207. Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Fredericks) to Secretary of State Rusk 1
- Opportunities in the New African Situation
Within the past nine months there have been seven military take-overs of political power in Africa (Algeria, June 19, 1965; Congo, November 25; Dahomey, December 28; CAR, January 1, 1966; Upper Volta, January 3; Nigeria, January 15; and Ghana, February 24). In almost every case the younger officers have joined with experienced officials to eliminate a layer of politicians who were either corrupt or ineffective. This new generation of leadership displays more idealism, while also being more pragmatic. It is strongly nationalist without greater xenophobia. It is seeking greater efficiency without necessarily being more dictatorial. Ghana, the scene of the most recent take-over, illustrates this change most clearly.
The inevitable confusion of this transformation has obscured the significant results. They include:
- Greater concentration on internal economic and political development.
- Lesser interest in foreign adventures, especially extra-African issues.
- Stronger endorsement of honesty in government, and a corresponding lower tolerance of corruption.
- Greater emphasis on competence, especially in the field of governmental activities.
- Stronger emphasis on national integrity, with growing antipathy toward Soviet and Chinese subversive activities.
- Less emotional atmosphere in some cases, permitting more practical cooperation with the former metropoles and the United States.
These immediate results all favor our own interests in Africa. We should not, however, be misled into thinking that this new atmosphere will necessarily produce long-term improvement.[Page 321]
- The new leadership in itself cannot solve the problems facing these new nations. They will remain. Budgets cannot be balanced overnight; economic development is not the automatic consequence of good intentions; external subversion will not cease because communist missions leave a few countries.
- Although the pendulum of this change has swung in our direction, there is no assurance that the motion will not be reversed if the basic problems remain untouched. Politics, as Walt Rostow observed in his paper of January 26 on The Politics of Development, will continue to assume the form of contention among competing pressure groups, and it is only a matter of time before this occurs in these African states. Economic, educational and social well-being will continue to be the goal of the African people, and frustration of these aspirations could cause another shift in political power. In such instance, the pendulum can only swing away from us. The long-range threat of Communist China, which you often stress, will again be an immediate problem in Africa.
- The irreducible fact remains that African nations will continue to need significant external assistance. The additive of recent events is a new coalition of forces which displays greater realism in facing up to economic difficulties. These leaders are instinctively more open to sound advice from Western governments or international organizations, such as the IBRD and the Fund. Although continuing to be thoroughly African in their world outlook, they are more prepared to minimize or cut ties with Communist countries.
While the military take-overs may change the power structure of these nations, they do not invalidate either the need for rapid economic and social development or the general goals of our assistance programs. Thus the Strengthened African Program, which in accordance with the President’s suggestion is being revised and is coming to you soon, remains valid.
These African nations illustrate in a very particular form the general fear expressed by George Woods in the January issue of Foreign Affairs that the industrialized world might fumble its chance to respond effectively to the underdeveloped world. From every country where a military take-over has occurred, we have received urgent pleas for assistance, which in the aggregate may not be very large but which if deployed rapidly could have significant effect. If we miss the opportunity which recent developments present to capitalize on this new wave of nationalism, idealism and efficiency, we face the real danger of seeing the present atmosphere go sour and of having gained little or nothing from the opportunity presented to us. By contrast, it seems to us that our task is to create an atmosphere in the US Government and elsewhere [Page 322] which by matching the atmosphere in Africa will serve our interests both immediately and in the long-run.
An effective initiative on our part will, of course, cost us some money. We urge that this fact be recognized at the highest levels of our government and by the heads of agencies directly concerned.
We do not, however, urge a go-it-alone attitude by the United States, or by any one of its agencies. We would recommend, instead, a major attempt to diversify the effort. For example:
- A.I.D. should be prepared to expand its efforts in these countries. Public safety, transportation, education and selected capital developments appear possibilities.
- Food for Peace could be more widely used in cases of need and more broadly used as an instrument of economic development.
- International organizations, especially the Bank and the Fund, should be urged to expand their advice and loans.
- The European powers should be hit hard to seize the present opportunities to invest in loan and grant assistance to these African nations.
- The Peace Corps should expand its efforts, especially in Francophone states.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL AFR. Secret. Drafted by Director of the Office of Inter-African Affairs Fred L. Hadsel and cleared by Rostow. Copies were sent to U, G, and M. The source text bears Rusk’s initials, indicating that he read it.↩