131. Telegram From the Embassy in Ghana to the Department of State1

147. Embtel 145.2 Keeping routine appointment made last week, I saw Prime Minister today.

Prime Minister was much annoyed with Gbedemah for creating fuss over incident. Prime Minister said he himself understood these things; that same thing had happened to member of his staff at Prime Ministers’ conference in London but he thought little of it and ordered nothing said; that some day “everything will be all right in US and England” and meanwhile Africans had to be understanding; that if he had experienced same incident as Gbedemah he would have kept quiet, which Gbedemah should have done.

Prime Minister made guarded but nevertheless uncomplimentary reference to Sutherland and said Sutherland should have known better than to let Gbedemah stop at restaurant in question. He speculated on possibility that somebody had maneuvered Gbedemah into provocative situation, adding that “Gbedemah is just the kind that can be maneuvered”.

Last night and this morning radio and press gave story heavy play, featuring President’s invitation to breakfast and my statement (Embtel 1443), with incident itself played down somewhat. Managing editor Time Magazine, (Alexander4) now visiting Accra told me today he thinks “we came out remarkably well” on radio and press coverage here.

In my presence today Prime Minister gave orders to Minister of Information5 to kill any further publicity over radio or through any other media controlled by GOG. Also in my presence he telephoned editor of party organ Evening News and gave same order. He then telephoned Daily Graphic, asked for “cooperation” and received assurance Graphic will atrophy story.

While Prime Minister may be somewhat jealous of Gbedemah’s White House visit, I am convinced he genuinely regrets what he [Page 381] regards as uncalled for fuss by Gbedemah. He asked me to inform my government that “this incident will not have the slightest effect on the happy relations between our two countries”.

Quick action by Department and White House has in my opinion effectively sterilized this wound which otherwise would have had serious consequences on West Coast of Africa.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 845J.411/10–1057. Limited Official Use; Priority.
  2. See footnote 4, supra.
  3. Telegram 144 from Accra, October 9, conveyed Flake’s reaction to the Reuters report of the incident. He stressed that he considered Gbedemah a personal friend and someone who was highly regarded in the United States. He expressed his regret at the incident, which he described as isolated and not representative of the true feeling of the U.S. Government and most Americans. (Department of State, Central Files, 845J.411/10–957)
  4. Roy Alexander.
  5. Kofi Baako.
  6. The President wrote a personal letter to Gbedemah to tell him that he had enjoyed having breakfast with him, but the Department of State advised that it not be sent, given Nkrumah’s determination to downplay the incident. This was particularly true since it was felt that Gbedemah would publicize any communication that he might receive. (Memorandum from Howe to Goodpaster, October 15; ibid., 033.45J11/10–1557) Howe wrote similarly to Goodpaster on November 8, following the President’s receipt of a personal letter from Gbedemah dated October 23. Rather than ignore the letter, Howe suggested that Flake convey Eisenhower’s appreciation orally. Gbedemah had written of the need for tolerance and mutual respect in race relations. (Ibid., 033.45J11/11–857)