The Consul General at Nairobi (Dorsz) to the Department of State

No. 242


  • Five-point Program for a Strong U.S. Policy in East Africa

As the end of the year 1954 approaches, the Consulate General [Page 376]believes it is an appropriate time to take stock of the U.S. position in East Africa, to review our objectives, to define them clearly and to recommend a program for achieving them. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, the Consulate General wishes to restate the situation with which we are faced.

  • First, it is clear that there is no imminent threat of Soviet invasion or infiltration of East Africa. Perhaps the threat of the local people turning to Communism is not entirely absent, but it is at the moment remote. East Africa is not, in short, a “cold war” operational area in the accepted sense.
  • Secondly, there is no outstanding problem in our relationships with colonial and protectorate governments of the East African territories. Barring minor points, the understanding and cooperation that exists between the United States and those governments is quite excellent. No delicate diplomacy is necessary in order for us to work here. The limits on the amount we can accomplish are to a large extent defined by what we ourselves want to accomplish.

The danger is that, as we are not in the “cold war” area and having a smooth relationship with these governments, we may lose our sense of urgency. We could be content simply to leave the area in the hands of the relatively competent government of the United Kingdom and its local government counterparts and take the plausible line that we have enough to do elsewhere in the world without involving ourselves unduly in this far-off British territory.

There are several long-range considerations, however, why a policy of neglect may eventually prove costly.

If we are to profit by the lessons of China, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, we should not, for example, take lightly the rising nationalist movements in the East African territories. By far the most advanced nationalist movement is among the Buganda of Uganda, who are pressing strongly for political recognition. It is conceivable that the day will soon come when the Protectorate Government in Uganda will be overshadowed by the Kabaka’s native Kingdom. Even now the Buganda are tasting a great political victory (see Nairobi despatch No. 214 of November 18, 1954)1 in forcing the United Kingdom to back down on its previously inflexible position regarding return of the Kabaka. However much the Kabaka’s powers may be circumscribed on paper, he is virtually certain to return stronger politically than ever before, and the nationalist groups that supported him will likewise be stronger. Already the Uganda National Congress, headed by I. K. Musazi, flagrantly flouts the authority of the Protectorate Government by burning the Hancock Report before hundreds of supporters and casting the ashes into Lake Victoria. Thus [Page 377]far, the Protectorate Government has refrained from taking him into custody.

Governor Cohen moreover laid great stress on the “Moslem influences” creeping into Uganda from the North and the necessity to prevent the rise of extremism. (See despatch No. 232 of December 1, 1954.)2 Certainly Egyptian interest in the unity of the Nile Valley is not likely to decrease as time goes by.

As matters stand, we have no U.S. representation in Uganda. The Consulate General at Nairobi is too far removed—in distance, personnel and available travel funds—to make the U.S. adequately felt. Hence, the United States is almost an unknown quantity to the native government and population of Uganda. At present the United States has little means of even knowing about, much less moderating, any extremist influences creeping in from the North.

In Kenya, the indigenous—and potentially nationalist—movement took a blind detour through Mau Mau. So long as the prime movers identified themselves with the bestial practices of Mau Mau, the British were at liberty to smash both the political and terrorist movements at one fell swoop by force of arms. Once the military phase in Kenya ends, however, latent nationalist movements are certain to revive and may revive in more intrinsically dangerous forms; i.e., in forms which, as in Uganda, cannot readily be dealt with in military fashion. Nobody can be sure that the British experiment in multi-racial government, though it offers the best hope for stability, can for long succeed. Nor can we be sure the ultimate rise of either Asians or Africans to predominance can be prevented.

In Tanganyika there has been less evidence of ferment, but what happens in Uganda and in Kenya is certain to have repercussions there, particularly among politically-conscious tribes like the Chagga.3

In short, no one can say what kind of government we shall be dealing with in East Africa in the next decade. Another and perhaps even more important factor to be considered is that another foreign government is taking a profound interest in what is happening here. It is a government that has an appealing political philosophy of its own. It is tailoring that philosophy to attract nationalist groups. It is a government which can command the cooperation of a sizeable segment of the population of the East African territories, particularly in Kenya, to further its own ends. It is a government which is not necessarily in accord with all the aims and objectives of the United States. We refer to the Government of India.

[Page 378]

The potentialities for Indian penetration here have been thoroughly reviewed in despatches 136, October 12, 19544 and 165, October 27, 1954,5 and it will be noted from the contents thereof that a contest for influence between the U.K. and India is already under way. We can hardly remain disinterested bystanders in such a contest, especially in view of the probable importance of East Africa as a staging area in the event of a major war.

The same reasoning would apply to the spread of Egyptian influence in Uganda.

What then must be the U.S. objective in East Africa? Certainly it is not either to replace or to undermine the British. The former is obviously out of the question. So is the latter. Presently any alternative to British control would be unsatisfactory both from the standpoint of management of local affairs as well as from guaranteeing western interests in the area. On the contrary, the United States in our view should help the British in this area wherever we reasonably can, so long as such help is not given at the expense of our own relationship with the indigenous population. To work in harmony with the British in their efforts to help the native population toward a viable economy and eventual self-government should in our opinion be American policy toward this area. At the same time, it is important that we recognize that British power is definitely on the wane here. We must prepare for the day, which may come sooner than we expect, when Pax Britannica alone is not enough to insure local stability and maintenance of western interest. We must therefore begin now to develop stronger relationships with native leaders and with the native population, primitive as they may in some cases be. America must not forever remain an unknown quantity to these people, nor they to us, especially as they begin to acquire political power.

Moreover, we must, in view of the uncertainty of India and Egypt as allies, develop a comparable position to theirs in this area so that we may always lead from strength in our activities here.

To do this it is imperative to get closer to the indigenous population—leader-to-leader and people-to-people—than we are at present. To date, America is known to the native peoples primarily through American missionaries. These missionaries have done invaluable work. But in the final analysis, their job has been to interpret religion. It has not been their function, nor should we ask them, to interpret American political policies, American economic philosophy, American business methods, American agriculture, industry, labor, etc. Commensurate with the advance of the local people, there should be a much more fully-rounded activity involving all types of American life, ranging [Page 379]from diplomacy between governments to discussions among farmers. At present, aside from the missionaries, only the Consulate General and USIS at Nairobi, the Consulate at Dar es Salaam and a few scattered American businessmen are here to perform that function.

In light of the foregoing, the Consulate General believes a five-point program along the following lines, modest as it may be, is necessary if we are to develop strength, flexibility and leverage in our future relationships with the people of this area; if we are, in short, to be prepared for the future:

We should augment American consular representation in the territories. This is important particularly as regards coverage of Uganda where anything can and may happen quickly. A separate consulate in Uganda would be desirable and should remain our goal. Since for budgetary and political reasons it is probably not immediately possible, provision should be made for an increase of Nairobi’s staff by one officer and more frequent visits to Uganda by members of the Consulate General’s staff.
The USIS program should be strengthened throughout the territories. (See in this connection USIS despatch No. 135 of October 12, 1954.)6
Educational exchange with Makerere College, with the new Royal Technical College, and with other local educational institutions should be given high priority. As Secretary Dulles said before the Advisory Commission on Education Exchange in August, “One of our troubles is that we like to do things that work quickly. In that respect the Soviet Communists have a great advantage over us because they work for long-range objectives… 7 Their work among the intelligentsia and the fact that their propaganda has made such an impact in even the Western World is very largely due to the fact that they are getting the fruits now of work which they started 20 years ago. Another angle that I have been greatly impressed with and one in which we get our greatest help as we deal with the so-called underdeveloped countries—those which until recently were colonial countries—is the fact that in those countries there have emerged and come to the top people who have been educated either in the United States or in American institutions abroad.”
FOA should get into the picture as quickly and as strongly as possible for it has the capacity to reach both leaders and “grass roots” effectively through visible projects (see below).
Constructive contacts with the people of the area by private American organizations of all types should be stimulated.

The Consulate General has been gratified by the Department’s efforts to stimulate private interest in the local “Save the Children” campaign (despatch No. 234).8 It is furthermore pleased by the visit of Mr. Charles R. Joy of CARE. Mr. Joy has, incidentally, expressed the view [Page 380]that this area has been too long overlooked by private American philanthropic groups. These groups could do much good in cementing people-to-people relationships. No opportunity of this kind should be overlooked.

One further word about FOA, in which the Consulate General would like to place special emphasis. The Consulate General is not in a position to speak on the attitude of the Colonial Office, but it is certain that the governments of Kenya and Uganda very much want FOA to come in here to do certain projects (despatches 171, November 2, 1954,9 and 178, November 4, 1954).10

Messrs. Blum and Corfitzen of FOA worked very hard this fall to review and develop these projects with local officials (despatch No. 171, November 2, 1954). Some of these projects we believe, have considerable potentiality for making America present and real, rather than remote and unreal, to the local people. We believe this American presence will be felt whether or not, initially, many American personnel are involved in the projects. We further believe with respect to Kenya that the dimensions of the military campaign against Mau Mau are being rapidly reduced and that the Emergency should not be a deterrent towards FOA undertaking these projects.

The point is that we should make a start. If, for example, there is an American wing to the Royal Technical College, the first important institution in this area to open its doors to all races, it seems to the Consulate General that this will be a “foot in the door”, as well as a contribution of lasting benefit to the United States. Whether or not Americans are initially employed at the college, the fact that the wing is there, that it is American, and that the project was conceived in consonance with American principles of racial equality will not be overlooked or suppressed. The Consulate General and USIS will see [to] that. The Indian community, with strong encouragement by the Indian Government, is, incidentally, contributing £100,000 to this project.

Other FOA projects offer similar opportunities to build our prestige here. Building an effective relationship with people with whom we have had so little contact for centuries is obviously not an overnight job. It is a gradual process. Properly handled, however, the results can be cumulative. If in East Africa we are to avoid the catastrophe of China and the rampant extremism of some parts of the Middle East, we should start to develop contacts whenever and wherever we can and [Page 381]we should then build upon the foundations we lay. We believe the cost will be very small indeed in relationship to the benefits derived.

For this reason the Consulate General hopes that something along the lines of its five-point program above will be carried out to the fullest extent possible in coming months, and that through the combined effects of strengthened diplomacy, public relations, educational exchange, FOA and private American activity, we will be ready for anything that comes in this part of the world.

Edmund J. Dorsz
  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed; it summarized an address by Sir Andrew Cohen to the Rotary Club in Nairobi on Nov. 25, 1954. (745S.13/12–154)
  3. The Chagga were major coffee producers along the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
  4. Not printed; it detailed the activities of the Government of India in the region. (891.46/10–1254)
  5. Not printed; it dealt with Swahili broadcasts by the All India Radio. (891.46/10–2754)
  6. Not printed; it outlined a suggested USIS cultural program for East Africa. (511.45R/10–1254)
  7. The ellipsis indicated appears in the source text.
  8. Not printed; it indicated that the diplomatic community had attended a theatrical benefit which raised money for the Save the Children Fund. (845R.57/12–254)
  9. Not printed; it reported that Robert Blum of USOM, London, and W. E. Corfitzen of USOM, Rome, had arrived in Nairobi to consult with local officials on various FOA assistance applications and to undertake a field investigation of those projects relating to agricultural development. (103.02 FOA/11–254)
  10. Not printed; it summarized the negotiations involving an application for FOA assistance to the Royal Technical College. (745R.5 MSP/11–454)