100. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State0

1275. Deptel 1289.1

Embassy believes it is inevitable Communists envisage Congo as fertile field activity since next to Guinea Congo appears to be country south of Sahara which approaches independence least prepared cope with host of inherent problems. Nevertheless, best method for us assist Congolese meet these problems would appear be through strengthening internal Congolese forces including ability combat subversion. Our own aid efforts are apt only be confused by urging participation other foreign influences—particularly in highly disturbed period between now and June 30.
This regard, and despite headway Communists may make with certain individual Congolese next few weeks, sources available this Embassy continue suggest bulk of Congolese elected all governmental levels forthcoming elections likely be moderates. Danger, therefore, arises from radical elements who will not be in first government but will be agitating from outside. Our best hope seems be in all-out attempt assist members first Congo Government arrive at well-considered (even if neutralist) attitude toward external problems and, by judicious but energetic application our aid resources, assist in creation internal stability.
Embassy concerned far-reaching implication approach Nkrumah suggested reference telegram. Reports from Accra have not revealed to us that Nkrumah essentially motivated by anti-communism but rather that he seeks strengthen his own position and make progress his visionary Pan-African movement.
Even Lumumba’s response to Nkrumah’s ideas as recorded by Belgian Ambassador Walravens2 (Accra telegram 825)3 seems show he suspicious Nkrumah’s motives and not enthusiastic prospect Ghana—Congo Union.
Therefore, even if no problems posed for US relations with its friends, seems on surface unwise encourage Nkrumah’s initiative.
But extreme danger would appear exist that, no matter how approach made, news US démarche likely reach Belgians.
Embassy policy past several months has been that US should be prepared take active role in Congo. Some elements in Belgian Government—particularly both Congo Ministers—more and more tending encourage our efforts this direction. Nevertheless, mere fact we are seeking play active role makes our relations with Belgium delicate. US starts with good reservoir of credit because of traditionally circumspect attitude toward Belgium’s Congo possession. But we are treading narrow path and should not jeopardize our position by encouraging active intervention third country.
Rightly or wrongly (and despite what Walravens says), our best friends in GOB consider Nkrumah “bad” influence. We feel certain latent suspicion in Belgian minds would be aroused by revelation of US encouragement Nkrumah meddle internally in Congo affairs. Would not matter that what he would on surface be recommending is in best interests Belgium (and US); Belgians would inevitably deduce his motives were Machiavellian.
If we do in fact approach Nkrumah, however, we must be prepared be responsive his counter-requests for collaboration. He would undoubtedly ask US support his bid (Accra telegram 825 to Department) open Ghanaian Consulate in Leopoldville prior independence. Yet, as reported both from here and Washington, Belgians have adopted conscious policy refusing all requests new Consular establishments Leopoldville between now and June 30 despite pressures from both bloc and friendly countries. Does not seem in our best interest ask GOB reverse this policy.
Further, would appear to Embassy Ghanaian attitude toward Congo since Accra conference December 584 has been specifically identified with fortunes Lumumba. Latter’s own position in Congo politics specifically established by reason his attendance that meeting. While we want keep lines out to Lumumba because his potential political importance, we don’t want give his opponents impression we supporting him. If our approach Nkrumah became known Congolese political circles—as seems entirely conceivable—would appear form of indirect US intervention in favor of Lumumba. In present mercurial atmosphere Congo, effect might be exact opposite of that desired.
As indicated Accra telegram 795 to Department,5 Ghanaians have gone “all out” convince Congolese they should retain Belgian civil servants and beware Soviet bloc. We see little further Nkrumah might reasonably be expected do.
Embassy can only conclude that dangers US policy vis-à-vis Congo from approach envisaged reference telegram appear outweigh possible advantages—at least during period prior Congo independence. Strongly urge therefore no approach be made Nkrumah until Department has had opportunity review matter further in light above considerations and comments other posts.6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 755A.00/5–160. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Accra, Paris, Léopoldville, London, and Conakry.
  2. Document 99.
  3. Gérard A. J. Walravens.
  4. Telegram 825 from Accra, April 23, indicated, in connection with Lumumba’s visit to Accra, April 15–19, that Ghanaian Foreign Minister Ako Adjei had told the Belgian Ambassador that Ghana could be more effective than Belgium in pointing out the dangers of Soviet assistance. (Department of State, Central Files, 755A.00/4–2360)
  5. The All-African People’s Conference, December 8–13, 1958.
  6. Dated April 12, telegram 795 suggested that Nkrumah sought to keep the Congolese free of entanglements because of eagerness to unite Ghana and the Congo. (Department of State, Central Files, 033.45J55A/4–1260)
  7. See footnote 2, Document 99. Comments from other posts are in Department of State, Central File 755A.00. The Department informed the posts concerned in circular telegram 1439, May 13, that it considered the risk involved in Flake’s approach was warranted in view of the increasingly chaotic situation but it ruled out further approaches for the time being. (Ibid., 755A.00/5–1360)