Memorandum of Conversation, by Jerome R. Lavallee of the Office of African Affairs1

  • Subject:
  • French Togoland and French Cameroons.
  • Participants:
  • Mr. John E. UtterAF–Chairman
  • M. Jean Jurgensen, Chief of the African Section, French Foreign Office
  • M. Francois de Quirielle, Assistant to M. Jurgensen
  • M. Gabriel van Laethem
  • Mr. Nicholas FeldAF
  • Mr. J. R. LavalleeAF
  • Mr. Benjamin GerigUND
  • Mr. Vernon McKayUND
  • Mr. Curtis StrongUND

M. Jurgensen opened the discussion by stating that the next session of the Trusteeship Council (the Fourteenth Session, which is expected to meet in New York from June 2 to July 16, 1954) will take up the question of French and British Togoland. At some time during the session the British and French are expected to report on the steps taken by them pursuant to the three resolutions on this problem adopted by the Eighth General Assembly. On June 10, elections are scheduled to be held in British Togoland along with the Gold Coast. The results of the election in the Trust Territory should indicate whether the British Togolanders prefer unification with French Togo-land or integration with the Gold Coast. Therefore, the British will have to await the outcome of these elections before they can submit their report to the Trusteeship Council.

M. Jurgensen then referred to the bill or Projet de Loi concerning French Togoland, a copy of which he had handed to Mr. Utter the previous day for study.3 He pointed out that the BILL, which he expected to be approved by the French National Assembly in June, has already been presented to the French Parliament and was actually under study of the General Political Committee of the Assembly of the French Union, which had brought about important changes in the initial text. These amendments portend a greater degree of decentralization [Page 1382] and prepare the way for reforms of even greater significance.

The powers of the Territorial Assembly are to be enlarged to include substantive questions.
The members of the Executive Council, four of whom are to be nominated by the Governor and five elected by the Territorial Assembly, are to be given specific fields of responsibility or portfolios.

M. Jurgensen added that the future of the Territory was to be settled by the establishment of more liberal institutions and not by unification. He concluded his remarks by asking our opinion as to what extent we believed it will be possible for us to support the French in the United Nations.

Mr. Gerig stated that he had read the bill but that there were some details which were not altogether clear to him. He added that if the French could point to a substantial increase in the degree of self-government they would go a long way in getting assistance from various members of the United Nations.

M. Jurgensen stated that, in his view, the Joint Council idea was already dead in view of the proposed reforms. Further, if British Togoland votes for an integration with the Gold Coast, and the Trusteeship Council is presented with this fait accompli, then the French would seek to have the Trusteeship Agreement terminated. In reply to a question from Mr. Strong on this subject, M. Jurgensen replied that if the British sought a termination of the agreement at this time, the French would follow suit with a similar request.

Mr. Gerig stated that if the French could show an aspect of self-determination then, in his opinion, the Trusteeship Council would vote in its behalf. He added, however, that suspicion was so great that the Trusteeship Council will no doubt wish to oversee any elections which might be held to determine the future status of the Territory. M. Jurgensen replied that they were in accord with that idea but that, of course, he could not commit the Government on this point. Mr. Gerig then suggested that it might be well for the French to propose the plebiscite idea rather than wait until some one else proposed it. M. Jurgensen agreed.

Mr. Gerig said that it might be better for the French to prepare a report as they have been instructed, stating that the idea of a Joint Council was no longer popular or applicable in French Togoland. According to Mr. Strong the French might suggest that the Joint Council limit itself to handling customs and frontiers problems.

In conclusion, Mr. Gerig stated that, in the view of many UN members, the desired objective for all Trust Territories is independence and would probably not approve the termination of a Trusteeship Agreement on any other basis.

[Page 1383]

Mr. McKay pointed out that British Togoland, as part of the Gold Coast, will participate in making its own laws in Africa, whereas the laws for French Togoland, even under the proposed reforms, will be made in Paris. This fact will constitute another difficulty for the French in the UN. M. Jurgensen concluded by stating that the French wish to keep in step with the British in the Togoland question.

The meeting concluded with a very limited discussion on the Cameroons. It was generally agreed that the Cameroons question will not present any difficulty at the forthcoming session of the Trusteeship Council.

  1. Copies of this memorandum were sent to the Embassy at Paris and the Consulates General at Dakar and Léopoldville. The source text indicates that this was an “Afternoon Meeting”.
  2. The memorandum was drafted May 17.
  3. Most of the officials participating in the conversation recorded here also were present for a meeting the previous afternoon for a political discussion concerning French territories in Africa South of the Sahara; for Lavallee’s record of that meeting, see volume xi .