President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia will meet British Prime Minister James Callaghan in the northern Nigerian town of Kanoon Friday to discuss the spreading repercussions of what has become known here as Britain's "oilgate" scandal and the deteriorating situations in Rhodesia and Namibia.
The Zambian leader threatened earlier this week to take drastic action against Britain over the scandal, blaming it for the needless death of large numbers of Africans in the war raging in Rhodesia and spilling over into neighboring Zambia and Mozambique.
Kaunda has become incensed by recent disclosures in Britain that successive British governments knew that Western oil companies, among them the state-controlled British Petroleum, were violating United nations sanctions to sell oil to Rhodesia ever since the whites there declared unilateral independence in November 1965.
The disclosures have reconfirmed Kaunda's longstanding conviction that Britain could earily have toppled the white minority government in Rhodesia had it had the political will to do so, but chose instead to play a double-faced diplomatic game with black Africa.
Zambia has probably suffered more than any other African country from its own relatively strict adherence to U.N. sanctions. In particular, closing its border with Rhodesia has greatly complicated this landlocked nation's rail and road access to the sea.
Zambian government estimates of the cost to the country of its adherence to the sanctions range up to a billion dollars. It regards this as one of the prime causes of an acute economic crisis in the country.
At a press conference Tuesday, Kaunda could scarcely contain his rage with the British government over a government-ordered report by noted lawyer Thomas Bingham published this week in Britain detailing how oil companies had systematically avoided the sanctions.
He said he wanted to allow a week or two to go by to give him time to "cool off" before he made up his mind what action to take against Britain. He said the scandal was far worse than Watergate in the United States because of the high death toll resulting from it and termed it Britain's "oilgate."
A year ago, Zambia initiated a suit against 17 Western oil companies, including British Petroleum and several American firms, demanding $6.8 billion in damages for supplying oil to Rhodesia in breach of sanctions to the detriment of Zambia.
At the time, the action was seen primarily as a publicity maneuver to spotlight the role of these oil companies in sustaining the illegal Rhodesian government. But the whole issue has now taken on far greater importance because of its repercussions inside Britain as a result of the Bingham investigation.
In addition to discussing Zambia's complaint against the British government over the oil scandal, Kaunda is expected to raise with Callaghan his deadlocked diplomacy over Namibia, Southwest Africa and Rhodesia, and ask what steps Britain intends to take next before he decides Zambia's future action.