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Africa's Debt at $200 Billion, U.N. Told

October 07, 1987|DON SHANNON | Times Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS — Zambian President Kenneth D. Kaunda, the chairman of the 51-nation Organization of African Unity, reported to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday that Africa's foreign debt at the end of 1986 totaled $200 billion, almost 4 1/2 times the size of the continent's annual export earnings.

Kaunda cited that as evidence of economic tragedy in reminding the assembly that African governments had launched bona fide efforts to cooperate with a five-year economic recovery program. Under the 1986-1990 plan, the industrialized nations agreed to expand imports and extend aid.

Zambia itself on Monday joined a list of nations no longer eligible for International Monetary Fund loans when officials of the fund determined that Kaunda's government had failed to take tough enough action toward balancing its budget and curbing inflation.

Summit Meeting Set

"Our disagreement with the IMF was that they wanted us to do it all at once," the Zambian leader said at a news conference after his address. "We agreed that we must restructure, but it must be over a longer period."

Asked if other African states should follow in refusing to cooperate with the IMF, Kaunda said the OAU will convene a summit meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Nov. 30 to consider "which way to go." He indicated that he has not given up all hope on the international fund, however, when he said he will meet with the IMF's U.S. director in Washington later this week.

"In Africa, we have introduced painful economic reforms and adjustments and stabilization measures, often at tremendous economic and social cost and in the face of serious political risks," Kaunda told the assembly earlier. "All this has been taking place when a number of countries are experiencing continued or re-emergent drought problems and emergency situations."

An additional drag on the continent's economy, Kaunda said, is the destabilization caused by white-ruled South Africa to his own and other neighboring states in the battle against apartheid, which has disrupted trade patterns and brought open warfare to Mozambique and Angola.

"Almost a year and a half since the adoption of the program, the response of the international community has fallen far short of the requirements," Kaunda said, pointing the finger at the industrialized states. He said the African recovery program had envisioned tariff benefits, efforts to improve commodity prices and debt forgiveness in order to help African countries climb out of recession.

The Zambian president saw an equally gloomy political future for his region, with South Africa continuing its racist policies, not only with repression at home but aggression against its neighbors.

"Just a few minutes before entering the assembly hall," he said, "I received reliable information that the racist (South African) troops had actually taken over from the bandits of the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola because the bandit headquarters was about to collapse. In short, they have actually invaded Angola."

Kaunda told reporters that he intends to seek international assistance in combatting AIDS while here. On Sunday, Kaunda publicly acknowledged for the first time that his son, who died last year, was a victim of the disease. He called AIDS a special menace to Africa, where it is primarily spread among heterosexuals rather than homosexuals as in the Western Hemisphere and Europe.

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