20. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Satterthwaite) to Secretary of State Herter0


  • U.S.-French Relations in Africa South of the Sahara


In my memorandum to you dated November 30 (Tab A)1 I outlined our problems vis-à-vis the French in North Africa. This memorandum is designed to complete the picture in highlighting a few of the problems we have with the French in Africa South of the Sahara. In this area the principal French complaint has been that we have been too friendly towards President Sekou Touré of Guinea who, they maintain, is a Communist and that we have turned “deaf ears” to Prime Minister Houphouet-Boigny of the Ivory Coast and President Tsiranana of the Malgache Republic in their advocacy of the French Community.2

Traditionally, French policies in their areas of influence South of the Sahara have been notably more liberal and sympathetic than in North Africa, the Levant or the Far East. With the exception of the 1947 uprising in Madagascar and the 1950 Communist inspired riots in the Ivory Coast, there has been no violence of any importance in the relations of France with its African territories. The ratissage and similar acts of force are unknown in this part of Africa. France since the close of World War II has steadily advanced the African territories through a series of constitutional stages to the point where they are now self-governing and free to leave the Community whenever they wish.

Largely as a result of personality clashes between Sekou Touré and General De Gaulle, Guinea voted “No” in the last year’s referendum and left the French Community. The French forthwith removed all traces of their former activities, including technicians, equipment, security forces, files and funds and left Guinea an easy target for Soviet Bloc penetration. The French have consistently maintained the [Page 72] position that Guinea should be treated as a pariah and that the United States should do nothing whatsoever to counter Communism in that country.

Although General De Gaulle’s personal dislike of and pique at Sekou Touré remain factors in this policy, the basic French motivation arises from the fear that if Guinea makes a success of its independence, the present states of the Community will be tempted to follow suit. This is, of course, a valid argument and one which we have attempted to keep in mind in our dealings with both Guinea and the states of the Community.

With this in mind and under heavy French pressure, the United States delayed recognizing Guinea for a month following its independence. We also, at the request of the French, delayed opening an Embassy and sending an Ambassador until long after the Bloc had established itself. With such a slow start in Guinea, it appeared essential that we not let that country go by default. For this reason Sekou Touré was invited to pay a state visit which took place towards the end of October. The French feel that Touré was given a welcome more cordial than the circumstances warranted. This, of course, is not the case and he was given the normal treatment reserved for Chiefs of State. The fact that his visit aroused considerable public interest in this country is something beyond the control of the United States Government. We have so informed the French and have pointed out that Touré was accorded similar treatment in both the United Kingdom and in West Germany.

As regards the Community, we have on every appropriate occasion expressed our interest for it and the underlying concept behind it which to us represents a worthwhile attempt to reconcile African political aspirations with the economic facts of life. It is simply not true that we turned deaf ears to Messrs. Houphouet and Tsiranana although, as you will recall, it was almost impossible to get a word in edgewise in our talks with these gentlemen. (Tabs ? and C)3 Frankly, however, it is not reasonable to expect the Community to last in its present form, and the Federation of Mali, comprising the Republics of Senegal and Soudan, is currently negotiating full independence with the French. We are hopeful that this can be arranged without hard feelings on either side and that Mali will sign the necessary agreements to continue its association with France. The basic difficulty at the moment arises from the French desire to avoid the Moroccan experience where Morocco was granted its independence subject to subsequent signatures of a number of other agreements tying the country closer to [Page 73] France in the economic, cultural and military fields. With independence, Morocco showed a reluctance to proceed with these agreements, and French desires for continued close association have never been fully realized. The French, therefore, wish the agreement with Mali for independence and the agreements for continued association would be simultaneous, whereas the Malians reportedly feel that this would cast doubts on the genuine nature of their independence and they prefer, therefore, to wait a period of time before signing the agreements of association.

It is clearly not in our interest to become involved in the present negotiations between France and Mali although we believe it highly desirable that the Moroccan experience be avoided and essential that there be no further episode along the lines of Guinea. The British are particularly concerned about this development and have informed us that they are raising the whole question of Mali with the French in Paris on December 7.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.51/11-459. Secret. Drafted by C. Vaughan Ferguson, Jr.; sent via Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Livingston T. Merchant.
  2. The tabs are not attached.
  3. On November 21, French Minister Claude Lebel presented the Department with a list of complaints about U.S. policy in Africa. Telegram 2234 to Paris, November 25, which summarized the conversation, stated that Lebel felt this indicated a “global U.S. policy of replacing France in North and Black Africa.” (Department of State, Central Files, 770.00/11-2559)
  4. Tabs ? and C were memoranda of Herter’s conversations with Houphouet-Boigny on November 12 and with Tsiranana on November 19. (Ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199)