225. Memorandum of Conversation0

SUBJECT

  • Summary Record of Conversation—Visit of President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana

PARTICIPANTS

  • U.S.
    • The President
    • The Secretary of State
    • Mr. J. K. Penfield, Acting Asst. Secretary, AF
  • Ghana
    • President Kwame Nkrumah
    • Hon. A.E.A. Ofori-Atta, Min. of Justice
    • Hon. Tawiah Adamafio, Min. for Establishment
[Page 345]

The bulk of the conversation consisted of a monologue on the Congo and related topics by President Nkrumah, punctuated by occasional questions by the President and the Secretary. President Nkrumah seemed to go out of his way to minimize his differences of view with the United States position. For instance, on his proposal to withdraw diplomatic missions from Leopoldville he said, “why not give it a try? Let them get out for just a month and see if it doesn’t make a difference.” (At this point Mr. Adamafio made his only contribution to the conversation, murmuring, “three months.”)

Mr. Nkrumah’s comments were somewhat rambling and at times repetitious, but he concentrated on two phases of the situation, restoration of law and order, with emphasis on removal of the Belgians, and isolation of the Congo from all outside influences except the UN.

On the first, he expressed the conviction that the indiscipline and terrible excesses of the “Force Publique” could quickly and easily be controlled if Belgian military and para-military personnel were removed and the UN made “just a show of force.” He illustrated his point by asserting that the Ghanaian troops in the Kasai had stopped the Gizenga forces at Luluabourg and had then persuaded all the forces there to lay down their arms. He at first maintained that even in Katanga removal of the Belgians should not be too difficult but did not contest the President’s explanation of the limitations on United States ability to influence our European allies, Belgium, Portugal or the French on Algeria.

On the UN role, President Nkrumah played down his Afro-Asian ideas and emphasized his support of the UN. He expressed approval of the February 21 Security Council resolution1 and said he had made it clear he did not want his UN speech of March 7 to be used as a pretext for reopening a Congo debate. He felt that practically all Afro-Asian states supported Hammarskjold and said he had told Mr. Gromyko in New York that the Soviets should give up their campaign to force him out. He agreed with the President’s expression of hope that more general support of the Secretary General would be manifested because if the United States was too far out in front in backing him there was a tendency in some quarters to pin a U.S. label on him. President Nkrumah implied that his support of the UN has been consistent. He said, for instance, that he had stood alone at the Casablanca Conference2 against withdrawal of [Page 346] troops from the UN force and had finally succeeded in forcing a compromise under which the participants agreed to await developments for a month before making a decision on withdrawing their contingents. He expressed approval of the work of the CAC and disapproval of a Security Council meeting in the Congo until the situation there has considerably improved. He was very relaxed about U.S. activities in the Congo and said he saw no objection to U.S. planes and ships operating there as long as they were under UN command.

On the internal political situation President Nkrumah said he had little hope for constructive results from the Tananarive Conference3 because the Congolese participating could not take any meaningful decisions which would stick. He expressed some contempt for Gizenga’s abilities and suitability as a leader but said he is no Communist. He made no comments on other Congolese politicians except a rather casual remark that Kamitatu is a genuine nationalist who might emerge as a real leader. He mentioned elections and the reconvening of Parliament as necessary steps in Congolese political development but appeared very flexible on details, placing his emphasis on the principle that the Congolese themselves should be free to work things out in their own way.

In summary, the two Presidents found themselves in agreement on three principal points on the Congo, (1) removal of Belgian military and para-military personnel, (2) neutralization of Congolese military forces and insulation of the Congo against outside influences and military supplies, and (3) freedom for the Congolese to work out their own political development. On the last point the Secretary called attention to our own history to illustrate the importance we attach to the principle that government must be based on consent of the governed. In addition to examples from our early history he cited our important role in assisting Indonesian independence and President Roosevelt’s heavy pressure on Churchill, even while we were allies in a world war, in regard to India. There should be no doubt, therefore, in any reasonable mind, that the U.S. would always be basically, and in the long run effectively, on the side of anti-colonialism and independence, whether the problem is Portugal and Angola or France and Algeria or any other.

President Nkrumah exhibited no desire to talk about U.S.-Ghana bilateral relations and at one point turned off the Secretary’s attempt to bring up the Volta project. President Nkrumah did, however, make the point that the U.S. should broaden its view of Africa and look at the continent as a whole, a subject which he said he had raised when he was here in 1958.4 The President took this opportunity to explain the difficulties [Page 347] we face in Africa. He cited the resentment inspired in “colonialist” circles by Governor Williams’ alleged statement on “Africa for the Africans” in Nairobi5 and pointed out that despite this, Governor Williams had been given an unfriendly reception by the press in Lagos. The President also expressed his surprise and puzzlement over receipt of a recent personal message from Sekou Toure accusing him of complicity in Lumumba’s murder. President Nkrumah seemed sympathetic but offered no very specific advice or comment.

President Nkrumah also made a particular plea to avoid confusing Communism and nationalism in Africa. He said he was told in New York yesterday by an East African who has recently been making speeches in the United States that whenever the speaker mentioned him (Nkrumah) or Sekou Toure favorably, he was accused by his audience of being a Communist. President Nkrumah emphatically insisted that there is not a single organized Communist party in sub-Saharan Africa. He explained that Ghana practices its own form of socialism which is in reality a mixed economy. To illustrate his problems he said the Government has for some years been subsidizing five British gold mines in Ghana. He could not continue this but neither could he permit the mines to close because of the unemployment problems which would be created. In the end, therefore, the Government had bought up the shares.

On the subject of aid, President Nkrumah’s only substantive comment was that aid from the East is much more speedy and simple than that from the West. He gave as an example his efforts to get transportation for Ghanaian troops to the Congo last summer. When he had exhausted all other means he appealed to the Soviet Ambassador and in three days Soviet planes were at his disposal in Accra.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 745J.11/3-861. Secret. Drafted by Penfield on March 9 and approved by the White House on March 21. The conversation was held at the White House.
  2. For text of U.N. Resolution S/4722, “United Nations Security Council Authorization of Measures, Including the Use of Force, If Necessary, In the Last Resort, to Prevent the Occurrence of Civil War in the Congo” adopted on February 21 by a vote of 9 (including the United States) to 0, with 2 abstentions, see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, pp. 782-784.
  3. The Casablanca Conference constituting the Heads of State of Morocco, United Arab Republic, Ghana, Guinea, and Mali and representatives of the Provisional Algerian Government, Libya, and Ceylon met in Casablanca January 3-7, 1961.
  4. The Conference of Congolese Authorities met in Tananarive March 8-12, 1961.
  5. For documentation on Nkrumah’s visit to Washington, July 23-26, 1958, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. XIV, pp. 645652.
  6. On February 21, Williams told reporters at the Nairobi airport: “America’s declared policy of Africa for the Africans means that African people should have self-determination at the speed they want. As far as we are concerned, this is true of the Rhodesian Federation and South Africa.” The Assistant Secretary subsequently explained that by Africans he meant Africans of all races. (Telegram 36 from Capetown, February 23, and telegram 493 from Nairobi, February 23; both Department of State, Central Files, 110.15-WI/2-2361)