BRAZZAVILLE, Congo — Cuba, Angola and South Africa signed a historic agreement in this equatorial African capital Tuesday, committing themselves to a 27-month withdrawal of the approximately 50,000 Cuban troops in Angola and free elections next year in Namibia, the vast territory that South Africa has ruled for 73 years.
The pact, capping negotiations begun by American diplomats nearly eight years ago and more recently supported by the Soviet Union as well, also sets April 1 as the date for implementing a 10-year-old U.N. plan for independence in Namibia, also known as South-West Africa.
"This is the end of a sad chapter in Africa's modern history and the beginning of a new chapter . . . of African development and stability," said Chester A. Crocker, assistant secretary of state for African affairs and the mediator of the talks. In an interview, he added that it would "transform the strategic environment of southwestern Africa."
The signing, in the Congolese presidential palace on the banks of the wide Congo River, was considered especially important on a continent where most nations fear the military adventurism of both South Africa and Cuba.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday December 15, 1988 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 5 Foreign Desk 2 inches; 46 words Type of Material: Correction
Because of an error in transmission, an article in Wednesday's Times on the planned withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola contained an incorrect figure and date. Under the plan, 25,000 troops are to leave by Nov. 1, 1989, an additional 8,000 by April 1, 1990, another 5,000 by Oct. 1, 1990, and the final 12,000 by July 1, 1991.
It will be followed Dec. 22 in New York by the signing of a treaty under which the countries will exchange prisoners of war and formally invite the United Nations into the peace process.
Senior American diplomats in Brazzaville said the agreement opens the way for the Soviet-backed Angolan government to begin national reconciliation talks with the U.S.-backed Angolan rebel forces of Jonas Savimbi, who have been fighting the government since Angola's independence from Portugal 13 years ago.
Savimbi's National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA), based in the southeastern city of Jamba, has not been a participant in the talks. But Savimbi has said he supports them and would like to participate someday in a coalition government. Angolan leaders have recently expressed their willingness to talk with UNITA.
"This agreement will pave the way for peace," said Antonio dos Santos Franca, Angolan deputy defense minister and chief of the Angolan negotiating team. He said it heralded "a new era in relationships in southwestern Africa."
"There's going to be reconciliation in Angola," Crocker said. "The only question is when and under what model. Will they wait until the last Cuban is on the boat or will they see the wisdom of acting earlier?"
The United States provides about $15 million a year in assistance to UNITA, and President-elect George Bush has said that the aid would continue. South Africa also has supported UNITA, but Pretoria withdrew its 2,500 troops from southern Angola in August after a negotiated cease-fire.
U.S. officials estimate that the Soviet Union will contribute about $1.5 billion this year in military assistance to the Angolan government.
Under the timetable agreed upon Tuesday, Cuba will send 3,000 troops home from Angola by April 1, the same day that the U.N seven-month plan for Namibian independence begins. Namibia, a mineral-rich land twice the size of California, lies between Angola and South Africa on the southwest coast of the continent.
The agreement calls for all remaining Cuban troops to retreat north of the 15th Parallel, about 200 miles north of the Namibian border, by Aug. 1, 1989. By Nov. 1 of that year, 25,000 Cuban soldiers will have left Angola, and the remainder will move 100 miles farther north, above the 13th Parallel near the strategic Benguela Railway. An additional 8,000 Cuban troops will depart by April 1, 1990, 5,000 more by Oct. 1, 1990, and the final 5,000 by July 1, 1990.
Pretoria to Pull Out
Under the U.N plan for Namibia, which has not been invoked since it was passed in 1978, Pretoria will withdraw most of its estimated 35,000 troops from Namibia by July 1, 1989, leaving a force of 1,500 in two base camps.
A multinational U.N. peacekeeping force will take over the country's security until U.N.-supervised elections on Nov. 1, 1989.
The agreement also sets up a joint commission, with the United States and Soviet Union as observers, to monitor the Cuban troop withdrawal from Angola.
Cuba's chief negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Ricardo Alarcon, called it "a fair and just peace" for the region.
"We have come a long way, and now we can begin to look to the future," Alarcon said. "It means a people with so much courage (the Angolans) will finally be able to lead their lives in peace."
The agreement is important to South Africa's desire for acceptance in Africa, where black leaders have been sharply critical of the white minority-led government and apartheid, its system of racial separation.
"South Africa is like a zebra," South African Foreign Minister Roelof F. (Pik) Botha told several hundred people at the signing ceremony. "You cannot put a bullet in the white stripe and think it will not die. It will die."