5. National Intelligence Estimate0

NIE 75–58


The Problem

To assess current trends in French Tropical Africa, and to estimate their effects on the stability and orientation of the region over the next few years.


Relations between France and its Tropical African territories are entering a critical phase. Demands for political advances—stimulated in part by the grant or promise of independence to other African areas—have grown so rapidly since 1956 that a new French policy approach is now required if these territories are to be held in a long-term association with France. (Para. 8)
Pressures for self-government or semi-independant status have built up despite the uneven political and economic development of this vastly diverse region. From the economic point of view, few, if any, of the French African territories—which are highly dependent upon external assistance—can become self-sustaining in the forseeable future. (Paras. 11, 17, 19, 26)
Radical student groups and labor leaders are forcing even the more moderate African leaders to make greater demands on the French. Such pressures are now strongest in the UN trust territories of Togo and Cameroun, and least advanced in the Federation of French Equatorial Africa, which lags behind the West African Federation. (Paras. 31–36)
The assumption of power by General de Gaulle could lead to a revision of the French constitution in a way which would accommodate African demands over at least the short term. If such a revision is accomplished, it would be favorable to the maintenance of a French-African community. Should there be no French constitutional reforms affecting Africa, the most likely French policy would be a temporizing one which in time might provoke considerable unrest, and possibly violence, in Tropical Africa. (Paras. 43–44)
In either case, we believe that an African nationalist drive toward eventual independence will be maintained. Within a year or so France will probably be forced either to recognize, or set a date for recognition of, the independence of both Togo and Cameroun. Within the next three or four years, it will probably be compelled to grant virtual independence to French West Africa, whether as a federation or as individual territories; French Equatorial Africa would probably obtain a similar status within a few additional years. (Paras. 45–46)
There is no organized Communist party and no Bloc consular representation, but Communist influence appears to be playing a minor and indirect role in the area. An exception is Cameroun, where a handful of hardcore Communists seem active in the outlawed terrorist UPC (Union of the Camerounian People), which had a few hundred partisans. Communist influence, mainly exercised through the African labor and student groups, will probably increase, although not to the point where local Communists will be able to gain a dominant position in the nationalist movement over the next few years. (Paras. 36–38)
We believe that present conditions and trends in French Tropical Africa are leading to a situation several years hence which could be inimical to Western interests. The region will probably witness the creation of a collection of weak and unstable African states, at odds with each other and with their neighbors, and highly vulnerable to both internal and external Communist influences. Even if close ties with the West are continued, the region is likely to adopt basically neutralist policies with regard to the conflict between the Soviet Bloc and the West. (Para. 52)

[Here follow the “Discussion” portion of the estimate (paragraphs 8-52), with sections headed “Introduction,” “The Regional Background,” “Economic Conditions,” “Political Trends,” “Future French Policies,” and “Probable Developments;” an annex with statistics on population and exports; and two maps.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INRNIE Files. Secret. National Intelligence Estimates (NIEs) and Special National Intelligence Estimates (SNIEs) were interdepartmental reports drafted by officers from agencies represented on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC), coordinated by the Office of National Estimates of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), approved by the IAC, and circulated to the President, the National Security Council, and other appropriate officers of cabinet level. 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 Intelligence Advisory Committee on 17 June 1958. Concurring were, The Director of Intelligence and Research, Department of State; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, Department of Army; The Director of Naval Intelligence; the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence, USAF; and the Deputy Director for Intelligence, The Joint Staff. The Atomic Energy Commission Representative to the IAC and the Assistant Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, abstained, the subject being outside of their jurisdiction.”

  2. Consisting of: (a) the eight territories of the Federation of French West Africa (Senegal, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Dahomey, Mauritania, French Sudan, Upper Volta, and Niger); (b) the four territories of the Federation of French Equatorial Africa (Middle Congo, Gabon, Ubangi-Shari, and Chad); and (c) the UN trust territories of Togo (the French “Republic of Togo”) and Cameroun (French Cameroons). These areas combined are roughly the size of the US and have a total population of about 28,000,000, including approximately 100,000 Europeans. See map attached. [Footnote in the source text. The maps are not reproduced.]