85. Telegram From the Embassy in the Congo to the Department of State0

1247. From Henderson. Since October 19 we have visited thirteen African countries which were formerly under some form French rule. In eleven of these countries (Mali and Guinea are exceptions) French continue play important roles; French officials in background and sometimes quite openly are giving guidance to constituted governments, helping government officials prepare documents for them, and frequently making decisions for them.

It is my impression that our decision to open or strengthen American Embassies in these countries has met with various reactions by French officialdom. In general I would say they regarded pending entrance of Americans on scene with mixed feelings of uncertainty, trepidation and to an extent relief. Uncertainty because they are not quite sure what attitude American diplomats placed in their midst will be towards them; trepidation because they have some concern lest American presence make their task maintain stability and respect for French culture, judgment and executive ability more difficult and relief because they are commencing to feel that task keeping these new countries steady and friendly to West becoming too much for them alone and they hope therefore that new American Embassies will share their responsibilities on basis cooperation. They feel that in course such cooperation Americans will give some heed their advice based on their long experience.

In general we were treated not only with courtesy but also with cordiality and real friendliness by French officials in most countries where they still play a role. They went out of their way to help us and when opportunities arose extended us warm hospitality. I thought, however, that behind their friendliness and hospitality I could detect at times a note of cynicism and puzzlement—as though they were thinking these American innocents have good intentions but what will be their reaction when they suffer disillusionment based on experience. There seemed also be some concern on their part lest members of various African governments with whom we talked would obtain impression that United States was preparing to give the new states so much aid that they could afford to take more independent attitude towards France on whom they are now dependent for economic [Page 244] support. From words dropped here and there by French officials with whom we talked, I further obtained impression that they would welcome certain amount of American aid to these countries provided it would be granted after consultation with French authorities and would be supplementary rather than competitive with aid which France is giving.

As I have indicated in other telegrams my general conclusion is that if we do not extend some kind of aid to most of these countries their governments will be deeply disappointed; they are likely to feel that they must go elsewhere for aid, even to the Communist bloc. Although most of the responsible leaders these countries would like continue have Western orientation, they not prepared do so if price that orientation would mean that although technically independent they must remain completely dependent upon France for their viability.

Time is an important factor in any aid programs which we may undertake in these countries. I think we should move quickly but with delicacy and caution and without fanfare and ostentation. We should discuss aid matters frankly with French in order ascertain how we may best help without offending France or encouraging France to try to transfer to our shoulders portion or all of the burden which it is now carrying. On other hand we must be careful lest governments of these new states obtain impression we still look upon them as colonies or semi-colonies of France and therefore make no moves to extend aid without obtaining permission from France.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.13–HE/11–1960. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Paris.