The Brazzaville agreements

The Brazzaville Accords were the result of long and secret negotiations aimed at establishing a dialogue between the various parties to the conflicts in Southern Africa.

At a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Accords in 2013, the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, who played a key part in the negotiation of the original agreements, called for the “spirit of the Brazzaville Accords” to be upheld in responding to today’s conflicts and disputes. This led Jean-Yves Ollivier, who had himself played an important behind-the-scenes role, to establish the Brazzaville Foundation. See the agreements

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The signature of the Brazzaville Accords

The signing of the Brazzaville Accords on 13 December 1988 opened a new chapter in the history of modern Africa by securing a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in southern Africa which had lasted more than 20 years and thus paving the way for an end to Apartheid.

From 1960s southern Africa had suffered a series of conflicts involving South Africa, Angola and South West Africa (today Namibia).

Following the withdrawal of Portuguese colonial power in 1975, Angola was also torn apart by a civil war. The MPLA (People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola), who had taken power from the Portuguese and were backed the USSR and Cuba, faced UNITA (Union for the Total Independence of Angola), who were backed by the United States and by South Africa. The latter sought to neutralise SWAPO (South West African People’s Organisation), the independence movement which, headquartered in the Angolan capital, was working for the liberation of Namibia from South African control. A complex and bloody series of regional wars was transformed into an ideological conflict - a new front in the cold war between the two super powers.
Chester Crocker, the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs under President Reagan, devised a peace plan based on a policy of linkage between South Africa relinquishing control of Namibia and Cuba withdrawing its troops from Angola which would in turn lead to the ending of apartheid in South Africa.

INSPIRED BY THE ACCORDS FROM WHICH IT TAKES ITS NAME, THE FOUNDATION, IN ALL ITS ACTIIVITIES, IS DEDICATED TO THE PURSUIT OF LASTING PEACE AND RECONCILIATION.

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Establishing a climate of confidence

From April 1987 the US and Angola began to meet in Brazzaville under the aegis of the then Chairman of the OAU, Denis Sassou N’Guesso, who was a catalyst in arranging a dialogue between the two countries. Cuba joined the negotiations three months later.

Meanwhile, in order to help build a climate of confidence in southern Africa, Jean-Yves Ollivier spent seven months negotiating a huge prisoner swap. On 7 September 1987, on the tarmac of Maputo airport in Mozambique, he arranged the freeing of the South African commando, Captain Wynand Du Toit, who had been captured in Angola, in return for 133 Angolan soldiers, 50 Namibian independence fighters and two anti-apartheid militants, the aid worker Pierre-Andre Albertini and the Dutch anthropologist Klaas de Jong, who had been detained in South Africa.

A few months later, bolstered by this success, Jean-Yves Ollivier persuaded the South African government to reunite the representatives of the key regional actors who had helped organise this prisoner exchange at a hunting camp in the Kalahari Desert. His aim: to allow them to meet in secret and without an agenda in order to give them the chance to get to know each other and to begin to establish a degree of trust.

In the documentary “Plot for Peace”, Denis Sassou N’Guesso says of those meetings:

“ Why should not we africans take charge of this matter and seek a negotiated solution. (...) Africa was directly concerned and we thought at that time that african leaders could and should get involved in finding a compromise. ”


Denis Sassou N’Guesso

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Towards the end of the crisis in southern Africa

As a result Chester Crocker was able to organise the first negotiations involving the governments of South Africa, Angola and Cuba in London on 9 March 1988. During the summer of 1988 they met again in New York and Geneva. Five further meetings were held in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, resulting in an historic agreement which was formalised on 13 December 1988 with the signature of the Brazzaville Accords. These accords provided for a timetable for the complete withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angolan territory and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 435 (1978) which called for a cease-fire in Namibia and the holding of UN supervised elections leading to full independence.

The Agreement was signed again in New York on 22 December 1988 under UN auspices. The Brazzaville Agreement which had become the New York Agreement marked a turning point. By bringing peace to southern Africa, the Accords paved the way for the liberation of Nelson Mandela 14 months later on 11 February 1990 and the constitutional negotiations which led on 30 June 1991 to the official ending of Apartheid in South Africa.

Brazzaville agreements
Brazzaville agreements