55. Instruction From the Department of State to the Consulate General at Salisbury 1



  • Diplomatic Relations with the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

The Government of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland sent a letter on July 17 to foreign consular offices in Salisbury, including the American Consulate General, stating that the Federation Government is “now ready to consider any representations which may be made to it regarding the establishment in the Federation of a diplomatic mission in charge of a Diplomatic Agent.” The letter emphasized that the Federation itself does not intend immediately to seek establishment of diplomatic missions abroad, and that the initiative for establishing Diplomatic Agencies in the Federation must come from the interested foreign governments themselves.2

While the Federation has not yet been granted full sovereignty or autonomy in international affairs by the United Kingdom, the Department has confirmed that the United Kingdom has no objection to the Federation’s receiving Diplomatic Agents.

As far as the Department knows, no country has yet announced any plans for establishing a Diplomatic Agency in Salisbury. The [Page 213] Department understands from the Italian Embassy in Washington that the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany, which has growing commercial interests in the Federation, is very favorably disposed toward the proposal. The Italian Embassy inquired regarding the intentions of the United States; it is the Department’s impression that the Italian Government is also favorably interested in the proposal but that it is awaiting the course of the United States.

The Department recognizes that there are several cogent reasons for establishing diplomatic relations with the Federation. Created in 1953, the Federation already has most of the attributes of sovereignty and may well become an independent state within 3 to 5 years. In recent years its rate of economic development has been unsurpassed by any other country in the world. American private investment has reached a high level and can be expected to grow further.

The Department considers, however, that the future of this new country depends ultimately on its ability to win the loyalty and cooperation of its African inhabitants, who constitute over 95% of the population but who do not yet play any significant part in the government of the country. Most of the politically conscious Africans opposed the creation of the Federation in 1953 because they considered it to be a device for this perpetuation and extension of white minority rule in that part of Africa. Despite the great economic benefits which have resulted from federation, the opposition of the Africans has intensified; secessionist sentiment is strong in Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia. The officially professed policy of the Federation Government is one of “racial partnership”, but its implementation to date has apparently been inadequate to counter the opposition of the African nationalists. The white minority electorate which has a virtual monopoly of political power, does not appear to be willing in the near future to endorse any political concessions which would be apt to placate the African inhabitants.

The Department has therefore considered very carefully the question of whether the establishment of limited diplomatic relations might enhance the ability of the United States to influence the Federation Government to accelerate the implementation of its racial partnership policy, or, whether such recognition by the United States might be interpreted by both Africans and the governing European element as an endorsement of lip-service support to the policy of racial partnership. In view of the known position of the United States on racial and colonial questions in Africa, it would be preferable that the United States not be the first country to establish diplomatic relations with the Federation. Such an initiative and precedent on the part of the United States might be construed as a gratuitous endorsement of the racial status quo in the Federation and [Page 214] serve to encourage the latter country’s pressures on the United Kingdom to grant full independence before the future political and social position of the Africans is adequately clarified.

If other countries plan, without reference to United States action, to establish diplomatic agencies in Salisbury, the problem of a United States initiative and precedent would no longer apply. Therefore, the Embassies at Rome, Paris and Bonn are requested to ascertain informally whether the Italian, French and German governments definitely intend to send Diplomatic Agents to Salisbury in the near future. In their informal inquiries, these Embassies may mention, but without elaboration, that the initial thinking of the United States is that its appointment of a Diplomatic Agent to Salisbury at this time would be premature.

The Embassy at Lisbon should informally ascertain the intentions of the Portuguese Government, but without indicating any United States views or intimating that a political consideration is involved.

These four missions should report by despatch the reactions of the respective governments as soon as possible.3 Once the Department is informed regarding the thinking of the interested powers, the Consulate General at Salisbury will be instructed regarding the nature of the reply to be made to the letter of July 17 from the Federation Government.4

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 601.0045C/10–1557. Confidential. Sent also to Rome, Paris, Lisbon, and London.
  2. Despatch 23 from Salisbury, July 23, transmitted the text of the July 17 letter. (Ibid., 601.0045C/7–2357) Steere subsequently reported in despatch 46, August 1, that the Federation was looking to the United States to take the lead in establishing diplomatic relations. He advised that it was in U.S. interest to do so without delay and thought such a step would lay the foundation for “friendly” and “advantageous” relations on a permanent basis. He further believed that the United States could exert more influence and pressure on the Federation’s racial policies by initiating full diplomatic relations rather than by withholding recognition. (Ibid., 601.0045C/8–157) The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs, Henry Kearns, seconded Steere’s recommendation in an August 30 letter to William M. Rountree. (Ibid., 611.45C/8–3057)
  3. Despatch 758 from Bonn, October 31, reported that Germany did not wish to be first to appoint a diplomatic agent though, if the United States led the way, it might designate one. (Ibid., 601.0045C/10–3157) The French were in no rush to act, thinking that it would be premature. (Despatch 594 from Paris, October 23; ibid., 601.5145C/10–2357) The Italians expressed no enthusiasm for establishing diplomatic relations with the Federation and intended to say nothing for the moment. (Despatch 505 from Rome, October 22; ibid., 601.6545C/10–2257) The Portuguese were studying the matter and had not yet determined their course of action. (Despatch 208 from Lisbon, October 28; ibid., 601.5345C/10–2857)
  4. Telegram 81 to Salisbury, January 25, 1958, contained the points which Steere was to make orally to Welensky in response to the note of July 17. In essence, the U.S. position was that full diplomatic relations could not be established with non-sovereign states. (Ibid., 120.245C/1–2558)