253. Memorandum of Conversation0


  • Situation in Ghana


  • The President
  • William P. Mahoney, Jr., American Ambassador to Ghana

I called on President Kennedy this morning to report on the situation in Ghana and answer questions he might have. I first gave him a brief appraisal. I mentioned that we have had a period of comparative calm in Ghana during the past four months, chiefly because of moderation in the press, but that no fundamental changes had occurred in Nkrumah’s attitude, and we should be ready for further outbreaks, especially as African issues sharpen. I told him that Nkrumah had good control but that Ghana is probably moving into an era of political unrest as a result of [Page 391] economic pressures from diminishing reserves, continued heavy spending and a rather severe tax program. I told him I thought Nkrumah would survive this difficulty because of his pragmatic approach to domestic politics. I said that although we could expect further trouble and perhaps increased Bloc penetration, Ghana was a good bet in the long haul because of its many Western institutions and traditions.

The President asked me what I thought of Nkrumah’s ideas, specifically whether he is a Marxist. I replied that Nkrumah is a badly confused and immature person who is not quite sure of what he wants except that he wants to lead all of Africa. I said he has much Marxism in his makeup but that his performance, as in the development of Ghana’s domestic economy, was mixed and that internally there was promise of Ghana’s being at least partially Western. I said that in the field of foreign relations Nkrumah frequently serves the purposes of Mao and Khrushchev but that he was too much of an egotist ever willingly to be their pawn. In short, I said, his Marxist bark was worse than his bite and that I felt we must learn to live with him.

The President asked how the Volta Project was going, mentioning that we were now at a point where heavy financial outlays are to be made under the loan program. I replied the project was on schedule and going well. I mentioned that I realized his decision to go ahead with this project was a difficult one. I added that in my opinion he would not regret it and that the Volta Project will prove a lasting boon to Ghana, with or without Nkrumah. I also said that it would be very hazardous to withdraw now and that if we did, the Russians would probably pick up the chips, or at least give the impression of doing so.

The President also inquired about the leftist press. I said it was still a sore point on which we have been able to obtain only temporary relief. I then mentioned Nkrumah’s recent speech to the Pan-African journalists in which he characterized the U.S. as a neo-colonialist power and alleged our press was the tool of the big interests.

The President was very warm in his praise of our Mission’s efforts. We were together about fifteen minutes.

Summary of Action: None.

  1. Source: Department of State, President’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 66 D 149. Confidential. No drafting information appears on the source text. Transmitted to the White House under cover of a memorandum from Read to McGeorge Bundy, November 26, and approved by Bundy on November 27.