The Parliament vote capped a year that had a full measure of triumphs and tragedies for South Africa. Among the triumphs was the ratification in July of next year's election date by black and white representatives who had engaged in two years of stormy negotiations. There was also those negotiators' approval of the new constitution in November and the speech that African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela gave to the U.N. General Assembly in September, when he called on foes of apartheid around the world to lift almost all sanctions against Pretoria before economic disaster blocked progress toward democracy. President Clinton, for one, lifted most of the U.S. government's remaining sanctions.
The tragedies included the assassination in April of the ANC's Chris Hani, one of the nation's most charismatic black leaders. Millions of South Africans protested Hani's death with one of the largest general strikes in their country's history. Then there was the continuing violence by rival factions in the black townships and, in July, the massacre by black gunmen of 10 white worshipers at a church in a middle-class suburb of Cape Town.
All the same, the year was best symbolized in mid-December when Mandela and President Frederik W. de Klerk stood side by side in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize for their joint efforts to forever change their country.
Difficulties in Somalia: In March, U.S. special envoy Robert B. Oakley pronounced the international effort to aid Somalia, launched the previous December, a success. Operation Restore Hope, as the U.S.-led mission was dubbed, had, said Oakley, achieved its primary mission: to help feed millions of Somalis stricken by drought, famine and the tyranny of rival warlords. Within weeks, the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to set up the largest U.N. peacekeeping force in history in the East African nation--28,000 troops authorized to do whatever was necessary to maintain peace, disarm the warring factions and protect relief workers.
It all seemed too good to be true. And it was. On June 5, 24 Pakistani peacekeepers were killed in an ambush widely believed to have been masterminded by warlord--or clan leader--Mohammed Farah Aidid. U.N. forces then launched a series of ground and air assaults raids on Aidid's compound, radio station and arms caches, but they failed to flush him out, and in August, President Clinton dispatched 400 U.S. Army Rangers to join the hunt. Instead of finding Aidid, however, the Rangers lost 16 of their number in an Oct. 3 ambush that killed 18 American soldiers in all--prompting the President to change course and pledge to bring all U.S. combat forces home by March 31. In response, Aidid announced a unilateral cease-fire and released an Army pilot who had spent 11 days in captivity after the Oct. 3 firefight. But in mid-December, five days of peace talks among the warring factions collapsed, and there were strong indications that the United Nations may have to transform its mission into a minuscule, almost token operation after the United States withdraws.
Coup in Burundi: Fires. Scattered bodies. Rival tribesmen battling with machetes. Such were the images coming out of the mountainous Central African nation of Burundi after a military coup that began in late October when soldiers seized President Melchior Ndadaye and drove other government officials into hiding. Ndadaye had become the nation's first democratically elected president only in June, and army-controlled state radio confirmed three days after his disappearance that he was killed during the coup, masterminded by former President Jean-Baptiste Bagaza and the army chief of staff. The rebels were ultimately unsuccessful, and former Foreign Minister Sylvestre Ntibantunganya was elected Speaker of Parliament on Dec. 22, thus becoming the country's interim president. But Burundi remained tense as the year ended, and it was estimated that 100,000 people had died in the fighting.
Horror in Angola: In September, 1992, the formerly Marxist government of Jose Eduardo dos Santos handily won an election in Angola that the United Nations judged free and fair. Defeated was rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, whose forces had been backed by the United States since the mid-1970s. But Savimbi charged fraud and resumed his battle against the government with a vengeance. The result: More than a year after peace was supposed to be restored, Angola is racked by the deadliest, most destructive conflict in its history. U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali declared in September that 1,000 people were dying every day from battle wounds, famine and disease from the civil war. And while aid officials say that figure was probably too high, they agree that 50,000 to 100,000 people have perished in the past year and that one-third of Angola's 11 million people are at risk. However, another round of peace talks is scheduled to begin tomorrow in Zambia.