104. Despatch From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State 1

No. 1238

SUBJECT

  • American Official Representation and USIS Activities in the Congo

Monsieur Delvaux de Fenffe,2 Director General for Political Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, today called in the reporting officer3 to convey to him the Belgian Government’s concern over the increase in the numbers of United States personnel being assigned to the Consulate General at Leopoldville and the [Page 310] expansion of USIS publications being issued by the Consulate General. A memorandum of this conversation is enclosed.4

Monsieur Delvaux explained that the Belgian Government had rejected French and British requests for the opening of additional consular offices in the Congo and requests by Arab Governments and the Indian Government for the stationing of consular representatives in the Congo, knowing that the Indians, Arabs and Communists were interested only in political activities. A Czech request for a visa for a second Czech consular officer was also being held up. He said that it was difficult for the Belgian Government to continue to reject such requests if at the same time other Governments could point to continued expansion of United States Government consular and informational activities in the area. He expressed the “hope” that the United States Government would understand the delicacy of the Belgian position and would take measures to avoid an increase in numbers of personnel or in USIS publications. He added that these questions had been raised with his Ministry by the Ministry of Colonies.

The reporting officer informed Monsieur Delvaux that he was confident that the Department of State would look with sympathy and understanding on the Belgian position but he was certain that the United States Government would accept with reluctance any effort to put a flat ceiling on the number of United States personnel assigned to the Congo as this hardly seemed to be in keeping with the very close and friendly relations between the two countries.

With reference to Monsieur Delvaux’s statements regarding the recent increase in USIS publications, the reporting officer said that so long as the right of the Consulate General to issue any publication was not in question the number of such publications seemed unimportant. He pointed out that the Czech Consul,5 for example, could use one such USIS publication as easily as five as a basis for a request to issue his own publications in the Congo.

The reporting officer said that the Embassy would convey to the Department Monsieur Delvaux’s views and told him that the United [Page 311] States Government would view sympathetically the Belgian difficulties in this regard.

Monsieur Louis Scheyven, Secretary General of the Foreign Office, with whom the reporting officer subsequently discussed this matter, states that the Czech Government has recently put increased pressure on the Belgian Government, including a direct approach to Minister for Foreign Affairs Spaak,6 for the assignment of a second consular officer in the Congo. Monsieur Scheyven says that the Belgian Government is placed in a difficult position in continuing to reject the Czech request and requests from the Indian and Arab Governments and for that reason wished the United States Government to keep in mind Belgian difficulties in connection with assignment of United States personnel and USIS information activities in the Congo.

The Embassy believes that the Belgians do have a genuine concern in this regard and wish to hold the line in order to prevent any further expansion of foreign government activity in the area which might have political overtones or cause difficulties for the Belgians. It is also likely that the Belgian attitude toward what it views as traditional American anti-colonialism, taken in conjunction with the recently achieved independence of Ghana,7 Vice President Nixon’s trip through Africa and the United States position vis-à-vis Ruanda-Urundi in the United Nations Trusteeship Council, points up at this time Belgian concern over future developments in the Congo.

The Embassy assumes that the recent increase in United States official personnel in the Congo which the Belgians have in mind represents the assignment of an Agricultural Officer and a second USIS Officer at Leopoldville. The Belgians may interpret such assignments as increased United States activity in fields other than those of normal consular functions.

In the light of the foregoing the Embassy recommends that this mission and the Consulate General in Leopoldville be authorized to convey to the Belgian authorities in Brussels and in Leopoldville an expression of the Department’s views regarding the questions raised along the following general lines:

The United States Government views sympathetically the difficulties faced by the Belgian Government, as described by Monsieur Delvaux de Fenffe. It does not believe, of course, that the Belgian Government would wish to place any flat limitation as such on the numbers of personnel that the United States Government may wish to assign to its consular establishments in the Congo. The United States Government will, of course, make every effort possible to [Page 312] avoid any non-essential increase in the numbers of personnel assigned to those consular offices, having in mind the problems the Belgian Government faces on this score. The Consulate General will undertake a careful review of the publications being issued by USIS and will keep in mind the Belgian Government’s views with respect to the issuance of any additional publications in the future.8

It is believed that the Embassy has “scotched” a possible effort of the Ministry of Colonies to reduce the number of publications being issued by USIS. The Embassy suggests, however, that the Consulate General carefully review these publications with a view to determining whether all of them are sufficiently important to United States national interests in the Congo to require their continued publication and with a view to dropping any not considered essential or combining some of them in order to reduce their number.

It is believed that this situation is one which fits very logically into the framework which this Embassy proposed in its despatch No. 786 of December 28, 1956.9 The Embassy believes that frank and friendly discussions of these problems with the Belgian authorities, by the Consulate General, as well as by the Embassy, should enable these problems to be worked out satisfactorily on a friendly basis and that discussions on a regular and continuing basis of problems of this nature might in the future prevent their becoming the subject of official representations at a high level in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For the Ambassador:
Philip D. Sprouse
Counselor of Embassy
  1. Source: Department of State, Central File 122.536H3/3–2157. Confidential. Also sent to Leopoldville.
  2. Jacques Delvaux de Fenffe.
  3. Philip D. Sprouse.
  4. Not printed. Sprouse noted that Delvaux de Fenffe had made a “veiled reference” to the possible political character of the USIS English classes for Africans. Sprouse emphasized that “the United States did not wish to interfere in relations between colonial powers and their possessions and its real concern arose when colonial powers did not satisfy or keep ahead of the aspirations of the native peoples and let situations boil up to the point that they explode in bloodshed in the faces of both the colonial powers and the possessions and vitally affected the position of the free world.” Sprouse concluded that Belgium had theretofore kept in advance of African aspirations though “the real challenge would obviously come in the future.”
  5. Consular relations with Czechoslovakia were established prior to the Communist accession to power in 1948.
  6. Paul-Henri Spaak.
  7. March 6, 1957.
  8. In telegram 155 to Leopoldville, April 17, also sent to Brussels, the Department advised delay in conveying the views proposed in this paragraph. The Department recommended an informal approach by Green concerning personnel assignments and USIS publications. (Department of State, Central Files, 122.536H3/3–2157) Telegram 1232 from Brussels, April 18, advised against such an informal approach. (Ibid., 122.536H3/4–1857) Telegram 1631 to Brussels, May 15, also sent to Leopoldville, instructed the Embassy to explain U.S. staffing plans and USIS programs to the Belgian Foreign Ministry. (Ibid., 122.536H3/3–2157) Sprouse accordingly met with Delvaux de Fenffe on May 17 to present the Department’s reply to the Belgian démarche. He emphasized U.S. recognition of the importance of Congo Government cooperation and confidence for the effective operation of an information program. (Despatch 1520, May 21; ibid., 122.536H3/5–2157)
  9. Document 102.