107. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State 1

646. Department’s CA–36502 and Deptel 727.3 Following is gist conversation I had with Foreign Minister Larock late yesterday:

Reference was made to complaint presented by Ambassador Delvaux to Sprouse August 2 to effect Belgian Government concerned certain individuals attached ConGen Leopoldville were encouraging incipient independence movements by seeing too much of certain Congolese identified with such movements. Bursley singled out individually.
Department had instructed me inform Larock that Murphy had conferred with Ambassador Silvercruys in Washington day before along following lines:
Careful investigation had disclosed no support for complaint. It was added if Belgian Government had any details, they would be appreciated.
Point emphatically made that US had no political or economic designs on any part Africa nor does it desire encourage independence movements against its European allies. At same time, it was emphasized US Government must necessarily keep abreast of developments in all parts of world and must know what is going on in order discharge its responsibilities.
Belief was expressed that future incidents of this kind might be avoided if Congo Governor General could work more closely with ConGen. It was indicated such collaboration would lessen misunderstanding [Page 320] and would give representatives our government prompt and forthright information as to attitudes Belgian Government.

Larock reference to conferences he had with Vice Gov. Gen. Cornelis last July. Cornelis stated several members ConGen, Bursley in particular, had been overzealous in contribution to activities regarded by Belgians as encouraging independence movements. Larock frank to say there was nothing in particular one could put his finger on but all added up to attitude which could result in unrest. Fragmentary information gained by Congolese invited to US and representations as to conditions in US (here he referred to USIS bulletins) had led to invidious comparisons. He mentioned visits to Congo of colored Americans which aroused curiosity and further comparisons. Mention was made of jazz sessions Bursley organized which were attended by politically active Congolese. He also stated ConGen had made point of meeting with leaders of Kingdom of Congo, a recurring and legendary idea “which of course represented wishful thinking.” He indicated in his opinion members of ConGen were assuming Embassy role and not confining selves to consular functions, mentioning visas and encouragement of trade.

Having finished enumeration foregoing items which led to their complaint, Larock smiled and said he felt some of his people in Congo might be “overtouchy” but did have these reactions to ConGen activities and Cornelis, a sound, calm man, was the one who carried complaint from Governor General to Larock. He added that mutual confidence was contributed to by this complaint having been made and an unequivocal reply having been received. He saw no reason why situation could not be completely resolved along lines we suggested; i.e., closer cooperation between Governor General’s office and ConGen. He said he would tell Governor General to act in this sense. He dwelt on Belgian desire “to move Congolese along to autonomy and self government” but emphasized that if they moved faster than their capabilities, their own interests as well as those of Belgium and free world would not be served. Developments all around Congo were having effects in Congo although there was no problem there yet. He knew US believes it must watch its future relations with new peoples, for fear they would grow to look to east. However, US might act in way which could have consequences contributing to unsettling some of these people.

I reiterated we had absolutely no political or economic designs upon any part of Africa nor did we desire encourage independence movements at expense our European allies. I then emphasized that representatives of Belgian Government in US were free to visit any part of country and meet and talk with any citizen. It was urged this freedom of movement and inquiry brought full [Page 321] revelation of conditions and facts upon which good relations could be based.
At close, I stated Bursley had resigned from government service for personal reasons and before he knew anything of complaint. Larock was inclined to stick by his guns saying he thought it was better for all concerned Bursley not returning.
Although Larock obviously appeared to have share Colonial officials reservations concerning ConGen activities, overtone of whole conference was, I believe, satisfactory under circumstances. The air has been noticeably cleared and it is particularly hopeful that Larock believes this type problem can be avoided in future if Governor General and ConGen work more closely together. Larock stated he considered our reply both satisfactory and unequivocal.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 122.536H3/11–157. Confidential. Sent also to Leopoldville.
  2. CA–3650 to Brussels, October 18, indicated that the Belgian Ambassador would soon be called in to receive the U.S. reply to Belgium’s August 2 approach, reported in despatch 132 from Brussels; see Supra . A copy of the talking points, prepared for Deputy Under Secretary Murphy, was enclosed and Ambassador Folger was told to make these same points to the Belgian Foreign Minister. (Ibid., 122.536H3/10–1857)
  3. Telegram 727, October 31, summarized the meeting between Murphy and Baron Silvercruys on October 30. (Ibid., 122.536H3/10–3157) A memorandum of this conversation by Sam L. Yates of the Office of Western European Affairs, October 30, is ibid.