10. Memorandum From the Representative at the Trusteeship Council (Sears) to the Secretary of State 1
- Future U.S. Policy in Africa
The attached report covers travels which I made under State Department orders during the autumn and early winter to Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, the Gold Coast, British Togoland and Nigeria. Its purpose was to collect information concerning various African problems bearing upon my duties as U.S. Representative on the Trusteeship Council and on the Committee on Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories.
Union of South Africa
This report begins with South Africa, where, thanks to our Embassy and Consulates, it was made possible for me to listen to many people, Europeans and non-Europeans, about the race question—whether it could be solved without going through a period of violence, and what were the long and short term prospects. Most of those with whom I talked did not anticipate any serious crisis for the next few years. Business men in particular were optimistic about the future. Industry is booming and they believed that an ever-expanding need for African labor would provide an orderly solution for all race problems. But, except for the Afrikaner (white Boer) Nationalists, they were alone in their confidence.
The Africans (negroes), Coloreds (half-castes) and Indians, although generally moderate in talk, were bitter about the extreme measures which the Strijdom Government is enacting in order to [Page 31] apply an apartheid form of racial segregation. If present race supremacy policies, such as restricted education, no political rights, depressed wages, segregation, pass laws, and race hatreds persist, all of them spoke of the probability of being forced eventually into some form of peaceful resistance, such as strikes and boycotts. Strikes, if large enough, could break the national economy, but not without bloodshed, at least for so long as the present government remains in power—and most people believe that they will stay in power for a long time to come.2
It might be different if South Africa were a normal democratic community where governments can be voted in and out of office. But it is not. By packing the Senate,3 the Afrikaner (Boer) nationalists have the votes to re-write the constitution at will and have already begun to create a police state. Furthermore, they are not a political party so much as the embodiment of resurgent anti-British Afrikanerdom. More than that, they are inspired by a religious belief in their racial superiority over the Africans. Put nationalism and religion together and add a universal fear of ultimately losing their racial identity in a sea of Africans and you have a party which is well nigh impossible to defeat by peaceful methods. This leaves a most uncertain prospect for South Africa.
But even if racial segregation is doomed to fail, as all but the fanatics agree, the important question is one of time. How long will it be before there is a first-rate blow-up? An important clue to this question is contained in the still confidential Tomlinson Report4 which has been in the government’s hands for two years. According to reliable information, this report concludes that if urgently needed soil preservation measures are not taken at once (which appears most [Page 32] unlikely), it will be too late to do much to save the productivity of the “native reserves”. These are similar to our Indian reservations and are the cornerstone of apartheid, because it is planned that they will support the great bulk of the African population. Estimates are that if nothing is done, the food-growing capacity of the reserves will be largely exhausted within the short period of 15-20 years.
This is an important conclusion, because it defines quite precisely the critical 15-20 year period during which several millions of Africans will be forced off the reserves into city slums in search of work and food.
This means that the developing race crisis in South Africa—with all its implications for the other “white settler” areas of the continent—principally the Rhodesias and Kenya—could come to a head in 15 years and premonitory symptoms are before us now.
Rhodesias and Nyasaland
In the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, race relations are as important as they are in South Africa on its southern border. This new semi-self-governing federation is directly exposed to the contagious influence of racism in South Africa. Although Europeans amount to only 3% of the population, it is the second largest “white settler” area in Africa south of the Sahara. At present it looks as if its future would depend importantly upon how fast its European leaders can prove to the Africans that the official goal of race partnership is a sincere purpose. But it will not be easy to persuade the segregation-minded whites to reverse their long-standing customs of racial aloofness.
Prime Minister Todd of Southern Rhodesia, with whom I had a number of conversations, believes that the Federation has about ten years in which to make a success—to insulate itself from South African racism and to become a workable democracy. He feels that Nyasaland, which is almost 100% black African, is the central problem because it was forced into the Federation over the opposition of its entire population to any form of association with the “white settlers” of Southern Rhodesia.
A “white settler” district is not an easy district for a liberal man like Mr. Todd to represent. His constituency contains some 600 voters—nearly all white. He estimates that one-third of them are “poor whites”. They are segregationist and anti-African—and a political road block to race partnership. One third are liberal and favor fast progress toward partnership. The middle third are easily frightened and sway from side to side. His problem is to bridge the gap between African and European thinking without losing his majority vote. If he fails he would be replaced by a less progressive [Page 33] representative, which would slow down the rate of progress toward “partnership”. That is the problem in all white settler districts, wherever they are. Their progress is conditioned by the reactions of the most unprogressive—and the danger is that this may prove too slow to keep up with African evolution.
Another leader who has to face a “white settler” electorate is Sir Roy Welensky, who is slated to become Prime Minister of the Federation in the near future.5 As one of the principal instigators of the new Federation, he is committed to race partnership, although his political life is dependent on the votes of the white miners of Northern Rhodesia (many of whom are South African Afrikaners) whose high pay is protected by the existence of an industrial color bar, which is the very opposite of race partnership. He told me that he could not deny that Africans would one day have complete control over the affairs of the Federal Government, and he spoke of the necessity of developing the Rhodesias as a buffer state, dedicated to race partnership, which could block Afrikaner race conflict from spreading north. But while these strictly private views may sound realistic and liberal, it is difficult to see how he can provide the necessary progressive leadership with the millstone of the white miners’ union around his neck.
The hard core, conservative side of “white settler” politics is found in the views of Mr. Van Eeden 6—new leader of the opposition in the Federal Assembly. His recent election to the Federal Assembly was won on a pure white state-apartheid issue. Mr. Van Eeden describes apartheid in South Africa—and his adaptation of it to the Rhodesias—as a “military movement” to protect the white man from the imminent danger of being swamped in a sea of Africans. His political success illustrates the difficulty which “white settlerism” poses for Messrs. Todd and Welensky, whose leadership depends entirely on their ability to win “white” votes.
Altogether the political situation in the Federation does not hold much prospect for the early assumption of sovereign self-government. Too many white people will have to revise radically their thinking about their status in Africa—and it is not going to be easy for them. In the meantime, it is unthinkable that the British Parliament will confer sovereignty upon the Federation and make it [Page 34] eligible for membership in the British Commonwealth, until a majority of the Africans (negroes), particularly in Nyasaland, have changed their minds and expressed a desire to be included in the new nation. But the way things are shaping up, it is unlikely that race partnership can be brought about in time to create an effective barrier against the possible spread of South African racism, which was the original hope of the Federation founders.
The only remaining “white settler” area of importance south of the Sahara is Kenya, whose white population, numbering less than 1% of the rapidly expanding African population, owns a vastly disproportionate share of the arable land. Here, as in the Rhodesias, the “white settlers” are divided between a minority of “white supremacists” and those who are less race-minded, or who would favor the rapid acceptance of Africans into the political and social life of the community. The leading “white settler” in public life is Mr. Michael Blundell, a very forward-looking, dynamic individual, who would go far in politics in whatever country he lived. His problem, as he describes it, is not the evolving African but the European. The difficulty, he says, is how to persuade the conservative wing of the “settler” group to think of themselves as cooperationists with the Africans rather than dominationists. He believes, however, that the Europeans, as a whole, have begun to take a new and a more understanding interest in African affairs.
This interest has been accelerated by the Mau Mau insurrection which I was reliably informed on all sides is nearly at an end. As of November last, there was said to be, all told, approximately 3,000 gangsters still at large. But their weekly losses at the hands of the forest tracker teams were such that the gangs would probably be broken up entirely within twelve months. Although large-scale rehabilitation and de-oathing of the Mau Mau captives is underway, it is an enormous task; and even when the gangs are no more, the anti-European aspect of the movement is expected to go underground, where it is hoped it will no longer be influenced by Mau Mau, with its fearful oath ceremonies.
In the meantime, progress toward self-government is slowly moving ahead with promise of faster progress in the future. In this regard Sir Frederick Crawford, the Deputy Governor told me that self-government could possibly be achieved considerably sooner than within the next generation.7[Page 35]
The development of self-government in the Gold Coast, Nigeria, and Uganda will, of course, have a great impact on affairs in Kenya. There is also the effect of the 1955 report of a British Royal Commission on East Africa.8 This will be interesting to watch as its comments and recommendations went much further and were fundamentally more revolutionary in their pro-African approach than the conclusions contained in the report of the 1954 Visiting Mission of the United Nations with respect to Tanganyika.
There is a brand of thinking in Kenya that the country could have a most interesting future—if it is given time, and if “white settlerism” and its segregationist ideas can moderate quickly enough. There is tribal rivalry and dislike between the Africans. There are also deep divisions among the Asians, as between Hindu and Moslem, Ishmaili, Sikh and Arab. Owing to this, some people think that when the electorate has become dominantly African, a European running for public office—where he would be obliged to be sensitive to the needs and wants of the African majority—might well become a successful and an effective, cohesive force in the future evolution of the territory, even after self-government. But that depends on the ability of the local Europeans to transfer power to the Africans fast enough to keep pace with African demands to possess it.
“White Settlerism” in General
I will not go into the subject of “white settlerism” or “white supremacy” in French North Africa, except to say that it gives every evidence of going the way it did in Indochina, only much faster. It is also clearly evident that “white settlerism” in Africa is the only real obstacle that stands in the way of finally eliminating not only the colonial issue (in its western sense) but also the even more dangerous racist issues upon all of which the Soviets thrive. But it must not be forgotten that these European nationals live where they do by constitutional right. They have made their homes in far-away lands. Furthermore, many of them have contributed greatly to their communities. Yet there must be somewhere an answer to the perplexing question of how to persuade or perhaps to force the obdurate, right wingers among the “settlers” to become cooperative with the Africans. In a continent of 200 million people it is out of all proportion that a handful of perhaps less than 20,000 white die-hards in colonial territories and say 2,000,000 split between the “colons” of North Africa and the Afrikaner (Boers) of South Africa can provide the flame to spark an international colonial-race issue which has become damaging in the extreme to the leading powers of [Page 36] the free world, including the United States. But since they have, it becomes essential to recognize the implications of the Mau Mau insurrection in Kenya and the organized terrorism of the Moslems in North Africa. These violent movements resulted when the cleavage between the African “have nots” and the European “haves” became too prolonged and too pronounced for orderly settlement. Almost more disturbing has been the reaction of the white mobs to any solution of the race troubles in Algeria, Tunis and Morocco other than continued suppression by military means. It may be a small scale preview of where South Africa is heading.
The place furthest removed from “white settlerism” is West Africa, where the evolution of the Imperial System of Great Britain into a modern and strong British Commonwealth will find its first African tests in the Gold Coast and Nigeria—and I also would include Uganda, which is being developed like these other two as a purely African state. Whereas progress toward self-government in East and Central Africa is being held back by “white settler” die-hards, the progress in British West Africa goes on at a pace which the Africans are finding it difficult to keep up with.
By far the most important and the most interesting political developments are in the Gold Coast, which already enjoys complete internal self-government and is expected to become entirely independent sometime in 1957. In fact, the Gold Coast is so much in charge of its own affairs that the British Governor is placed in the embarrassing position of having responsibility without authority. For this reason the British Government is extremely anxious to withdraw entirely from the Gold Coast at the earliest possible date. In the meantime, Prime Minister Nkrumah’s timetable for the actual assumption of independence has been somewhat delayed by his political opponents in Ashanti (in the center of the country) and in the northern territories. This means that Mr. Nkrumah needs to exhibit a high degree of statesmanship in order to reconcile various conflicting political interests within his country. In fact, the ability of Africans to reconcile their tribal differences when they come to the brink of nationhood is being severely tested. If the Gold Coast fails to solve its current problems and the British are obliged to prolong their presence, the cause of African self-government throughout the continent will be thrown back for several years.
On the other hand, the Trust Territory of British Togoland will hold a United Nations supervised plebiscite in May. If the vote goes heavily for unification with the Gold Coast, as it probably will, it [Page 37] will be a great victory for Nkrumah and will help him to solve his problems in Ashanti.
Then there is also the fact that the forthcoming plebiscite in British Territory has already made it most difficult for the French Government to delay long in agreeing to a plebiscite on self-government for the adjoining territory of French Togoland.
In any event, the appearance of a number of sovereign African nations in West Africa will almost certainly have a disturbing influence upon race relations in South Africa, in the Central African Federation and in East Africa. In fact, it is bound to hasten the day of decision in those parts of Africa when the white settler will be forced to decide one way or another about his role in African affairs.
The whole African picture is further complicated by the Communist problem. With the inevitable growth of trade unionism and its possibilities for Communist penetration which has already occurred in Lebanon and Syria, and with the increasing Communist opportunities to encourage racism in white settler Africa, the whole question of whether Africa can be kept on the side of the free world becomes a matter of supreme importance. At all events, developments which will not be to our advantage, such as racial conflict, industrial unrest, and the political instability which is natural in new governments are about to take shape in the near future so that it would be too bad if our preoccupation with the more immediate and the more urgent problems of Europe and Asia should obscure the growing importance of Africa to our future.
In conclusion, it is one thing to describe the approaching difficulties which are certain to face the United States in its relationship with Africa, but is is quite another thing to suggest what to do about it. Political and economic evolution in Africa is still in such a formative stage that a “play it by ear” policy is about all we can pursue—for the moment. There are, however, several recommendations which I hope the State Department will see fit to consider.
- My first recommendation concerns the Fourth of July, when our Embassies and Consulates all over the world hold large receptions in honor of our Declaration of Independence—and yet Africans are entirely excluded from American soil on this day in South Africa, and to a large extent in Southern Rhodesia, and in Kenya, where perhaps a few get by the bar, but not many. To me it seems a little off color that the fear of displeasing a tiny handful of anti-African Europeans should in any way restrain the representatives of the United States from publicly celebrating American tradition. The inclusion of Africans at these American receptions would be a very [Page 38] little thing to do and would have a very happy effect upon millions of Africans all over the continent. I believe that this is a matter which should not be left to the discretion of our representatives on the spot. It should come as a clear and specific order from the Secretary of State, especially considering the recent disgraceful race riots in Alabama. It would please many citizens of the United States, and a careful program should be worked out to see to it that American opinion be informed of this decision.9
Another recommendation concerns the problem of the French Union and the necessity for it to become a strong and truly voluntary association of sovereign nations like the British Commonwealth, in which membership carries with it not only international representation but the right to resign. As it stands today, the French Union is fundamentally an imperial or colonial association in which the main source of political power is retained in Paris. This means that no French African overseas territory is going to be content to remain in the French Union so long as final authority over its most vital affairs remains in Paris and in the hands of French-born Frenchmen.
While each territory has technical representation in the French Parliament, they do not enjoy anywhere near equal representation with the citizens of metropolitan France. The French are in the process of being thrown out of North Africa, which some Frenchmen think may be a prelude to the ultimate loss of their position in the rest of Africa. This would be a great blow to the free world, because the stability of each emerging African nation can depend much upon its opportunity to affiliate with some strong free world international organization which has become a going concern. The French Union has not. For this reason, I believe that the United States should press and keep on pressing the French Government, whenever this can be done effectively, to reform their present Union, especially with respect to the status of its overseas territories, so that it may become a more attractive federation of equals, each with its own right of self-government and especially the right to resign. Nothing short of this will make it an organization which the French African territories would be glad to join.
- The real problem of Africa, however, is the Union of South Africa, where I fear that little can be done. There is one aspect about the Union which worries me particularly. To be realistic, I would suppose that between the United Kingdom and the United States we are to a great extent—through our South African trade—helping to support and prolong the exploitation of African labor with its deliberately depressed wages, its segregation, and all the other evils [Page 39] that arise out of the South African race problem. While I do not know what our position is with respect to our purchase of gold and nuclear materials, I suppose that the time will come when the purchase of one ounce of these materials will be of less value to us than a corresponding ounce of good will from the Asiatic-African peoples which would be ours if we were to apply some degree of trade sanctions in order to force South African racial reforms. I am not for one moment proposing that we adopt such a policy now, but I do suppose that between the United States and the United Kingdom we could—if we wanted to and dared to—impose some sort of trade restrictions on the Union of South Africa which would bring the Nationalist Government to its knees over night. But that is merely an observation—something to think about and to study for the future.
- Source: Department of State, IO/ODA Files: Lot 62 D 225, U.S. Representative in the Trusteeship Council. Confidential. Enclosure to a letter from Lodge to Dulles, February 15, in which Lodge wrote: “Mason Sears may have irritated a few of the hard-shelled colonialists (although he is on very good terms with the actual administrators), but he certainly has made a lot of friends for us with the natives, who have the future in front of them and where it means something to the United States for the long pull.”↩
- Sears met with Harry Oppenheimer, Deputy Chairman of the Anglo-American Corporation and Member of Parliament for Kimberley; S.G. Menell, Chairman of the Board of the Anglo-Transvaal Consolidated Investment Company, Ltd.; and Dr. H.J. van Eck, Chairman of the Industrial Development Corporation of South Africa. On December 6, in the company of Ambassador Edward T. Wailes, Sears called on South African Prime Minister Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom. Sears reportedly saw as well: Dr. William Nkomo, Rev. S.S. Tema, Dr. A.B. Xuma, A.S. Tela, L.D. Newanca, B.B. Ramjee, F. Landman, and D. Brutus representing various segments of the non-white community. Information on these meetings is in despatch 168 from Pretoria, December 13 (ibid., Central Files, 350/12–1355) and telegrams 129 from Johannesburg, December 7, and 194 from Pretoria, January 5, 1956 (ibid., 350/12–755 and 350/1–556).↩
- To secure enough votes to pass a constitutional amendment to remove the Coloured from the common roll in the Cape Province, the Senate Bill was introduced on May 11, and passed on June 20, 1955. The Senate was increased from 48 to 89 seats of which the Nationalists gained 77 compared to 30 previously. This made possible the passage on February 13 of the South Africa Act Amendment Bill, 1956.↩
- The report of the Commission chaired by Professor F.R. Tomlinson of Pretoria University was submitted to the government on October 1, 1954. A 213-page summary of the nearly 4,000-page document was printed in March. (Commission for the Socio-Economic Development of the Bantu Areas. Summary of the Report (Pretoria, Government Printer, 1956))↩
- Sears met with Welensky, who succeeded Sir Godfrey M. Huggins as Federal Prime Minister in 1956, and with Todd. According to Consul General Loyd V. Steere, the meeting went well and Sears made a good impression, managing to conceal his impatience with the pace of African political advancement. (Letter from Steere to Cyr, December 1; Department of State, AF Files: Lot 58 D 562, Correspondence 1955 B.C.A.–Fed.)↩
- Guillaume François Marais Van Eeden left the United Federal Party and became a founder and leader of the right-wing Dominion Party in 1955.↩
- This conversation is summarized in despatch 126 from Nairobi, October 20, 1955. (Department of State, Central Files, 350/10–2055)↩
- Cmd. 9475.↩
- See the editorial note, infra. ↩