New York Accords

New York Accords

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The Tripartite Accord, Three Powers Accord or New York Accords granted independence to Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 and ended the direct involvement of foreign troops in the Angolan Civil War
Angolan Civil War
The Angolan Civil War was a major civil conflict in the Southern African state of Angola, beginning in 1975 and continuing, with some interludes, until 2002. The war began immediately after Angola became independent from Portugal in November 1975. Prior to this, a decolonisation conflict had taken...

. The accords were signed on December 22, 1988 at the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 headquarters in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 by representatives of the governments of Angola
Angola, officially the Republic of Angola , is a country in south-central Africa bordered by Namibia on the south, the Democratic Republic of the Congo on the north, and Zambia on the east; its west coast is on the Atlantic Ocean with Luanda as its capital city...

, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

, and South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...



In 1981 Chester Crocker
Chester Crocker
Chester Arthur Crocker is an American diplomat who served as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1981 to 1989 in the Reagan administration. Crocker, architect of the U.S...

, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs for newly elected President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

, had developed a linkage policy
Linkage (policy)
Linkage was a policy pursued by the United States of America, championed by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, during the 1970s period of Cold War Détente which aimed to persuade the Soviet Union and Communist China to co-operate in restraining revolutions in the Third World in return for...

, tying apartheid South Africa
History of South Africa in the apartheid era
Apartheid was a system of racial segregation enforced by the National Party governments of South Africa between 1948 and 1994, under which the rights of the majority 'non-white' inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and white supremacy and Afrikaner minority rule was maintained...

's agreement to retreat from Angola and to relinquish control of Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

 in line with United Nations Security Council Resolution 435
United Nations Security Council Resolution 435
United Nations Security Council Resolution 435, adopted on September 29, 1978, put forward proposals for a cease-fire and UN-supervised elections in South African-controlled South-West Africa which ultimately led to the independence of Namibia...

 to Cuba's troop withdrawal from Angola. On September 10, 1986 Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

 accepted Crocker's proposal in principle. The South African government also accepted the principle of linkage and proposed the concept at the UN 7th Plenary Meeting on 20 September 1986 (the Question of Namibia). The concept was strongly rejected by a Cuban backed majority and a strong statement of opposition was made to the effect of, "...The UN.... Calls upon South Africa to desist from linking the independence of Namibia to irrelevant and extraneous issues such as the presence of Cuban troops in Angola as such linkage is incompatible with the relevant United Nations resolutions, particularly Security Council resolution 435 (1978);..."

The Angolan and American governments started bilateral talks in June 1987 while the civil war continued. There is disagreement amongst historians on how the various parties agreed to come to the table:

1. Cuba contends that its military successes against the South Africans in Angola drove the South Africans to the negotiating table. They claim their intervention in the defence of Cuito Cuanavale
Battle of Cuito Cuanavale
The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale in 1987/88 was an important episode in the Angolan Civil War . Between 9 September and 7 October 1987, the Angolan Army , in an attempt to finally subdue the Angolan insurgent movement UNITA in south-eastern Angola, was decisively repelled in a series of battles at the...

 successfully stopped UNITA and South African offensives. Their view is that UNITA and South Africa retreated after a 15-hour battle on March 23 and moved for negotiations when the stakes became too high.

2. The South African viewpoint places the events in the context of the end of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

, with an associated end to the threat of Communist expansion in the region. From an economic perspective, the effect of sanctions was beginning to be felt in South Africa, while Namibia was costing South Africa over 1 billion Rand annually. Also, the South African domestic political landscape was changing rapidly and the country was under considerable pressure at the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 to grant independence to Namibia. The Cubans too faced the economic pressures of the war, as the MPLA government of Angola had stopped paying Cuba for its services.

In the words of Chester Crocker, "Watching South Africa and Cuba at the table was like watching two scorpions in a bottle.."

Initially refusing direct talks with Cuba, the US agreed to include a Cuban delegation which joined negotiations on January 28, 1988 and the three parties held a round of negotiations on March 9 in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

. The South African government joined negotiations in Cairo on 3 May expecting Resolution 435 to be modified. Defence Minister Magnus Malan
Magnus Malan
General Magnus André De Merindol Malan was the Minister of Defence , Chief of the South African Defence Force and Chief of the South African Army.-Early life:...

 and President P.W. Botha
Pieter Willem Botha
Pieter Willem Botha , commonly known as "P. W." and Die Groot Krokodil , was the prime minister of South Africa from 1978 to 1984 and the first executive state president from 1984 to 1989.First elected to Parliament in 1948, Botha was for eleven years head of the Afrikaner National Party and the...

 asserted that South Africa would withdraw from Angola only "if Russia and its proxies did the same." As a negotiation ploy, they did not mention withdrawing from Namibia. On 16 March, 1988, the South African Business Day reported that Pretoria was "offering to withdraw into Namibia – not from Namibia – in return for the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola. The implication is that South Africa has no real intention of giving up the territory any time soon." However the UN plenary meeting of 1986 indicates that the South Africans were linking Namibian independence with Cuban withdrawal. The Cuban negotiator, Jorge Risquet, announced that Cuba would stay in Angola until the end of apartheid, probably also as a negotiation ploy (Apartheid ended over 4 years after Cuba left Angola).

According to the Cubans, the US wondered whether the Cubans would stop their advance at the Namibian border. Jorge Risquet, head of the Cuban delegation, rejected the South African demands, noting that “South Africa must face the fact that it will not obtain at the negotiating table what it could not achieve on the battlefield.”

According to the book "32 Battalion" by Piet Nortje, South Africa introduced its new secret weapons, the G5
G5 howitzer
The G5 is a South African towed howitzer of 155 mm calibre designed with the help of the Canadian scientist Gerald Bull and his company, Space Research Corporation and manufactured by Denel Land Systems.-Production history:...

 and G6 howitzer
G6 howitzer
The G6 self-propelled howitzer is a South African artillery piece, developed around the ordnance of the G5 howitzer. It is one of the most powerful self-propelled guns on a wheeled chassis....

 guns during their campaign. The cannons can fire a projectile over 40 kilometres (24.9 mi) with a high degree of accuracy. The guns were used to halt the southern Cuban advance and raised the specter of yet another unaffordable arms escalation between two medium sized military powers. The South Africans assert that the new weapon raised Cuban fear of yet more casualties in a war where Cuban fatalities had outnumbered South African fatalities by a factor 10. Conversely, the Cuban air force held air superiority, as was demonstrated by the bombing of the strategic Calueque
Calueque is a village next to a dam and pumping station on the Cunene River in the Cunene Province of southern Angola. The project is linked to Ruacana, 20 km away inside Namibia, where an underground hydro-electric power station was built. A 300 km pipeline and canal extends across the...

 complex, and the overflights in 1988 of Cuban Mig-23's of Namibian airspace. According the David Albright
David Albright
David Albright, M.S., is the founder of the non-governmental Institute for Science and International Security , its current president, and author of several books on proliferation of atomic weapons. Albright holds a Master of Science in physics from Indiana University and a M.Sc. in mathematics...

, the South African's believed that the discovery of preparations for a nuclear weapon test at the Vastrap
Vastrap is a small military airfield situated in the Kalahari Desert north east of Upington inside a 700 square kilometre weapons test range of the same name belonging to the South African National Defence Force...

 facility created an urgency amongst the superpowers to find a solution.

The negotiations reached a deadlock, that was broken by the South African negotiator, Pik Botha, with an ingenious sense of tact in convincing Jorge Riquet that, in the words of Pik Botha "...We can both be losers and we can both be winners..." Pik Botha offered a compromise that would appear to be palatable to both sides while emphasizing that the alternative would be detrimental to both sides.

While the hostilities in Angola continued, the parties met in June and August in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 and Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 and finally all approved an outline agreement of Principles for a Peaceful Settlement in South Western Africa on July 20 During the negotiations the South Africans were asked for the release of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, and was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before his presidency, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist, and the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing...

 as a sign of goodwill, which was denied. Mandela remained in captivity until 2 February 1990 when the ANC African National Congress
African National Congress
The African National Congress is South Africa's governing Africanist political party, supported by its tripartite alliance with the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Communist Party , since the establishment of non-racial democracy in April 1994. It defines itself as a...

 ban was lifted. A ceasefire was finally agreed upon on August 8, 1988.

The negotiations were finalised in New York with Angola, Cuba and South Africa signing the accord on December 22, 1988. It supplied for the retreat of South African forces from Angola, which had already taken place by August 30, the withdrawal of South Africa from Namibia and Namibia’s independence and the withdrawal of Cuban forces from Angola within 30 months.

The agreement followed the American linkage proposal that was also pushed by South African on numerous occasions in 1984 and in 1986 (the UN plenary meeting). Namibia was to be given independence on terms that South Africa had set out, including multi-party democracy, a capitalist free-market economy and a transition period.


The South African Army left Angola by August 30, 1988, before the conditions for Cuba’s withdrawal had been agreed. Cuban troops began withdrawing on January 10, 1989 and the withdrawal was finalized in stages one month early on May 25, 1991.

The Angolan government offered an amnesty to UNITA
The National Union for the Total Independence of Angola is the second-largest political party in Angola. Founded in 1966, UNITA fought with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola in the Angolan War for Independence and then against the MPLA in the ensuing civil war .The war was one...

 troops. under the premise that UNITA would be integrated into the MPLA under a one-party state economy. This concept was rejected by UNITA and the situation in the country was anything but settled and it continued to be ravaged by civil war for more than a decade.

According to the book "Presidents of Foreign Policy" by Edward R. Drachman and Alan Shank, a series of meetings and accords between UNITA and the MPLA brokered by various African leaders failed horribly. MPLA stood strong to the one-party state premise which insulted UNITA. A combination of MPLA dismay for the communist system and intervention from the USA (backing UNITA and forcing a shift in power) lead to the MPLA dropping the one-party state and opening the door to a multi-party democracy (based on a capitalist free market economy) with the inclusion of UNITA as a competing party. After some 18 years of war, a tremendous breakthrough was finally reached.

Although elections were declared "generally" free and fair, UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi
Jonas Savimbi
Jonas Malheiro Savimbi was an Angolan political leader. He founded and led UNITA, a movement that first waged a guerrilla war against Portuguese colonial rule, 1966–1974, then confronted the rival MPLA during the decolonization conflict, 1974/75, and after independence in 1975 fought the ruling...

 would not accept the results and refused to join the Angolan parliament as opposition. Again UNITA took up arms but this time the USA opposed UNITA and attempted to pressure Savimbi to accept democracy. Peace only returned to Angola following Savimbi’s death in 2002.

Free elections in Namibia were held in November 1989 with SWAPO taking 57% of the vote in spite of apparent attempts by Pretoria to swing it in favour of other parties. Namibia gained independence in March 1990. It should be noted that SWAPO was originally a Marxist party with the intention of installing a one-party state. This notion was rejected by the South African government up until the fall of the Soviet Union and the assurance that SWAPO would employ a multi-party democracy with a capitalist free market economy. South Africa held onto Namibia's economic port of Walvis Bay for a further 18 months until the South African government felt sure that SWAPO would respect the newly founded constitution and the multi-party democratic fundamental.

As part of the Tripartite Accord, agreement was reached that the African National Congress (ANC) - Marxist-leaning guerrilla/freedom movement actively executing guerrilla attacks in South Africa would have its bases removed from Angola and would stop receiving support from the Angolan MPLA movement. The ANC was then forced to move their operation to Zambia and Uganda. Later the ANC also dropped their Marxist philosophy paving the way for acceptance into the South African Democratic Movement for change and, eventually, leading to successfully winning elections in South Africa and becoming the ruling party of a multi-party democratic South Africa based on a capitalist free market economy.

See also

  • Cuba in Angola
  • Pan Am 103
  • Alvor Accord
  • Bicesse Accords
    Bicesse Accords
    The Bicesse Accords, also known as the Estoril Accords, laid out a transition to multi-party democracy in Angola under the supervision of the United Nations' UNAVEM II mission. President José Eduardo dos Santos of the MPLA and Jonas Savimbi of UNITA signed the accord in Lisbon, Portugal on May 31,...

  • Lusaka Protocol
    Lusaka Protocol
    The Lusaka Protocol, signed in Lusaka, Zambia on October 31, 1994, attempted to end the Angolan Civil War by integrating and disarming UNITA and national reconciliation. Both sides signed a ceasefire as part of the protocol on November 20.-Negotiation:...

  • Nakuru Agreement
    Nakuru Agreement
    The Nakuru Agreement, signed on June 21, 1975 in Nakuru, Kenya, attempted to salvage the implementation of the Alvor Agreement which granted Angola independence from Portugal and established a transitional government...