244. Telegram From the Embassy in Ghana to the Department of State1
717. Talked nearly hour with Nkrumah this morning, opening with presentation along lines my instructions.2 I stated I had two conversations with President Johnson, was speaking on his behalf. President and other top officials regard relations between USG and GOG as in grave condition. Nkrumah interrupted to say he also regarded situation as serious. I said American Government and people tending believe GOG does not wish maintain even tolerable relations with US and point to accusations of rumor-mongering, demonstrations, deportation American professors.
With respect rumor-mongering, I said everyone in Ghana had heard rumors. Ironically, I had cautioned staff on two occasions re repeating them and had expressed doubt their truthfulness. Nkrumah said he appreciated this. Mentioned he was particularly upset about rumors now going around re his perfectly healthy baby, that it “half animal, half human.” I said every figure in public life subjected to rumor, though these latter below contempt. I was sure American community discreet.
Re demonstration, I said it clearly government-inspired. CPP were acting officially and workers brigade of course directly under GOG. Nkrumah tried to excuse CPP action as “independent enthusiasm,” but said now that Ghana has one-party system CPP is same as government. He conceded there no excuse for workers brigade. I pointed out he might as well have had police demonstrating. He did not dissent, said there were two Cabinet members present but they just curiosity seekers.[Page 429]
Re deportations, I said GOG had right dismiss anyone it chose. We not trying to tell GOG what to do. But manner in which GOG acted was unfriendly. I had checked background of men in Washington and none had ever been even remotely connected with USG intelligence.
I then described feeling of American Congress and people, pointed out President subject to public opinion. If situation continued, we could not continue what we were doing here. Nkrumah agreed that something must be done. He referred to editorial in Los Angeles paper which he said “recommended assassination.” I deplored editorial but said we had free press, and that hostile feeling of press was consequence of Ghanaian press and Ghanaian activity. Nkrumah agreed that nothing could be done about US press and that it would improve when Ghanaian attitudes improved. He asked me whether I had noticed Ghanaian press on my return. I said I had; it was better. He claimed it would take time but would change even more, said he had issued instructions against any broad attacks. I made point that merely shifting attacks UK and Free World was unsatisfactory. He argued that he cannot renounce his principles, must oppose South Africa and UK action in southern Rhodesia. But said from now on attacks will be specific and he will maintain greater control. He said by way of example he was meeting with press immediately after our conversation and would tell them to stop using “Hitler” and “Nazi”; will call Verwoerd’s performance a form of fascism.
I stressed view Ghanaian press is Soviet-Bloc enterprise. Bloc almost never criticized. We not seeking such criticism but Bloc must make mistake on some occasion. I gave African student incident in Moscow as example, saying that although it was front page news all over world it suppressed here. Nkrumah became riled at this point (for only time during discussion), though he had nothing to say in rebuttal. He commented that he was planning to maintain closer control over students in Soviet Bloc countries and described mission he has sent to set up CPP branch parties among students in Bloc. Emphasized this will give him control. Said when he first proposed doing this, Soviets strongly objected but he threatened pull students out and Soviets finally agreed. (Note: CPP official setting up branches is notorious pro-Communist Kweku Akwei.)
Nkrumah digressed to discuss his growing concern at extent corruption in Ghanaian public life. Gave example of man he now trying to catch up with who had substantial sum of money deposited abroad. Said European—but not UK or US—firms made practice of signing contracts for Ghana pounds 3 when worth only Ghana pounds 1, paying off GOG officials. He said he announcing seven-year plan soon and will make policy statement against corruption.
I then told Nkrumah I would like to take up question of CIA. He said he was glad I brought up matter; he had mentioned CIA in letter sent via Ribeiro to President Johnson. I told him I had discussed possibility of letter [Page 430] with President Johnson and that latter would welcome it. I said [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] that I am in full control of all US Government activities in Ghana. I could assure him without hesitation that during my incumbency absolutely nothing has been done by any US agency which could be construed in any way as being directed against him or his government. Nkrumah replied with words to effect “I will take your word for it,” [11–1/2 lines of source text not declassified].
I repeated that there had been no conceivable activity on our part to subvert or overthrow him. I pointed out how inconsistent our entire aid effort, aimed at assisting and strengthening his government, is with wild accusations in Ghanaian press that US acting against him. I added that, speaking frankly, our main intelligence effort is to keep an eye on his Soviet and Chinese friends, whose activities are really large scale. I added that it was common over world that good part of so-called Soviet diplomatic personnel were actually intelligence agents. Nkrumah replied he understood this to be so and keeps eye on them himself.
Nkrumah brought up matter of his “socialism.” Saying that Western press always jumps down his throat when he mentions socialism. He claimed that he was not talking about Soviet or Chinese forms of socialism, but about Ghana’s own type of socialism developed from Ghana’s communal traditions. His socialism is evolutionary, not revolutionary, and specifically provides for private sector and foreign investment.
I commented that just as he resented attacks on his socialism, we resent his press’s uniform condemnation of capitalism, which has changed radically in recent decades. Nkrumah replied that he understood changed nature of capitalism, and said that present economic system of US might better be termed “enlightened capitalism.”
Nkrumah agreed with me that we had not talked enough. I said that although I did not wish to burden him, we should get together at regular intervals, so that we could be in touch and be in position to iron out difficulties before they are acute and led to public embarrassment. I suggested semi-monthly meetings and urged him to call me on any occasion. Nkrumah agreed with alacrity to idea of regular meetings, even throwing out idea that we might meet weekly. I told him that we ought try semi-monthly meetings at first and see how they worked out. We left it that I would telephone his secretary twice each month for specific time.
In course of conversation, Nkrumah mentioned that he planned to move back to Flagstaff House soon. Speaking of Chou En-lai visit, he volunteered that joint communique had caused him great difficulty, and that Soviet had “come down hard” on him for it. He said that now he is having trouble with his friend Tito and that it seems impossible to please everyone.[Page 431]
As I took my leave I repeated that I must say in all candor that President Johnson and my government regard relations between our countries as grave. I had not given up; I had come back to make honest effort to improve relations. Nkrumah agreed that we should make every effort.
As we parted he gave me copy of his letter to President Johnson (dated Feb 26; telegraphed separately)3 and bottle of rum and bitters which he had received from Prime Minister Williams of Trinidad.
- Nkrumah was as friendly as I have ever seen him. Only new element was tendency speak very rapidly, making him at times hard to understand. He seemed extremely anxious to please. It was evident from conversation that he realizes some eating of crow necessary. He in fact did so to some extent.
- He is aware of and concerned by serious state of our relations, although he seems to feel an upward turn has already begun.
- He has made and will probably continue to make efforts to moderate his press. Although I have no illusions that Nkrumah has basically changed, I believe that likelihood of a period of tolerable peace, of unknown duration, has been strengthened by our conversation.
- Our personal relationship has been warmed and an opportunity created for more helpful talks.
- Beginning has been made in effort to dispel some of Nkrumah’s misconstructions on role of CIA. Will follow-up.
- Pressure should be kept up. Washington could contribute by parallel talk with Ribeiro.