Mr President, 
Your Excellencies, 
Distinguished guests and delegates,

In the evolution of mankind, humanity came to realise that life for each one of us can be full only if it is based on the acceptance of the principles and practice of self-determination, as well as freedom from want and fear.

Throughout her history, Africa has had her own men and women who have shone forth as outstanding fighters for such a full life.

We refer to giants such as Chief Albert Luthuli, Eduardo Mondlane, Amilcar Cabral, Kwame Nkrumah, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Mohammed V and others.

We refer also to the late General Murtala Muhammed(2) who, hardly eighteen months ago in Addis Ababa, said, "when I contemplate the evils of apartheid my heart bleeds...".

We did not know then that a month later Murtala Muhammed`s heart would bleed for the last time, through fatal wounds opened by the hands of crazed assassins. Neither did the world know then that five months later the blood of South African youth, men, women and children would flow in the streets of Soweto, Langa, Mameledi, Alexandra and other black ghettos at the hands of the same enemy forces.

The enemies of progress were frightened by the fact that he actively led this great nation into the frontline of the struggle to destroy the apartheid regime at a time when that regime was trying to reverse the historical process in Angola, as it has attempted to do in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe, away from the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, away from freedom from want and fear.

Mr. President, this World Conference for Action against Apartheid has therefore an obligation to honour the memory of this great hero, to honour him in a manner befitting a man of resolute and revolutionary action.

The historic statement made to this Conference yesterday by the Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo, in the name of the people of Nigeria, was itself a lasting tribute to the life and memory of Murtala Muhammed and a further reassurance that in Obasanjo we have another Muhammed.

This conference of action is therefore hosted by a country whose Government and people believe in action. The Southern Africa Relief Fund represents the individual participation of the Nigerian people.(3) 
You, Mr. President, have played and continue to play a distinguished role leading the Nigerian people and educating them towards ever-increasing commitment to the struggle for the total liberation of Africa.

We recall that the Havana Seminar against Apartheid(4) adopted a Programme of Action which was approved by the thirty-first session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.(5)

Your contributions at the Havana Seminar and subsequently at United Nations forums qualify you to the seat you occupy today, for the implementation of the Programme of Action against Apartheid.

Gathering Momentum of Campaign against Apartheid

This is the largest and most representative conference ever to meet on the issue of apartheid. Perhaps this is a fitting occasion for the African National Congress to acknowledge, on behalf of the people of South Africa and especially the national liberation movement, the worldwide support which our struggle has received over the years. We acknowledge this as support also for the rest of the people of southern Africa, particularly the people of Namibia and Zimbabwe, led by SWAPO and the Patriotic Front. The presence and participation at this conference of the leaders of SWAPO and the Patriotic Front demonstrates yet again that we are fighting as one people for the same cause, against the same enemy.

Mr. President, moved in part by the sense of urgency and the spirit of commitment displayed in Havana, the thirty-first session of the United Nations General Assembly last year approved the Havana Programme of Action. It went on further to strengthen the Programme with resolutions. It recognised that the oppressed people of South Africa have no alternative but to resort to armed struggle to achieve their legitimate rights. The General Assembly further affirmed the legitimacy of the struggle of the oppressed people of South Africa and their liberation movement for the seizure of power by the people and the exercise of their inalienable right to self-determination. It also reaffirmed that apartheid is a grave threat to international peace and security.

The impetus of mobilisation against the racist, apartheid, colonialist and fascist regimes of southern Africa gained ever increasing momentum in the past few months by the now well-known Maputo and Lisbon Conferences.(6) 

The World Conference against Colonialism, Racism and Apartheid in Southern Africa, held in Lisbon from 16 June this year, not only drew representatives of Governments, and of hundreds of grassroots organisations, but also committed the masses of the world to a programme of action against colonialism, racism and apartheid in direct continuation of the Programme adopted by the United Nations.

Considering that the resolutions and the Programme of Action of the United Nations also took into account the successive decisions of both the OAU and the Conference of Non-Aligned Countries, we can, without exaggeration, say that, truly, the overwhelming majority of mankind, at both governmental and non-governmental levels, has taken positions of confrontation with the criminal apartheid regime.

It is on this foundation that this Lagos World Conference for Action against Apartheid stands. But for it to be an actual and meaningful pinnacle for the great effort of international mobilisation that preceded it, the Conference must in fact become a conference for action. It should itself reflect the fact that the struggle of our people in southern Africa has reached a crucial and critical stage.

Upsurge in Southern Africa

Mr. President, the mass upsurge of Soweto last year has turned out to be but one of a series of explosions that are reverberating across the face of our country. In the minds and hearts of people, Soweto has become a symbol of the undaunted resolve and undying faith of our people to fight for their inalienable birthright until victory or death. The contempt of our youth for death and their heroism have a dimension that only manifests itself in a people when their march to freedom reaches the point of no return. They are an expression of the determination of our people to overthrow racism, apartheid, colonialism and fascism in all its manifestations, no matter what the price.

These uprisings are not accidental. They are born of the harsh realities of the pernicious system and mark a new and decisive chapter in the long and bitter struggle led by the African National Congress. No people who are prepared to sacrifice their lives for their inalienable right to self-determination can ever be suppressed and subdued even by the most powerful military monsters.

The triumph of the war of liberation of the Vietnamese people against the mightiest imperialist power in the world demonstrates this fact. That victory became the forerunner of the overthrow of Portuguese colonialism in Africa - Mozambique, Angola and Guinea-Bissau - and destroyed a vital link in the chain of an unholy alliance that had held the peoples of southern Africa enslaved. Supported by the progressive peoples of the world and fortified by their own unshakable resolve, the peoples of Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa are poised for victory to achieve their birthright and legitimate aspirations.

Response of the Apartheid Regime: Fascist Terror

What is Vorster`s reply to our people`s legitimate demands? What is the regime`s response to the repeated appeals by the international community through its numerous forums and institutions?

The reply is an ever-growing fascist terror. It is the wanton murder of defenceless men, women and children. It is mass arrests, detentions without trial, as well as the torture and massive assassination of detainees in prison cells and torture chambers. It is the sentencing to life imprisonment and the hanging of the best sons and daughters who, inspired by the noble ideals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, have resolutely fought for a democratic South Africa. The streets of Sharpeville, Soweto, Langa, Guguletu and other black ghettos are drenched with the blood of South African patriots who, like all the distinguished delegates and participants gathered here today, have the right to live and strive for freedom, justice and human dignity - to seek peace and happiness.

This is Vorster`s answer. It is a fascist answer. It is an answer dictated by the nature of the fascist apartheid system. As the people`s struggle for liberation intensifies, fascist repression grows more barbaric and will continue to grow more vicious.

Thus does the Vorster regime confront the peoples of the world with defiant and brutal arrogance. And yet the imperialist Powers refuse to act against the apartheid regime.

Imperialist Strategy

The main guilt for the crimes committed against our people, against the peoples of Africa, must be placed squarely on the Western Powers and the multinational corporations which have placed profits above human life, and which value their selfish interests above human aspirations.

As these interests grew, so did the commitment of the imperialist Powers to the defence and strengthening of the racist regimes also grow.

This was because the imperialists had come to the simple conclusion that the white minority regimes constituted guarantors of the security of these interests. Correspondingly, the imperialist Powers viewed the liberation of the peoples of southern Africa as an inadmissible threat to these interests. This much was clear from the strategies spelt out in the United States Government document, National Security Council Memorandum 39.(7) 

The victory of FRELIMO and the MPLA in Mozambique and Angola respectively, and the intensification of the struggle in South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe have forced the imperialists to depart significantly from the positions stated in Memorandum 39. In essence these shifts are, in our view, of a tactical rather than a strategic nature.

In a situation in which the national liberation movement in southern Africa has made advances in spite of the fierce opposition of the Western Powers and their resident allies, in which it has become clear that nothing could stop the liberation of the area as a whole, the Western Powers, in recognition of this new reality, had to consider what new tactics and strategy to adopt to retain their domination of the region.

A central feature of this "new strategy" is that the relations between the imperialist Powers and the racist Vorster regime will remain unchanged.

Over the last few years, countries such as France and Italy have stated that, henceforth, they will apply a strict arms embargo against the Vorster regime. But France, of course, has also announced that she will honour existing contracts to supply the racist regime, particularly with warships of various types.

The background to these statements which puts them in their true perspective is that these countries have in fact been working to make the racists self-sufficient in military hardware.

To this end, they have not only supplied large quantities of materiel but also helped to build up an armaments industry within South Africa. There is also the additional fact that, even if an arms embargo were maintained "voluntarily" by the major Western Powers, the possibility still exists to route new arms supplies via such countries as Israel, Taiwan, South Korea and Brazil.

It is now known that for years the Western Powers have grossly understated the quantities of arms they delivered to the racist regimes. According to evidence given to the United States Congress only last month, items such as combat aircraft and tanks have been understated by as much as 400 and 300 per cent respectively.

There is now the shocking news that the racist regime is about to test its own atomic bomb, thanks to the extensive scientific, technological and financial support given by the Western imperialist Powers to the racists` nuclear programme. The African National Congress of South Africa has recently provided the world with conclusive evidence of West German participation in this heinous crime. But the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany remains adamant and unrepentant.

On the diplomatic front, the imperialist Powers have also shown that they are not prepared to countenance the total isolation of the Vorster regime. Hence the "triple veto" in the Security Council.

This diplomatic defence of the apartheid regime has also been accompanied by active attempts to rehabilitate the Vorster regime in world politics.

These attempts centre on the effort to present the Vorster regime as a liberator of the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia.

The process of political rehabilitation of the Vorster regime, therefore, consists in:

  1. giving the colonial regime the right to be a co-determinant of how, when and under what circumstances Zimbabwe and Namibia shall be free; and
  2. giving the regime legitimacy and international acceptability and allowing it added time to strengthen its positions within the country and abroad.

Quite clearly, therefore, the imperialist Powers are still bent on pursuing a strategy which leaves the situation within South Africa fundamentally unchanged. Undoubtedly, these Powers will continue to insist that the Vorster regime should introduce some reforms. This at best will remove the outward trappings of racial discrimination but leave effective power in the hands of the white minority, no doubt supported by a few black puppets.

According to these calculations, through its military and economic strength, the South African regime would remain the dominant force in southern Africa, a base from which the Western imperialist Powers would continue to direct the lives of millions of African people to suit the interests of these Powers.

Another feature of this "new strategy" is that the Western Powers have recognised the fact that the situation in Zimbabwe and Namibia cannot continue as before, their client regimes having failed to stop the advance of the national liberation movement.

They have, therefore, intervened directly in southern Africa. The aim is to take the initiative out of the hands of the liberation movement to ensure that the solutions that emerge accommodate the interests of the imperialists.

The situation, however, compels these Powers to pose as part of the forces that are interested in the genuine liberation of southern Africa.

In our view, the test of anybody's commitment to the genuine liberation of Zimbabwe and Namibia must turn on their attitude towards the Patriotic Front and SWAPO respectively, and the question of the transfer of State power to them.

The military aggression and involvement of fascist South Africa in Angola, before and after the independence of that country, clearly showed that racist South Africa is more than just a threat to independent Africa. Racist South Africa is directly involved in the barbarous attacks on Mozambique and Zambia and constantly threatens Botswana.

Western countries - especially the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, Italy, etc. - are arming South Africa and therefore violating United Nations decisions. This in turn boosts the morale of the fascists who consciously and deliberately provoke neighbouring countries and escalate instability and tension in southern Africa.

Mr. President, it is relevant to state that South Africa plays an important role in the aggressive NATO strategy which regards southern Africa as the main operational zone and the racist regime as the main striking force in Africa and the southern hemisphere. This is important to note because one of our tasks at this Conference is to clearly identify our enemies so as to work out a clear strategy. NATO Powers supply racist South Africa with arms and skills and the strategy is clear: war against the peoples of Africa. South Africa has a significant role to play in the whole southern hemisphere and it is therefore no surprise that NATO countries envisage the creation of SATO (South Atlantic Treaty Organisation) as a counterpart of NATO in which South Africa has a leading role to play.

In short, the imperialist countries provide the South African racists with the latest military equipment, planes, missiles, tanks, artillery, blueprints for armaments production and military skills. Part of this imperialist strategy is the consolidation of ties between Zionist Israel and fascist South Africa. In the Middle East, the conspiracy is to attempt to destroy the legitimate aspirations and struggle of the Arab peoples and, in particular, the Palestinian people under the leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

Our Will to be Free

The racists and fascists in southern Africa, for the time being, enjoy the support of what they regard as powerful forces. However, we are armed with a just cause and a will to be free. Behind the struggle of our people for the seizure of power we have the peoples of the world represented at this Conference, the invincible, concerted, international support of the anti-racist, anti-imperialist and anti-fascist forces of the world composed of the democratic, socialist and progressive peoples and States.

The African National Congress appreciates and welcomes the support for the armed struggle of our suffering and oppressed people. We want to make it clear to all our friends that support for the ANC is support for the establishment of a democratic and nonracial South Africa as enshrined in the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter, adopted by the oppressed people of South Africa in 1955, is an expression of the genuine aspirations of our people for the establishment of a just and equitable society. It is only through the implementation of the provisions of the Freedom Charter that freedom can be made meaningful for all our people in South Africa.

We have come to this Conference with high expectations. This Conference, dedicated to finding concrete steps that the world must take to give practical and meaningful support to our people, convenes at a crucial time for our struggle. His Excellency President Kenneth Kaunda spoke with supreme effectiveness on the crucial character of the stage our struggle has reached, and identified the way to action. His Excellency Lt. General Olusegun Obasanjo demonstrated the meaning of action.

Mr. President, a Programme of Action was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at its thirty-first session. We call on this historic Conference of representatives of the peoples of the world to ensure the implementation of the Programme, with the additions such as those already proposed at this Conference.

In particular, we ask the Conference to adopt for implementation the following measures:

  1. increased political and material support for the national liberation movements in southern Africa - the African National Congress of South Africa, SWAPO of Namibia and the Zimbabwe Patriotic Front, which are committed to armed struggle for the seizure of power;
  2. the invocation of Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations and the imposition of mandatory economic sanctions and an arms embargo against the Vorster regime;
  3. increased pressure against the Governments of the imperialist countries, the multinational corporations and other institutions which continue to aid apartheid;
  4. a renewed and intensified campaign for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons imprisoned or restricted for their involvement in the struggle for the liberation of South Africa;
  5. the enforcement of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid;
  6. assistance for the student refugees who are the victims of "Bantu education" and repression in apartheid South Africa; and
  7. the expulsion of the apartheid regime from the United Nations.

Our people, under the leadership of the African National Congress, recognise and accept the challenge with which history has confronted us. Our revolution can only be the product of our own efforts and we shall not shirk our duty. The assistance and support we ask of the world cannot supplant the need for us to wage our struggle. However the world, by implementing these proposals, can help create more favourable conditions for victory which cannot be denied to our people.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Long live the anti-fascist and anti-imperialist struggle!

Long live the Organisation of African Unity!

Long live the United Nations! 
1 The World Conference was organised by the United Nations in cooperation with the Organisation of African Unity and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It was attended by many leaders of governments, as well as national liberation movements and non-governmental organisations committed to action against apartheid. Major-General J. N. Garba, Commissioner for External Affairs of Nigeria, presided over the Conference.

2 Head of the Federal Military Government of Nigeria from July 30, 1973, until he was assassinated on February 13, 1976

3 The Southern Africa Relief Fund, launched in Nigeria in 1977, for public contributions in support of African liberation struggles, received over twenty million naira.

4 International Seminar on the Eradication of Apartheid and in Support of the Struggle for Liberation in South Africa, organised by the Special Committee against Apartheid in Havana from May 24 to 28, 1976

5 "Programme of Action against Apartheid", endorsed by the General Assembly, in resolution 31/6 J of November 9, 1976

6 International Conference in Support of the Peoples of Zimbabwe and Namibia (Maputo, May 16-21, 1977), organised by the United Nations in consultation with the Organisation of African Unity; World Conference against Colonialism, Racism and Apartheid in Southern Africa (Lisbon, June 16-20, 1977), organised by non-governmental organisations.

7 A study of United States policy towards southern Africa, prepared for the National Security Council in 1969 and classified secret, was published by the press in 1975. It elaborated a range of policy options for the United States.