In two different places, the cool formality of a Georgetown University Law School hall and the spacious folksiness of the City Council chambers in the District Building, the mention of the freedom of Namibia linked the emotions of the audiences.
At the District Building, where Mayor Marion Barry announced "African Awareness Week" in front of 30 diplomats and 50 other guests, the ambassador of Niger got the first applause of the social occasion when he said, "We are looking forward to Namibia becoming our next free state." At Georgetown, where about 35 attended Amnesty International's "South Africa/Namibia Information Week" program, speaker Randall Robinson got the largely student audience buzzing when he said, "I expect Namibia, without or with the Reagan administration, will be free in the next two years."
The fate of Namibia, the southern Africa nation that has been controlled by South Africa for 60 years, served as a link because Namibia and South Africa are the last two countries on the sprawling continent where the white minority rules, and these countries are serving as the testing ground for the Reagan administration's African policy. When asked what policy should be the priority of an African American alliance, Ambassador M'ailneo N. Tau of Lesotho answered un hesitatingly, "Namibia."
The Reagan policy of "constructive engagement" with South Africa caused dismay among the diplomats. "We are not happy he received the foreign minister of South Africa," said Andre Wright of Niger. "That is a very, very bad beginning and we hope he will correct that." At the Amnesty lecture, Robinson, the executive director of TransAfrica, a lobbying group on African policy, said, "The United States will have to deal with a free South Africa one day. Right now they are tilted decidedly toward the South Africa government. But at the same time I don't think it's a major departure from the Carter administration . . . South Africa is a child of the West."
The main business at the District Building was to try to broaden lines of communiction between the black diplomats and the local community. In between bits of meatballs, provided by the Last Hurrah nightclub, and doro wat, provided by the Abyssinian Ethiopian restaurant, people exchanged cards and views. B. Vandenburg Hall, a local attorney, was trying to meet all the representatives of countries whose minerals he is interested in importing. "Barry deserves a lot of credit for putting this on. Business is business all around the world," said Hall.