Robert McNamara – US intelligence assessments and the ‘Unholy alliance’ of Southern Africa c. 1960-80

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Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham  
University Park
Nottingham NG7 2RJ



Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory


Dr Robert McNamara (University of Ulster) – US intelligence assessments and the ‘Unholy alliance’ of Southern Africa c. 1960-80

The Central Intelligence Agency’s best known involvement in Sub-Saharan Africa during the Cold War era were the Congo Crises between 1960 and 1964 and its ill-fated involvement in the Angolan Civil War of 1975-76 in support of the FNLA faction. These particular crises have been the subject of two memoirs, Larry Devlin, Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960-67. (New York: PublicAffairs, 2007) and John Stockwell,  In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story. (New York: Norton, 1978.) However, the vast bulk of the CIA’s effort is devoted to the collection and assessment of intelligence. From the 1950s, the central intelligence agency compiled thousands of pages of estimates, reports and assessments on southern Africa. Some of these appeared in the Daily and Weekly briefings. Others appeared in special reports and assessments that increased in volume as the Cold War reached Southern Africa in the mid 1970s.The purpose of this paper is to look at these assessments of Southern Africa, particularly the white minority regimes of the Portuguese colonies (Mozambique and Angola), Rhodesia and South Africa during their attempt to defy the wind of change of African nationalism after 1960. It will include analysis US intelligence assessments of some of the key events including the UDI of Rhodesia, the Portuguese revolution and its impact on the White redoubt. It will also make use of secret material from South African and Rhodesian sources to assess how much the CIA knew about the growing covert military alliance (Operation ALCORA) between  Rhodesia, Portugal and South Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.

Robert McNamara is Lecturer in International History at the University of Ulster, Coleraine since September 2007. He has held previous posts at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth and University College Cork. He is the author of Britain, Nasser and the Balance of Power in the Middle East, (London, Frank Cass, 2003) and The Hashemites: The Dream of Arabia, (London, Haus: 2010). He is currently working on a British Academy funded project: Defying the Wind of Change: the struggle for Southern Africa c.1960-1980.

Contact information: School of English, History and Politics, University of Ulster, Coleraine campus, Cromore Road, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, BT52 1SA

Email: rm.mcnamara@ulster.ac.uk

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