Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere said today he would back any Rhodesian leader, even Bishop Abel Muzorewa or Ian Smith, who is democratically elected. He denied reports that Tanzania is asking a ransom for Libyan soldiers captured in Uganda, adding that all will be released eventually.
Speaking at a press conference, Nyerere said, "If there was a democratic constitution and free elections [in Rhodesia] and if Muzorewa or even Smith were elected, I'd be the firs to recognize the government. It's not a question of Muzorewa. It's a question of constitution."
Nyerere, who is chairman of the group of five African "front-line" presidents who support the guerrillas fighting Muzorewa's government, conceded that the recent Rhodesian election means "that Smith has won.It's now much more difficult for us to explain that Smith and the white minority still have the power."
He added, "The bishop is no more than a black face covering the power of the minority there. It is not the bishop, poor man, who is waging the war in Zambia or Mozambique. He does not have to power to wage it or stop it."
Nyerere admitted for the first time that Tanzania is holding Libyan soldiers captured during the war in Uganda. In a last-ditch effort to save Idi Amin's regime, Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi sent several thousand soldiers to Uganda to fight the Tanzanians.
Nyerere denied press reports that Tanzania, which spent $500 million in toppling Amin, is demanding that Qaddafi pay handsomely for the release of his men.
The Tanzanian leader said, "We will not receive money for human beings. We're very poor. We have nothing but our respect to maintain, and we'll maintain that respect whatever the cost."
He added, "Libya will get all her prisoners back. We will not sell them."
According to a well-informed diplomat here, Tanzanian holds 47 Libyan prisoners and recently released 10 others. The source said the Red Cross has visited the Libyans, who are being held in central Tanzanian, and has reported they are in good condition. He confirmed that Tanzania has neither asked for nor been offered money for them.