within the Peace Accord structures. And Boutros-Ghali continues to drum- up support abroad for the idea. He intends raising the issue in the UN's Security Council next week, and will also advise British Prime Minister John Major and Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd on Thursday. Both Major and United States President George Bush have sent messages to South Africa calling for the resumption of negotiations.

Britain, in its current capacity as head of the EC, is also hastily arranging a long-delayed mission to South Africa by three EC foreign ministers. "We have to time this mission carefully”, a British official said.  “It is likely to be after Judge Goldstone completes his report on Boipatong, but before the planned general strike on August 3. We don 't want the ministers to be caught up in any sort of violence or to be the targets of demonstrators. "Diplomats note that the South African government would prefer EC monitoring, while the ANC would be more supportive of the Commonwealth, which counts many African countries and most of the southern African region among its membership.

Unlike the UN, neither the Commonwealth nor the EC would be in a position to institute a Namibia UNTAG­ style peacekeeping force even if the government were, ultimately, to accept this. The Commonwealth would con­ fine its involvement, in the words of one of its officials, "to observing and facilitating the process, perhaps through the Peace Accord structures". The Commonwealth has generally taken the lead in South African policy, first with the imposition of sanctions and then, last October, by lifting "people-to-people" sanctions at its mile­ stone summit in Harare. Despite the organisation's history as a strident voice against the apartheid regime, it decided at the Harare summit to shift its emphasis away from one­sided support of the liberation movements and towards facilitation of the peace process.

Clearly, the Commonwealth's sense of urgency is motivated by the demands of its member countries. According to the Commonwealth schedule for the lifting of sanctions, trade sanctions may only be lifted once there is establishment of an interim government; already, there is a rift between those nations that are stringently observing this schedule, like Canada and Australia, and those that are effectively ignoring it, like Kenya and Nigeria. – Mark Gevisser & Arthur Gavshon.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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