The Assistant Secretary of State for United Nations Affairs (Hickerson) to Eleanor Roosevelt 1

My Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: With reference to your note of July 23, [Page 1304] 1951, and the attachments thereto,2 I hope the following information may be of some use to you.

Mr. Didwo Twe announced his candidacy for the Liberian Presidency in July 1950 on the United Peoples Party ticket. He then left Liberia in October 1950 for the United States. On returning to Liberia in April 1951, he engineered the merger of the United Peoples Party with the Reformation Party. Then, under the Reformation Party name, he filed his candidacy a second time on April 5, 1951. This application for a place on the ballot was filed only three weeks before election day, May 1, and not sixty days before as required by Liberian law. Consequently, Mr. Twe was refused a place on the ballot. This aspect of the case was apparently handled in conformance with Liberian electoral laws.

Following the denial of a place on the ballot to Mr. Twe, he apparently called upon friends and organizations outside of Liberia to help him obtain redress from what he considered an act of injustice. These actions led him and other members of his party to be charged with sedition, under the rather inclusive Liberian sedition laws. He and the leaders of the Reformation Party were indicted by a grand jury and warrants for their arrest were issued. Mr. Twe went into hiding and has not as yet been found. Some reports indicate he may have left Liberia.

In any case, the Department has received no indication from Liberia that the lives of Mr. Twe and his followers are in any way endangered. However, resentment against Mr. Twe and his party has grown in Liberia as a result of the unfavorable publicity that Liberia has received in the American press during the past few weeks. Responsible Liberian Government officials have been particularly outspoken against what they consider “outside interference” in Liberian domestic affairs. Because of this resentment, Mr. Twe is certainly not in good standing among the members of the Liberian administration, but there is no reason at present to fear that this resentment could take the form of a danger to his life.

With respect to the charges that the present Liberian administration is “anti-native,” the history of Liberia in the past ten years is quite to the contrary. The recent Presidential election was, for example, the first in which the native was allowed to vote, suffrage having been granted the native in 1947 by the same President who is now in office.

[Page 1305]

Furthermore, many of the high Liberian Government officials are of tribal descent. Among these are the Attorney General, the Secretary of War, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Finally, the present administration has bent its every effort to the betterment of the economic conditions of the tribal peoples. It has worked closely with a health mission and economic mission sent by the United States to Liberia. The main benefits of both these missions accrue principally to the tribal peoples.3

Sincerely yours,

John D. Hickerson
  1. This letter, which was addressed to Val-Kill Cottage at Hyde Park, New York, was drafted by Farmer (NEA/AF) and was initialed by Sims and Bourgerie of NEA/AF.
  2. Mrs. Roosevelt’s one-sentence letter simply asked Hickerson for information about the situation in Liberia. Attached to her letter were (1) a letter of July 5 by a Liberian citizen to John Collier, President of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs in Washington, D.C., complaining of the oppression of oppositionist forces within Liberia, and (2) Collier’s letter of July 13 to Mrs. Roosevelt (an honorary Vice President of the Institute of Ethnic Affairs) asking if the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Department of State, or the President could do anything to protect Liberian oppositionist forces.
  3. In response to a letter of inquiry of August 21 from Roger N. Baldwin, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International League for the Rights of Man, Director of African Affairs Bourgerie addressed a letter of September 20 very similar to the letter printed here.