September 5, 2016 will mark 40 years since my younger brother, Michael Charles, was murdered in mysterious circumstances in Accra, Ghana. He was on summer break after the first year of classes in a two-year land program at a school in Kumasi, Ghana, which is about 200 miles inland from Accra, which is on the West African seacoast.
In Belize, my younger brother, who was the best athlete in our family, had been actively involved in UBAD, and he was tried and acquitted in the Supreme Court in October of 1972, along with Norman Fairweather and Edwardo Burns, for various insurrectionary activities on the night of May 29, 1972.
At the time all this excitement was taking place, Michael was employed at the Lands and Surveys Department in Belmopan where his uncle, the late James Valancourt, was the Lands Commissioner. He had resumed his job after arrest, interdiction, and acquittal.
In early 1973, the UBAD movement began to split down the middle, as half its leadership wanted to join the Unity Congress, the precursor to the United Democratic Party (UDP) which was formally established in September of 1973.
Although my brother and Norman Fairweather, a leader of the Unity Congress faction, were very good friends, Michael, of course, remained loyal to me. UBAD ended up, after the 1973 division, being dissolved in November of 1974.
Several young Belizeans from Lands and Surveys had already done the two-year program in Kumasi, including Marion Paolino and Norman Arnold. So, as 1975 began, a Kumasi scholarship having been available for Michael for some time, I urged him to take it and make a career for himself outside of the cruel streets.
Miguel left Belize, along with the one Berisford Emmanuel, in September of 1975, I believe. They had completed the first year of studies when word reached Belize that Michael had been killed in Accra. Five days after the crime, the British Governor sent the Commissioner of Police, Esmond Willoughby, to inform my parents, who were in Belize City for the September celebrations. This was totally devastating news for our family. I was in Merida, buying football boots for the Charger team, when I received the news by telephone, on September 10, 1976. The days and weeks ahead would be the worst time of my life. My brother’s body took 24 days to reach Belize after his murder.
I’m trying to give you some background as to why I have been very interested in the career of Henry Kissinger, as updated for me recently in a book by Greg Grandin entitled Kissinger’s Shadow. Kissinger and his boss, U.S. President Richard Nixon, would have come to power in January of 1969, just weeks before the formation of UBAD in February of that year. The evidence now proves conclusively that Henry Kissinger was a white supremacist and a war criminal.
After Nixon was forced to resign in 1973 because of the Watergate scandal, Henry Kissinger continued as the most powerful foreign policy technocrat in the United States of America during the presidency of former Vice-President Gerald Ford, who served out the remainder of Nixon’s 1972-1976 second term.
In the remainder of this column, I will quote from pages 121 to 123 of Grandin’s book, published last year by Metropolitan Books. I want to give you an idea of what was going on in Africa in 1976. I sincerely hope you will get a copy of this book and read it for yourself.
Kissinger’s wars in southern Africa were catastrophic. In Angola, the MPLA was proving formidable, and South Africa’s incursion promoted Cuba to enter the war, with Fidel Castro’s army routing the US-backed invaders. Kissinger began to waver, “Maybe we should let Angola go,” he said to Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser, in early 1976. “This is going to turn into a worse disaster.”
It did. The civil wars spun out of control. Panicked white-minority governments in Pretoria and Salisbury were striking first this way, then that. In response, Havana made it known that it would increase its support for freedom struggles. Castro’s remarkable victory in Angola had already raised his prestige. If the war were to escalate and if Cuban troops were to vanquish white supremacy elsewhere, in Rhodesia, for example, that prestige would increase many fold.
Adding to Kissinger’s worries was a series of critical articles, starting in 1974, in the U.S. and international press on his “tar baby tilt.” Morally defending anti-Communism, even if it meant relying on murderous dictators, was one thing. Justifying his support for white supremacy and racism was quite another. Kissinger was forced to reverse course and play the peacemaker. In April 1976, he took a tour of Africa, meeting with left-leaning leaders, talking about universal and “common” values, and affirming African “aspirations.” He visited Victoria Falls, toured a game park in a Land Rover, donned a dashiki, and referred to Rhodesia as Zimbabwe. “Africa for Africans,” Kissinger told Jet magazine upon his return, saying that Washington shouldn’t force the diversity of the region into a Cold War template.
Then, in order to preempt another triumph for Castro, Kissinger helped negotiate the surrender of Rhodesia’s white supremacist government. “I have a basic sympathy with the white Rhodesians,” Kissinger, the refugee from Weimar Germany, said, “but black Africa is absolutely united on this issue, and if we don’t grab the initiative we will be faced with the Soviets, and Cuban troops.”
This about-face notwithstanding, the damage was done. Kissinger left behind him a terrorist infrastructure that would be rebooted by the New Right. Hard-liners in the Reagan White House, as part of their revival of the Cold War, continued to support apartheid in South Africa and, even more tragically, murderous pro-Washington insurgents in Mozambique and Angola. In Mozambique, RENAMO, or Resistencia Nacional Mocambicana, was brutal, known for cutting off limbs and mutilating the faces of civilians. “There can be no ambiguity as to the terrorist activities of RENAMO,” wrote the US embassy in Maputo; its “insurgents have engaged in increasingly cruel and senseless acts of armed terrorism.” In Angola, Washington-backed rebels were led by Jonas Savimbi, described by the British ambassador to Angola as a “monster” whose “lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people.”
Savimbi was first cultivated by Kissinger, who spent millions on him. Now, he was taken up by Reagan, who in 1986 hosted him in the White House and praised him at the annual dinner of the Conservative Political Action Conference. After hailing “the rise of the New Right and the religious revival of the mid-seventies and the final, triumphant march to Washington in 1980,” Reagan turned to the revolution abroad, toasting Savimbi. The “revolutionary” struggle of Angola’s “freedom fighters,” led by Savimbi, “electrifies the world.” “Their hopes,” Reagan said, “reside in us, as ours do in them.” Two months later, the administration provided Savimbi’s rebels with a $25 million aid package, including surface-to-air missiles.
Scholars estimate Savimibi’s insurgency cost 400,000 lives. All told, historians guess that these wars killed as many as two million Angolans and Mozambicans. Neither country “disintegrated.” But they were devastated, their infrastructure ruined, their governments militarized and bankrupted, their hospitals and morgues filled beyond capacity. Mozambique’s civil war ended in 1992, while fighting in Angola dragged on for yet another decade.