The Consul at Nairobi (Smith) to the Secretary of State

No. 338

Sir: I have the honor to refer to this office’s telegrams of November 29, 4 p.m. and November 30, 4 p.m., to this office’s reports entitled “Restrictions on Imports in British East Africa” dated December 1, 193937 and “East African Import Restrictions Reducing American and Japanese Imports” dated December 8, 193937 and to its despatches No. 326 entitled “Control of Imports in British East Africa”, dated November 29, 193937 and No. 332 entitled “Reported Violation of the Open Door Principle in British East Africa” dated December 9, 1939.37 All of these communications were prepared—and I believe well prepared—by Vice Consul Bailey as I was on local leave from November 13, 1939 until December 3, 1939.

Major E. S. Grogan, one of Kenya’s earliest settlers, a leading member of Kenya’s Legislative Council and a staunch representative of the settlers as against the London controlled Government representatives, called on me on December 9, 1939 and said that as he had been an expert advisor on African affairs and on the Congo Basin Treaties at Paris during the Versailles Treaty negotiations, he said that in his opinion, the import license restrictions were unquestionably a violation of the spirit and the letter of the Congo Basin Treaties and he suggested that, as the representative of one of the countries most adversely affected by the import license system, I call on the Acting Governor, His Excellency W. Harragin. I know Major Grogan very well personally, and his suggestion was made in such a way that there was no reason for my taking any offense.

On December 11, 1939, I called on His Excellency, the Governor, whom I have known since he was formerly the local Attorney General. [Page 324]I told him that the import license regulations, imposed by his Government were, in the opinion of all who had studied the subject, in contravention of the Congo Basin Treaties, He was very pleasant about it all, and said that if I would write him to that effect, he would simply forward my views to the Colonial Office, London. He stated that he had had instructions from the Colonial Office to impose such a system, and that he was simply carrying out instructions. He did not add “as an office boy”, but I gathered from his attitude and tone of voice that that was what he meant.

I told him that I considered it only fair to inform him that my office had telegraphed the Department of State and written full particulars of the import license system. He then said that if the Department of State saw fit to lodge a diplomatic claim through London,38 he doubted if he or the Government of Kenya would ever hear of it. We parted still on the best of terms, and I believe we both felt that with the British Empire at war, the question of the infraction of the Congo Basin Treaties was of little importance and that, even if they were being broken, there was little one could do about it.

My colleague, the Belgian Consul General, informed me that he believed Belgium would lodge a protest based on the alleged infraction of the Congo Basin Treaties.

Respectfully yours,

E. Talbot Smith
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  5. Instruction No. 1134, December 26, to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, authorizing representations is missing from Department files.