101. Despatch From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State 2

No. 1037


  • Department’s CA–6309, February 17, 1956;3 Embassy’s despatch No. 439, October 18, 19554


  • Embassy comments on paper entitled “Africa: Problems of United States Policy”


Determination of United States policy regarding dependent areas presents fewer immediate problems in the Congo than it does in such areas as North Africa, for the metropolitan government under its present policies is now giving and for some time may be capable of giving to the Congolese more than they demand. The predominant interests of the United States in its defense and economic arrangements with the Western European countries as well as its interest in seeing the dependent African peoples progress in an orderly fashion toward self-government can both be served in the Congo by acting through the metropolitan government. At least while present conditions prevail, this will not earn for the United States in the Congo the opprobrium of participation in “foreign oppression”.

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So far as can presently be seen, the Belgian and Congo economies are capable of bearing the burden of the development of the Congo at its present pace without grant or loan aid from the United States Government. Need for United States Government assistance is for the present limited to a modest technical assistance program and encouragement of American private investment. This estimate should, however, be reviewed from time to time as the Congo is entering a period of rapid and perhaps basic change due to the recent Belgian decision to accelerate the political education of the Congolese. Belgian capabilities may not always remain adequate to complete its self assigned task of helping the Congolese to reach a status where they can participate in their own administration. In view of the importance of the Congo to the United States as a prime source of critical raw materials, United States aid, if a need for it developed, would have a fairly high priority. Any American offers of assistance which may be made should take carefully into consideration the rather unusual sensitivities of the Belgians which are motivated by fears of losing the Congo and their suspicion that anti-colonialist tendencies might lead the United States to take positions undercutting them there.

As regards the activities and numbers of United States Government personnel in the Congo, the size of the staffs is not so important as a continuation of the policy of assigning persons there who are highly adaptable to the sensitivities of the political situation as well as to the living conditions. It is recommended that USIA adopt the policy of assigning its officers to Leopoldville after they have had a tour of duty in Brussels where they can learn at first hand of the Belgian attitudes towards and sensitivities regarding the colony. The role USIS is playing in the Congo would not necessarily be facilitated in the Embassy’s opinion by increase in staff. Net progress cannot be achieved in the information field in the circumstances obtaining there unless the program enjoys the full confidence of the Belgian authorities and earning this confidence is necessarily a slow process. The United States should not put itself in the position of attempting a program which the Belgians might think would undermine them in the Congo. One means of avoiding such a development is to maintain close coordination with the appropriate Belgian authorities in our information program, insuring that they are kept informed of what we are trying to achieve. Congolese are not in general permitted to come to Belgian universities and for this reason the Belgians are now engaged in establishing university facilities in the Congo. For this reason, United States scholarships should not now be offered to Congolese Africans. End Summary

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[Here follows an exposition of the points summarized above.]

Frederick M. Alger, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.70/3–2156. Confidential. Sent also to Paris and Leopoldville.
  2. CA–6309 transmitted a paper entitled “Africa: Problems of United States Policy,” to various diplomatic posts and consular offices concerned with Africa. The paper was prepared in response to Vice President Nixon’s request for the Department’s views on Africa. (Ibid., 611.70/12–1756)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., 120.1470/10–1855)