239. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Johnson1


  • The Volta Problem

The Problem

The recent anti-American incidents in Ghana have generated Congressional and public resentment here. There have been some demands that the U.S. now pull out of the Volta Project in retaliation. If we accede to these demands we would destroy our chances of preventing massive Communist influence in Ghana. We must take steps to make Nkrumah realize the grave risk of losing U.S. friendship and assistance if present trends in Ghana continue.

Our Objective

We want Nkrumah to stop press and other attacks and reestablish friendly relations in accordance with the understanding he had with President Kennedy.


That you approve the action program outlined below.

Proposed Action Program (Timing of these steps will depend upon developments in the Ghanaian situation):

A letter of warning from the British Prime Minister to Nkrumah on the adverse consequences of his policies for continued Western aid.
An early visit to Nkrumah by Edgar Kaiser to stress the unfavorable reaction in the US to recent events in Ghana and the difficulty for Kaiser Industries to carry out the VALCO Project in the present atmosphere of unfriendliness and even hostility towards the US.
Strong representation to Nkrumah by Ambassador Mahoney on his return, including an oral message from the President.
Termination of the NIH tropical disease research Project in Accra.
An IBRD review of its support of the Volta Project.
A letter from the President to Nkrumah, if conditions are sufficiently favorable in terms of success.
Send a Presidential Emissary to Nkrumah, possibly the Attorney General, to express deep US concern at developments contrary to Nkrumah’s understanding with President Kennedy.

The decision to go ahead on the Volta Project was made by President Kennedy in December 1961 as a calculated risk that Nkrumah would live up to his undertakings to maintain Ghana’s independence and neutrality in foreign relations. President Kennedy made clear to key members of Congress that his decision in no way affected approval of Nkrumah’s regime but was intended to help the people of Ghana.

Since 1961 there has been a steady deterioration in Ghana’s attitude toward the US. Press attacks and other evidence of hostility have been markedly noticeable following attempts on Nkrumah’s life. Nkrumah, who exhibits marked signs of mental instability, is apparently convinced the United States is opposing his aims in Africa and intent upon destroying him. We recalled our Ambassador from Ghana following the recent demonstrations before our Accra Embassy. Since we have had:

The continuing attacks and vilification of the US by the press and radio.
Expulsion of six professors from the University of Ghana of which four are American.
Press attacks against patriotic American Negroes like Emerson Player.

We have examined the feasibility of exerting leverage on Nkrumah through our participation in the Volta Project. While the Volta seems to offer limited leverage, its use presents significant complications and serious, risks:

Advance consultation with the IBRD is required because it organized and participated in the financing of the project.
Advance consultation with the UK is required because of intensive UK interests in Ghana and UK financial participation in the project.
Adverse African reaction to action stopping or slowing down an IBRD project because of US political interest.
Possible violent, irrational reaction by Nkrumah, and prompt Soviet expression of sympathy and support.

The attached annex2 shows the extent of our commitment to this project and the aluminum smelter associated with it. As of now the Dam is 45 to 50% completed with construction scheduled to end in 1965.

W. Averell Harriman 3
  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Ghana, Vol. I, Cables, 11/63–2/64. Secret. Another copy of the memorandum indicates it was drafted in AF and sent to Rusk on February 13 with a covering memorandum from Williams. (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Williams Records, White House Correspondence)
  2. Not printed.
  3. Harriman signed for Rusk above Rusk’s typed signature.