102. Despatch From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State1

No. 786


  • Despatch 120, Nov. 28, 1956,2 from the Consulate General at Leopoldville; Embassy’s telegram 66 [666], December 14, 1956,3 to the Department (repeated to Leopoldville as No. 4)


  • Belgo-U.S. Relations in the Congo

I believe that the issues involved in the Kalonji visa case go far beyond the question of the issuance to a Congolese of a visa for entry into the United States and that this matter therefore merits very careful study.

The Consul General at Leopoldville in his despatch under reference states:

“The repercussions of his visit on European and African opinion in the Belgian Congo could be far-reaching. Paragraph two of Consul Murdock’s letter4 aptly states the dilemma in which the Belgians probably feel themselves; there can be no doubt of their [Page 306] desire to keep Congolese away from any direct American presupposed ‘anti-colonial’ influence; yet the effect of denying a passport to a leading immatriculé and member of the Conseil de Gouvernement upon African évolué opinion would be doubly serious. It would not only cast suspicion in the African mind on the Government’s good intentions, but would probably have the effect of enhancing the prestige of the United States among Africans. Hence, the possible frustration among Belgians that may be engendered by this situation would seem to dictate the utmost caution on the part of the United States Government in dealing with Mr. Kalonji’s visit.”

As indicated in my telegram under reference, I am strongly of the opinion that a matter of this nature should at the very outset have been a subject of informal discussion between the Consul General and high ranking authorities of the Congo Government. Such discussion would not be designed for the purpose of asking Belgian permission for our action nor for giving Belgian authorities a veto over normal and legitimate acts by our representatives in the Congo. It is evident, however, that in a case of this kind, if the Belgian authorities had considered Kalonji’s visit to the United States sufficiently harmful to Belgian interests, they themselves would have been in a position to take action to prevent such a visit.

What I have in mind is the establishment of a basis of cooperation and understanding with the Belgian authorities in our own approach to the Congolese and with respect to important problems affecting our relations with the Congo and with Belgium which will aim toward convincing the Belgians that our purpose is to help them and not to undermine their position. If we consider as erroneous some given Belgian policy, particularly one involving a question of our own actions, we should not hesitate to inform the Belgian authorities accordingly at a high level. I do not think, however, that we should put ourselves in the position of taking actions in dealing with important and sensitive problems involving the Congolese and the Congo, however legitimate such actions may be, which would have the effect of undermining the basis of our cooperation and understanding with the Belgians without a very frank and thorough informal discussion of such problems with the responsible Belgian authorities. It must not be overlooked that Belgium, and not the United States, has direct responsibility for the Congo. Our efforts should be directed toward assisting and encouraging them in the [Page 307] direction we think they should go in their policies toward the Congo.

I recall the deep suspicion of United States aims in North Africa among the French, which at times in the past was directed against United States consular representatives in that area. I strongly recommend that we lean over backwards to avoid creating a similar situation in the Congo provided we can do so without sacrificing our own basic interests and principles. I believe we can do this. It is generally recognized that Congolese developments are approaching the stage when the pace of events will be considerably accelerated. It behooves us, therefore, at this stage to avoid, to the extent possible consistent with our own long range interests, taking actions which would increase the difficulties and problems the Belgians will inevitably face during the years ahead.

In the light of the foregoing I urge that the Department give careful consideration to the problem inherent in this situation. I strongly recommend that the Embassy and the Consulate General at Leopoldville as a matter of standard operating procedure maintain informal contact at a high level in the Belgian Government and in the Government General, respectively, for discussion on a continuing basis of important problems of mutual interest between Belgium and the United States. It would be expected that on sensitive matters, such as this visit to the United States of a Congolese, the Belgian authorities would be made fully aware of our views and intentions. I am convinced that we have little or nothing to lose by following such a procedure and much to gain through the establishment of a close working relationship along these lines with the appropriate Belgian authorities.

I submit this recommendation because of my serious concern over the possibilities inherent in situations such as the Kalonji case where it was recognized that the repercussions of his visit could be very far reaching but on which we made no effort to discuss the matter in a frank manner with the Belgians. I should appreciate receiving an expression of the Department’s views on my recommendation.5

F.M. Alger, Jr.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 032–Kalongi, Isaac/12–2856. Confidential.
  2. Despatch 120 reported that Isaac Kalonji had applied for a non-immigrant visa to visit the United States. If the visa were granted, Kalonji would be the first Congolese intellectual of potential political standing to make such a trip. He was a member of the Conseil de Gouvernement, an advisory body whose members were selected not elected, and one of perhaps 200 immatriculés at that time. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 666 from Brussels recommended that the Consulate General Leopoldville discuss the visa application with high Belgian authorities to confirm they were aware of the impending Kalonji visit so the onus would fall on them if the trip were forestalled, (Ibid., 032–Kalonji, Isaac/12–1456)
  4. Paragraph 2 of Consul Thomas G. Murdock’s letter to Consul General James Frederick Green of November 22 reads:

    “I had previously had word from a certain local Government official who expressed some concern over the invitation, mainly that he did not think the individual was exactly the person to make this trip, although in principle he saw no objections to such a project. His main objection seemed to be that the applicant was not sufficiently well prepared.”

    The full text of the letter was sent to the Department as enclosure 2 to despatch 120 cited in footnote 2 above.

  5. Infra.