Department of State Policy Statement1



a. objectives

The long-range objectives of US policy toward Liberia encompass three principal aims: (1) to assist Liberia to achieve orderly progress in political, economic and social development; (2) resolutely to support Liberia’s political independence and territorial integrity; and (3) to maintain our strategic and commercial positions in Liberia.

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b. policies

While our Liberia policy is in some respects similar to our policy toward other underdeveloped territories, our relationship with Liberia requires special treatment and consideration. In 1822 Congress aided in the establishment of Liberia, and since that date we have continued to give an unusual amount of attention to the welfare and progress of this Negro republic, the only one in Africa. Today, in the battle of ideologies between the West and the East, this attention becomes increasingly important as Liberia is the only independent Negro democracy in Africa.

Political. The achievement of our political objectives in Liberia is being advanced by (1) stimulating, through our resident economic and public health missions, much-needed economic and social reforms; (2) encouraging the development by private US enterprise of Liberia’s natural resources; and (3) continuing to render upon request appropriate advice to the Liberian Government to assist it in building a sounder government, thereby reducing the possibility of foreign intervention. We will always make it clear that unprovoked interference or intervention in the internal affairs of Liberia would be firmly resisted by the US.

The kind of public utility, economic and public health assistance which we have furnished and are continuing to furnish Liberia is designed to raise the living standards of its people, and to enable the country to reach as rapidly as possible a stage of development at least comparable to neighboring British and French colonial territories. To this extent we regard Liberia as a proving ground for President Truman’s Point IV program2 to show that underdeveloped areas are capable of rapid economic progress.

The location of Liberia, on the coast of Africa nearest to South America and adjacent to the South Atlantic narrows, is of strategic importance in time of war to US lines of communication, both surface and air, to South Africa and South America. The fact that it is the only territory in West Africa not dependent upon a European nation increases Liberia’s strategic significance for us.

Our present military, air and naval rights in Liberia are defined in two agreements. One agreement grants to the US certain military air rights until six months after the official termination of World War II.3 Under this agreement, we are currently subsidizing the maintenance and operation of Roberts Field, which is being operated [Page 1277] by an American company under contract to the Department of the Air Force. In view of the temporary nature of our present military air rights, it would be desirable to conclude a new and more permanent agreement with Liberia. It is expected that this will be done shortly.

The other existing agreement provides for the construction (now completed) and operation of a port and port works at Monrovia.4 Under this agreement, the US upon its own request can exercise certain military and naval rights inside the port or in the vicinity thereof. By virtue of our extraordinarily close relationship with Liberia, we can be confident of obtaining, if necessary, additional military, air and naval rights.

Upon the request of the Liberian Government, President Truman approved on October 19, 1950 a small US military training mission for Liberia.5 This mission, details of which are now being worked out by the Department of Defense, will undertake to reorganize and train the present poorly organized and ill-equipped Liberian militia for internal security.6 Apart from the desire of the Liberian Government for national prestige reasons, to build up some semblance of a military force at least comparable to those of her British and French colonial neighbors, we believe our own expanding interests in Liberia justify the formation of an efficient internal security force for general police duty.

Economic. It is US policy to encourage and assist Liberia, within the framework of its independence, to further its economic development in a balanced and orderly manner. To assure the best possible development of Liberia’s natural resources, US as well as other foreign investment and commercial activity in the Liberian economy should be encouraged on a freely competitive basis. Such a policy will also provide a basis for obtaining “equal treatment” for US commercial interests in other African areas.

Economic development in Liberia should in general be undertaken only by those enterprises which are prepared to operate in accordance with business practices that do not restrain competition, limit access to markets or otherwise foster monopolistic control. We maintain an impartial position towards US companies, avoiding becoming identified with any one group. While we do not favor cancellation of [Page 1278] existing concessions, we are urging progressive modification of those privileges not in conformity with declared US policy.

Our policy is implemented through public statements of US approval of progressive measures undertaken by Liberia to improve its economy and strengthen its government; advice to the Liberian Government on financial and political matters; agricultural, economic and public health surveys and development programs now being undertaken by US economic and public health missions; and suggestions, both formal and informal, about reforms which should be made in the Liberian political, economic and social structures.

The port of Monrovia, which was constructed through the expenditure of over $20,000,000 of lend-lease funds, is now operating as a free port facility, the only one of its kind in West Africa, under the Monrovia Port Management Company. This company was organized at the instance of the Department of State by a group of American business interests operating in Liberia, Its functions are set forth in a detailed contract with the Liberian Government, as contemplated in the original Lend-Lease Agreement between the US and Liberia.

So long as the Management Company is composed of primary users of the port, it is our policy to have the firms participating in the Management Company represent a cross-section of commercial activity in Liberia. To that end, we would not oppose participation of other American interests not presently included in the management of the port or participation by foreign interest provided that majority control of the Management Company remains American. The port should be operated at all times in accordance with the criteria of the best interest of Liberia, non-discriminatory practices, and maximum repayment of the funds expended by the US for the construction of the port, consistent with our other general objectives in Liberia. The Management group should grant port concessions only on the basis of a sound utilization survey; leases and concessions granted during the initial period of operation should either be limited to short periods or should be made renewable periodically with rates subject to renegotiation in the light of port traffic and revenues. Because of US interest in obtaining the quickest return on its investment, the Department and other agencies of the Government such as the Treasury Department and the General Accounting Office will have to examine the effectiveness of the operations by means of periodic audits or other examinations of the Management Company’s over-all performance of its duties and responsibilities.

While we favor increased private investment and commercial activity, experience with The Liberia Company, organized by Mr. Edward E. Stettinius, Jr., indicates that when the views of the Department are sought we should strongly impress upon those connected with new ventures the desirability of concentrating on projects which [Page 1279] directly relate to the economic development of Liberia, and which are within their capacity to finance and to carry forward to a successful conclusion.

In view of increasing private investment and commercial activity in Liberia and because of the large US commitments in other areas, the Liberian Government should not be encouraged to expect largescale financial assistance from the US. However, in cases where Liberia is unable to finance appropriate development projects from its own or private resources, we will consider, as we are doing at the present time, the advisability of US financial assistance. These considerations apply to Liberia’s request for a $10,000,000 Export–Import Bank loan to finance a hydro-electric plant and transmission system, water and sewage disposal systems, and a highway improvement and construction project. The Export–Import Bank is in the process of studying these projects.7

The US Economic and Public Health Missions to Liberia have been of great assistance to the Liberian Government in helping to promote the economic development of the country and to improve living standards. Plans are now being worked out to expand the activities of these two missions under the Point IV Technical Cooperation program. Tentatively, $850,000 has been allotted to finance these activities, and the two missions as presently constituted will be merged into the operating facility for Point IV Technical Assistance to Liberia.

It is US policy to encourage the development of the Liberian mineral and other resources in ways that will ensure American consumers free and equal access to any newly-discovered sources and permit acquisition of any available supplies for US Government stockpiles. We oppose any arrangement which would allow production or distribution of Liberian products to be controlled by an enterprise participating in a cartel.

On the labor front we are fully aware of the importance of good relations between US-owned firms and Liberian workers in promoting the development of that country and maintaining friendly relations between the two governments. While we do not instruct US firms as to their labor policies, we believe it important that these firms should follow a labor relations policy which would make for a progressively higher standard of living.

We should continue to make available to Liberia technical counsel to facilitate the development of sound financial institutions and fiscal policies.

The importance that Liberia attaches to its participation in an expanding multilateral world trading system is attested by the fact that Liberia was the only country to accept unconditionally the Charter [Page 1280] for an ITO. Liberia participated in the Annecy tariff negotiations and acceded to the GATT. Liberia also belongs to the Rubber Study Group. Although we recognize the fact that Liberia is handicapped by the lack of personnel, we should encourage Liberia to attend sessions of the Contracting Parties and Rubber Study Group.

The Department is of the opinion that a direct American-controlled air service between the US and Liberia is highly desirable. We do not, however, consider it advisable to require an uneconomic service to be operated by Pan American Airways so long as a connecting service to Monrovia is available which will permit passengers to obtain through passage without delays between New York and Liberia. A connecting service with Pan American’s trunk route at Dakar would have certain advantages over a connecting service at Accra, although it is of course desirable to have connecting services into Roberts Field from both Dakar and Accra.

c. relations with other states

The proximity of British and French colonial territories and the general political weakness of Liberia have in the past created problems between Liberia and her more powerful neighbors. The resulting differences have from time to time required US intercession with the British and French to support Liberia’s independence and territorial integrity. Today, with the United Nations and the various mutual assistance programs now in operation, the danger of political intervention in Liberia by either of those countries is considerably reduced. However, there are at present active Communist elements in French Guinea and the Ivory Coast, which if permitted to develop and expand, might emerge as a dangerous threat to the Liberian democratic process of government. Any drastic change in the Metropolitan Government of France which might bring the Communists into control of that government would, of course, affect conditions in the French territories surrounding Liberia. Under such circumstances it is almost certain that these colonial territories would change over to communist control.

We approve increased friendly foreign commercial activity in Liberia providing it carries no undesirable political implications. Both Great Britain and France are endeavoring to expand their political influence in Liberia through increased economic activity. Any sign of disinclination on our part to continue any US-sponsored activities, such as the operation of American-built Roberts Field, has been followed immediately by an offer to do so from the British or the French.

Liberia and the USSR do not maintain diplomatic relations and there is no Soviet influence in Liberia.

d. policy evaluation

The success of our present policy toward Liberia is publicly attested to by President Tubman’s frequent re-affirmation of Liberia’s whole-hearted [Page 1281] acceptance of the US as its “next friend”. Accelerated American-sponsored economic development in Liberia, with the full support of the Liberian Government, is another example of successful US influence. Success of our policy in the field of positive assistance is reflected in the construction of a port and port works with American funds and personnel, in partial financing by the Export–Import Bank of the Bomi Hills iron ore project, and in financial support by the Department of the Air Force of American-built Roberts Field. Then there are the important benefits to Liberia’s economic and social development brought about by the US economic and Public Health missions, financed by the US Government and staffed with American technical personnel. The regular support given the United States in the UN is further evidence of the success of our policy toward Liberia.

While there are no unresolved current policy problems of any consequence between the US and Liberia, there remains much to be done in the improvement of Liberia’s economic and political structure, which can be achieved only through the continuation of our present assistance.

There are few obstacles within Liberia which could prevent or seriously hamper the attainment of our objectives. On the contrary, our efforts are made easier by the traditional willingness of Liberia to accept US advice. Failures in the attainment of our objectives in Liberia have in the past resulted from our own lack of perseverance, rather than from any Liberian opposition. These failures have comprised inconsistencies in financial assistance to Liberia in its periods of need, and, from time to time, failure effectively to resist foreign encroachment on the territorial integrity of Liberia. Since 1942, however, we have displayed greater initiative in our policy toward Liberia, and our programs of direct aid and assistance have concretely demonstrated our awareness of our unique role as Liberia’s “next friend”. Additional assistance-type measures now under active consideration will further strengthen our position in Liberia. These include tentative allocation of $850,000 for a Point IV Technical Assistance program, furnishing Liberia a military training mission, and a possible Export–Import loan for public utility-type projects.

  1. Department of State Policy Statements were concise summaries of current U.S. policy toward a country or region prepared by ad hoc working groups in the responsible geographic offices of the Department. These policy statements, which were intended to provide information and guidance for officers in missions abroad, were referred to appropriate diplomatic missions for comment and criticism. The statements were periodically revised.
  2. Regarding the December 22, 1950, agreement with Liberia for technical cooperation under the Point Four Program, see the editorial note, supra.
  3. The reference here is to the U.S.-Liberian agreement of March 31, 1942, covering the use of airports and defense areas in Liberia. For the text of the agreement, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 275 or 56 Stat. (pt. 2) 1621. For documentation on the negotiations leading to the agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, pp. 355 ff.
  4. The reference here is to the U.S.-Liberian agreement of December 31, 1943, relating to the construction of a port and port works at Monrovia. For the text of the agreement, see Department of State Executive Agreement Series No. 411, or 58 Stat. (pt. 2) 1357. For documentation on the negotiations leading to the agreement, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, pp. 678 ff.
  5. For documentation on President Truman’s action under reference here, see ibid., 1950, vol. v. pp. 1706 ff.
  6. Regarding the agreement of January 11, forecast in this sentence, see the editorial note, supra.
  7. Regarding the proposed Export–Import Bank credits to Liberia, see NAC Document 1090, January 15, infra.