192. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom0

5093. Dept considering possibility approaches to selected African leaders to encourage them raise subject of arms limitation at forthcoming conference African Heads of State scheduled begin Monrovia May 8.1

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You are requested ascertain FonOff views re desirability such approaches which could take following form:

While agenda forthcoming Monrovia Conference is matter which obviously only African participants themselves can decide, we think conference might present excellent opportunity to discuss ways and means for African countries, and especially new countries of West Africa, to avoid dangerous and costly arms competition.
We do not wish our interest in this subject to be misconstrued as being due unwillingness help provide necessary military assistance to give new African countries reasonable minimum military establishments for maintenance internal security. We are concerned however that if one country starts exceeding such minimum levels its neighbors would be forced restort similarly to excessive armaments which could gravely unsettle area and detract from resources available for economic and social development.
If African countries were willing to agree on reasonable ceilings on their armed forces and limitation on types of armaments requested from foreign suppliers, this would not only constitute constructive development for themselves but would also be inspiring example for other parts of world.

Approaches along above lines might be made by US, UK and France separately to selected list of African leaders, or by agreement each of three allied governments approaching countries on which it would have greatest amount of influence.2 We could for instance raise question with Tubman if French would raise it with Houphouet and Tombalbaye and British with Abubakar and perhaps also Nkrumah.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770.00/4-2861. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Herz on April 27; cleared by Ferguson, Deming, Weiss, McBride, Spiers, Witman, Burdett, Penfield, and Webb; and approved by Williams. Also sent to Paris and repeated to Abidjan, Lagos, and Monrovia.
  2. Representatives of 20 independent African states attended the Conference of Heads of African and Malagasy States at Monrovia, Liberia, May 8-12, 1961.
  3. Telegram 4457 from London, May 3, reported that the British Foreign Office believed that the approach outlined in telegram 5093 was not opportune at that time, and concluded that the reaction of many new African states to the subject of arms limitation would be one of suspicion, especially if they received simultaneous approaches from the United States, the United Kingdom, and France. (Ibid., 770.00/5-361)