268. Memorandum of Conversation0
- The President
- Henry J. Tasca, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
- William C. Trimble, Director, Office of West Coast and Malian Affairs
- Alec Toumayan, Interpreter
- Republic of Guinea
- Ambassador Diallo Telli, Guinean Representative at the U.N. and Special Envoy of President Toure
- Karim Bangoura, Guinean Ambassador to the U.S.
- Meeting of Diallo Telli, Special Envoy of President Toure with President Kennedy
The conversation opened with an exchange of amenities in which Ambassador Diallo recalled that he had already had the privilege of being presented to the President shortly after his inauguration. He added that he had also had the privilege of attending a meeting between the then Senator Kennedy and President Sekou Toure in Los Angeles in 1959. After these opening remarks, Ambassador Diallo gave the President Sekou Toure’s personal message.1
After reading the letter, the President expressed his appreciation and added that he was well aware of the problems which exist in South Africa and Portugal. He noted that even though the U.S. is allied with Portugal in NATO, we have actively urged Portugal to accept the principle of self-determination for its colonies. For the past year, we have consistently pursued this policy. Our relations with Portugal have become strained as a result of these efforts. And because our relations with Portugal are now more strained than ever, we probably do not have much influence left which we can bring to bear on this issue. We have supported the policy of self-determination and we believe that sooner or later Portugal must also see the light. It is not only a question of what the U.S. can do, but also of what other European countries will be willing to do. There is an added difficulty in that, if we exert too much influence upon Portugal, she may seek the support of other European countries. If so, she might receive a measure of support from some of them. We are very dependent upon our defense installations in the Azores. However, on the question of the Portuguese possessions in Africa, we have acted in accordance with our principles.
The President then turned to South Africa, which, he said, seems to pose a more difficult problem. While, in the case of Portugal, one could feel that she would adopt a more progressive attitude in the future, this was not the case with respect to South Africa. The President pointed out that he had clarified his position on this subject in his recent press conference. He expressed his concern that neither expulsions from world organizations nor sanctions would change the policy of South Africa. He feared, he said, that such actions would do for the U.N. what Abyssinia had done for the League of Nations. Another effect would be to create demands for similar pressures against Cuba. If sanctions were applied to South Africa, the American public would ask why the same measures could not be applied against Cuba. The President noted that he had discussed this question yesterday with Ambassador Stevenson who would present the U.S. policy on South Africa and the Portuguese territories at the U.N. The President felt that the world organization ought not to proceed according to Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter in regard to South Africa because “the situation there was different.” The President noted that he [Page 422] had used the expression “threat to peace” in his recent press conference in which he discussed South Africa. However, the President said he had reread his own statement on this subject. The United States favors proceeding according to Chapter 6 of the U.N. Charter, and he hoped Guinea would be able to support this position. The President assured Diallo that the matter is receiving his very close attention. He had discussed these subjects with President Nyerere of Tanganyika this very week, and he is well aware of the strong feelings the African people have on these issues. Nonetheless, he said, it is difficult for us to preach to others about racial discrimination when we still have so many unresolved problems in our own country. The United States Government is opposed to discrimination, and we will, therefore, continue to act as we have in the past. The President added that Ambassador Stevenson and Ambassador Diallo would undoubtedly keep in contact on this subject. He again expressed his appreciation for President Sekou Toure’s letter, and said that he would send a reply to it.
After thanking the President, Diallo said that Toure had entrusted him with three tasks in addition to delivering his message to President Kennedy. The first was to clarify the Guinean view on a number of points of direct interest to Guinea and the United States. The second task was to give the President any additional information or documents concerning the Addis Ababa Conference that he might require. Finally, if the President had any suggestions or proposals to present to Sekou Toure, the Ambassador would be happy to convey these to Toure.
Ambassador Diallo added that he would like to stress that his mission was an additional proof of the personal confidence which Toure has in the President and that Guinea is grateful for the assistance extended by the U.S. Having himself been Ambassador in Washington for three years, he was greatly impressed by the improvement in U.S.-Guinea relations. However, he noted that, since relations between Guinea and the United States had begun to improve, a press campaign, led by Agence France Presse, had attempted to block this development. At Addis Ababa, immediately after an announcement of U.S. aid to Guinea, AFP had reported that Guinea’s representative at the conference had opposed President Kennedy’s racial policy. Prior to leaving Conakry Ambassador Diallo had been instructed by President Sekou Toure to enlist the full support of the African Chiefs of State for President Kennedy’s policy which Sekou Toure himself fully endorsed. Diallo said that Toure felt this issue was sufficiently important to instruct the Guinea delegation to seek out the U.S. Ambassador at Addis in order to inform him of Toure’s position.
Agence France Presse (AFP) also referred to an agreement between the Soviet Union and Guinea for a regular air service. However, relations between Guinea and the U.S. were such that Guinea would never do anything [Page 423] like this without prior consultation with the U.S. The purpose of this AFP campaign is that some elements in France do not look with favor upon the improvement of relations between the U.S. and Guinea. They would like to see Guinea reintegrated into the UAM. This is not possible. Relations with France must be conducted on the basis of full equality and frank cooperation as they are with the U.S.
President Sekou Toure had asked him to say that he had been happy to support the President’s racial policy in October 1962 when he came to the U.S. and that he again wishes to congratulate the President and his brother for all they had done in this field.
Finally with respect to Gizenga, Diallo stated that Guinean leadership had been grateful for the interest shown by the President in that matter. Total reconciliation in the Congo is indispensable for progress and President Sekou Toure will do all he can to achieve that end. Because President Kennedy has voiced his concern regarding intervention on this matter, President Sekou Toure wishes to assure him that before taking such action Toure would make absolutely certain that Gizenga is “recuperable” and that he could perform a constructive role. Toure would appreciate any suggestions the President might care to make.
Diallo Telli said that whenever President Toure traveled in Africa, he noted that the people were very emotionally involved in the problems of the Portuguese colonies and South Africa. Because of President Kennedy’s responsibilities and the hopes placed in him by the Africans, the President should do something, otherwise the African governments would be forced by their people to take extreme measures.
The President reiterated the importance of having other African countries exert their influence, specifically the African countries of the French Community. He said that our influence was now very slight. Portugal would not want to become isolated. The President’s personal feeling was that Portugal would probably see the light when it would be too late.
The President concluded by indicating that he would write to President Sekou Toure on the various questions discussed at the meeting. In this letter he would also address himself to the problem of civil aviation in Guinea. The President again stressed the importance of having other European countries bring their influence to bear upon Portugal because otherwise it would appear that Portugal was pitted against the U.S. as well as Africa. At the present time, Europe was very sensitive to U.S. influence. President De Gaulle had rallied the forces of European nationalism against U.S. influence in Europe. France and the French Community could do a great deal on the Portuguese issue, even if Guinea could not do very much. The President reassured his visitor that his interest in this issue would remain constant.