President Jaafar Nimeri of Sudan called upon Africa yesterday to reject all forms of foreign intervention and warned that the escalating involvement of the big powers was taking the continent down the path of "war and destruction" traveled by Southeast Asia.
Opening the 15th annual summit of the Organization of African Unity, Nimeri said that "the flow of armies" cominmg to Africa and the cycle of intervention and counter-intervention by the big powers and their allies was "about to surfeit our possibilities to defeat it."
"Some of these came as a result of big power conflicts, some with faces we know and some with new ones," he told the assembled 34 African chiefs of state or heads of government and U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. "All are competing once again for our continent in ever widening cycles of intervention.
"I do fear that our continent will go the same path that Asia has taken for 20 years of war and destruction."
The meeting has brought together the largest number of African leaders since the organization was founded 15 years ago in the midst of another crisis of foreign intervention, centered then as partly today around Zaire.
While Nimeri specified no one country as intervening, it was clear he was referring primarily to the more than 45,000 Cuban troops and advisers now stationed in some 13 African countries, the roughly 8,500 French in seven other countries and Soviet and Western military aid in several African conflicts.
The Sudanese leader, who is about to become the organization's chairman, seemed to condemn indirectly both Soviets and Cuban-backed Angola and Ethiopia and Western-supported Zaire when he said Africa had to reject calls for foreign intervention "to silence some minorities asking for the attainment of legitimate aspirations instead of [accepting] negotiations to solve the differences."
Africa, he said, also should reject such intervention when it was intended to suppress "an internal authentic popular movement against a foreign oppressor."
He called for the strengthening of the African organization's committees of defense and of mediation and reconcilation to solve both conflicts and limit the need for the recourse to outside troops.
If Africa was obliged to create its own military force to do this, he continued, "it should be composed exclusively of Africans and according to the principles and objectives of our organization." This was a critical reference to the multinational African army now stationed in Zaire's southern Shaba Province to maintain the peace there.
Although first viewed in some Western and African quarters as the nucleus of a pan-African army, the peacekeeping force in Shaba generally was rejected here as such an army during the foreign ministers meeting before the summit.
Nimeri said the main objective of Africa should be to preserve it from the dangers of blocs and spheres of influence," and to aim at the consolidation of the nonaligned movement.
The one issue where Nimeri did call for outright confrontation rather than a spirit of reconcilation was in dealings with South Africa, which he called "the gravest problem of this continent if not of this century."
Liberian President William Tolbert condemned the agreement in early March between Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and three moderate Africa leaders for the establishment of a black-majority government by the end of this year.
Representatives of the new biracial transitional government tried to address the foreign ministers last week but were refused entrance and forced to leave the county. With moderate states like Liberia and Kenya against the government, it seems to have little chance of gaining any recognition from the African organization summit.
As if to make clear which parties the organization is supporting in the Rhodesian struggle, it chose Robert Mugabe, co-leader of the guerilla alliance known as the Patriotic Front, to give the summit address on behalf of all the African Liberation movements.
Mugabe said the fron was ready to attend a general constitutional conference with the Salisbury government leaders but also made clear the guerrillas were dedicated to overthrowing them.