Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan guerrilla leader who heads the surviving internal opposition to the Luanda government, is visiting this country in an attempt to provoke a fresh American debate on Soviet and Cuban involvement in Africa.
His trip is being sponsored by the New York-based Freedom House, an organization that monitors political freedom around the world, and has already included a meeting here yesterday with former secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
Saimbi is giving interviews, appearing on television, conducting press conferences, consulting leading figures in the American foreign policy establishment and meeting members of Congress to urge that the United Stated drop its attempts to reach an accommodation with pro-Soviet regimes in Africa and especially with the Luanda government.
That government, he says, has become an outright tool of the Soviet Union since the death in September of Agostinho Neto, who had been seeking better relations with Washington and with African moderates.
Savimbi's assessment is disputed by u.S. diplomatic sources who say there is as yet no evidence to this effect.
Tomorrow he will be a dinner guest at the Washington home of Lane Kirkland, who is soon to become the lead of the ALF-CIO and is a member of the board of Freedom House's Center for Appeals for Freedom. The other guests include Sens. Henry Jackson (D-Wash.) and Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and former energy secretary James Schlesinger, who was secretary of defense during the Angolan civil war.
Though sources in Savimbi's party said he expected to see President Carter's national security affairs adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and a typewritten copy of Savimbi's itinerary listed a Thursday meeting with Jerry Funk of the NSC staff, Funk denied today that he is scheduled to see the guerrilla leader. "It simply is not going to happen," he said.
Savimbi's guerrillas lost the struggle for control of independent Angola in 1975 to the Marxist Popular Movement for the liberation of Angola led by the late president Neto and supported by thousands of Cuban troops. Savimbi retreated into the Angolan bush, kept up the struggle against the Luanda government and made his National Union for the Total Independence of Angola an element that must be considered in any discussion of the future of Southwest Africa (also known as Namibia) or of Angola itself.
"as long as there is no firm stand from the U.S., the African leaders cannot take a strong position against the Russian and Cubans because they do not know what will happen in the future," Savimbi said at a press conference yesterday.
"We don't need tanks and don't want any GIs to go there because we are already winning the war, but we do need your understanding," he added. UNITA received quiet aid from the U.S. during the civil war and ensuing power struggle. The aid ended in early 1976.
His American sympathizers see him as a true African nationalist and are willing to overlook his admitted ties to South Africa in the interests of what they see as a more important concern.
Savimbi's schedule was arranged by Carl Gershman, executive director of Social Democrats U.S.A., who is an outspoken critic of former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young and his views on Africa.
Savimbi's Washington schedule also includes meetings with the House Subcommittee on Africa, the Coalition for a New Democratic Majority, and a bipartisan group of senators organized by Sen. Daniel P. Moynihan (D-N.Y.) Moynihan is on the board of freedom House.
Savimbi will tell his audiences, he said in an interview, that it would be a mistake for United States to recognize the Luanda government, now headed by Jose Eduardo dos Santos, because "it would encourage the Cubans. It would be giving too much without getting anything in return, without getting any guarantee that they would cooperate on [settlements in] Namibia or Zembabwa [Rhodesia]. They give you nothing in return."
Most of the political figures whom Savimbi will meet might be considered sympathetic to his argument. Freedom House lists Angola as "not free" on its monitoring maps. Kissinger has long warned against Soviet-backed efforts in Africa and elsewhere.
But Savimbi said he expects a chilly reception from the Congressional Black Caucus because of his relations with South Africa.
South Africa sent troops to back UNITA against Neto's forces during the civil war and independent sources insist that Pretoria continues to supply Savimbi with arms and equipment.
Savimbi denied this yesterday, asserting that he sells diamonds mined in areas of Angola under his control to the South Africans and uses the money to buy arms elsewhere.
"I am prepared to tell the Black Caucus," he said yesterday, "that it is inconsistent to support black rights in the U.S. and tolerate the Cubans slaughtering people in Angola."
Savimbi denied suggestions by African affairs specialists that his purpose was to "torpedo" a possible settlement of the Namibia question that would include a demilitarized zone on both sides to the Namibia-Angola frontier, a plan suggested by Neto.