17. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 70–59

[Here follows a table of contents.]


The Problem

To analyze the political forces at work in West Africa, and to estimate through 1960 the prospects for political stability in the area and the probable orientation of the independent states.


In West Africa, British and French colonial rule is rapidly giving way before the rising demands of Africans for the recognition and dignity implicit in self-government and denied by colonial status. This process is facilitated by the fact that there are in West Africa no settled European communities such as complicate the problem in Algeria, Kenya, and Rhodesia. (Paras. 12, 14–15)
In most of West Africa there is no strong sense of distinct nationality related to the particular states of the area, all of which are characterized by great ethnic and cultural diversity. Such a sense of [Page 55] nationality, however, has begun to develop in the more advanced states, helped by the growth of mass political parties. (Paras. 13, 15-17)
The pace of political change in West Africa is being set by the members of a very small educated elite, who have enlisted mass support through the organization of political parties and labor unions. An essential characteristic of most parties is personal loyalty to a leader; the trend is toward the domination of particular states by a single party. The result is a highly personal and authoritarian style of government, which is regarded by the leaders as necessary to achieve unity and development in the face of ethnic diversity and economic backwardness. We foresee little chance of a trend away from authoritarian methods; in fact, as their problems become more complex many leaders will probably become more vigorous in their use of these methods. (Paras. 13, 20-22)
African leaders generally realize that they will need external aid in order to achieve the economic development required to meet the rising expectations of their people. Many, however, expect that after independence economic aid will be forthcoming from a wide variety of sources. All wish to maintain economic ties with the former colonial powers, but on achieving independence will seek additional economic aid from both the US and the Sino-Soviet Bloc. (Paras. 18-19, 39-40, 42)
Within West Africa, there is a tendency toward interstate cooperation and a strong emotional attachment to African solidarity. The various schemes advanced to achieve these ends range in content from combinations to maintain common public services, through loose political alliances among like-minded leaders of separate states, to plans for federal union. The union of Senegal and Soudan in the Mali Federation2 has real political substance. The Gharra-Guinea union is more in the nature of an alliance of independent states in the spirit of Pan-Africanism, which aspires to the liberation and unity of all Africa. This loose association of states may grow, but is not likely to become an organic union. (Paras. 26-31)
The outlook for internal political stability varies greatly from country to country. Ghana is likely to remain stable and relatively prosperous. Guinea’s prospects are less certain: Sekou Touré is a popular leader and operates an effective political machine, but is in urgent need of technical and financial assistance. Nigeria may emerge as the strongest state in the area, but the extent to which it realizes this potential will depend on the ability of its leaders to overcome the divisive tendencies which hamper the development of national unity. [Page 56] Both Togo and Cameroun will probably remain stable until independence is attained in 1960, but thereafter their prospects are uncertain. (Paras. 32–36)
Whether the territories of West Africa which have recently chosen to remain in the French Community3 continue to do so, will depend largely on French willingness to satisfy African aspirations for increased political stature, and on the leaders’ own evaluation of the economic value of such relationship. The Mali Federation (Senegal and Soudan) is already pressing for greater autonomy within the Community. If it does not receive satisfaction, it will probably declare its independence. There is no strong drive for early independence on the part of the other states of the Community, but the secession of Mali would have an unsettling effect. The Community is not likely to endure unless the French permit it to evolve into an association of independent states. (Paras. 37-38; Annex 29)
Despite the socialistic and, in many respects, authoritarian outlook of many of the leaders in the area, communism has not become a strong force in West African internal politics. There are no known Communist parties in the area. Nevertheless, Communist influence is likely to grow as the Sino-Soviet Bloc establishes diplomatic and economic relations with the newly independent states of the area. Given the generally unproven character of the political institutions in the area, the situation in some countries, e.g., Guinea or Cameroun, could develop in such a way as to facilitate a substantial expansion of Communist influence. However, the West African leaders are now in effective control in their countries, are jealous of their new-found power, and would react strongly to prevent any element not under their control from gaining a position of political importance. Although Communist influence could increase significantly in one or more countries of the area, we believe it unlikely that the Communists will achieve a position from which they could control the policy of any West African state during the period of this estimate. (Paras. 23-25)
For the next few years at least, the main thrust of Sino-Soviet Bloc policy toward West Africa will probably be to establish a position as the disinterested supporter of West African independence against the “imperialist” powers. Accordingly, the Bloc will probably play down the internal subversion of independent African states. In general, we believe that the Bloc will make considerable progress in establishing its presence in an area from which, in effect, it has hitherto been barred. (Para. 40)
The West African leaders will continue to be preoccupied with local and African problems. They will react to the policies of other countries primarily in terms of the real or fancied repercussions of these policies on their own particular interests and on African aspirations in general. Their attitude in international political affairs will be one of nonalignment with either great power bloc. (Para. 43)
Beyond 1960, the West African countries are likely to be faced with developments which will jeopardize internal stability and enhance Communist opportunities for subversion. As the younger leaders begin to crowd the present political leadership, political discontent will build up. But because of the present leadership’s intolerance of opposition, much of this political discontent will probably lead to conspiratorial activity—an environment in which Communist talents are most effectively applied. (Para. 44)

[Here follow the “Discussion” portion (paragraphs 12-37), with sections headed “Introduction,” “Political Forces at Work in West Africa,” and “The Outlook.”]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. A note on the cover sheet reads as follows:

    “Submitted by the Director of Central Intelligence. The following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: The Central Intelligence Agency and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, and The Joint Staff.

    “Concurred in by the United States Intelligence Board on 16 June 1959. Concurring were The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army; the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Intelligence, Department of the Navy; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; the Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff; and the Director of the National Security Agency. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the USIB, the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Special Operations, and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.”

    Annexes A, “Country Analyses,” B, “Security Forces,” and C, a table of statistics, and a map are not printed.

  2. For the purposes of this estimate, West Africa is defined as the area bounded by Spanish Sahara, Algeria, and Libya on the north and by Sudan and the Belgian Congo on the east and south. It includes the independent states of Liberia, Ghana, and Guinea; the 11 republics formerly federated in French West and French Equatorial Africa and now autonomous members of the French Community; the UN Trust Territories of Togo and Cameroun; the British colonies of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Gambia; Portuguese Guinea; and Spanish Guinea. Nigeria, Togo, and Cameroun are scheduled to achieve independence in 1960. [Footnote in the source text.]
  3. Mali was the name of a kingdom which dominated much of West Africa during the 14th and 15th centuries. [Footnote in the source text.]
  4. Mauritania, Senegal, Soudan, Ivory Coast, the Voltaic Republic, Dahomey, Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Congo Republic, and Gabon. [Footnote in the source text.]