28. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Christopher to Vice President Mondale1


  • Follow-Up Analysis of the Guinean Prime Minister’s Visit

The following is in response to your suggestion that the Department of State and NSC analyze the Guinean Prime Minister’s message and suggest ways we might follow up.2


Prime Minister Beavogui’s visit was a Guinean initiative to improve strained relations with the United States. We should respond in a positive but discreet manner, to each of the major points Guinea raised, while paying due regard to the sensibilities of Guinea’s moderate neighbors and to USG policy considerations, including human rights and arms transfer restraint.


Sekou Toure decided to send Beavogui to the United States for several reasons:

—Guinean relations with the U.S. had been strained by Guinea’s decision to allow Soviet reconnaisance flights from Conakry to resume on September 23, the day after we signed an agreement to provide 10,000 tons of PL–480 rice. Guinea earlier offered to stop the flights, but had requested a U.S. security guarantee. We replied that we would study the guarantee request while agreeing to the request for rice. The sequence of events clearly indicated Guinean duplicity and we suspended implementation of the PL–480 agreement until last May.

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—The continued success of foreign investment in Guinean bauxite, in which two U.S. firms play a leading role, and the interest of U.S. Steel in Guinean iron ore, have raised the Guinean government’s hopes for more private U.S. investment.

Sekou Toure recognizes that the Carter administration’s emphasis on human rights raises additional problems in bilateral relations with the U.S.

Sekou Toure wished to lessen Guinean dependence on the Soviets.


The Prime Minister gave two major undertakings in his meetings with the two of us: he announced that the deployment of Soviet intelligence aircraft from Conakry had been stopped, and that Guinea was prepared to accept a delegation in Conakry to examine the human rights situation. The only specific request he made was to obtain six “coast guard cutters,” although in his meeting with you he also alluded to “economic, cultural, educational and industrial development programs.”

The request for “coast guard cutters” was not expressly stated as a quid pro quo for termination of the intelligence flights. Guinea, however, has contended that the Soviet flights were tolerated because they provided occasional defensive surveillance of the Guinean coast. The implication was that the “cutters” could serve this purpose among others.

Sekou Toure is aware of the inconsistencies between Guinea’s professions of support for the rights of man and the practices of his government. Available evidence suggests that the Guinean government does not hesitate to take harsh repressive measures against real or imagined opponents. These measures include prolonged detention without charge, and torture to extract confessions. Resort to these measures reached its height following the abortive Portuguese invasion of 1970. Since then the pattern has been uneven but marked by occasional purges. Toure is conscious of the adverse effects that well documented international criticism, such as the report of the International League for Human Rights (ILHR) to the UN, can have on his relations with western governments.3

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Guinea’s first line of defense against criticism has been a determined attempt to justify Guinea’s repressive actions on internal security grounds while emphasizing Guinea’s underlying respect for human rights. Sekou Toure bitterly and publicly attacked the ILHR report by denouncing its authors as agents of western intelligence services. This has been his standard reaction to criticism of his country’s human rights record. However, it is possible that Guinea is prepared to improve its human rights situation for tangible benefits, particularly aid and investment.

U.S. Response

We propose a prompt and constructive response as follows:

Termination of the Soviet Flights: We shall continue to note that this has removed a major obstacle to improvement of our bilateral relations. The Soviets are still deploying intelligence flights to Africa and may pressure the Guineans to allow them to refuel and transit Conakry in route to Angola. We shall avoid linking the termination to any specific quid pro quo on our part, but will attempt to strengthen Guinean resolve by responding promptly and constructively to the latest request for PL–480 commodities, implying that our response stems from their willingness to continue to deny the Soviet flights.

Offer to Receive Human Rights Delegation: It is not clear how Guinea would respond to a proposal to send a delegation—whether it would be allowed to interview specific prisoners and visit detention sites for example. To test Guinea’s intentions we shall seek to inspire a proposal from an international body with a recognized interest in human rights, such as the International Committee for the Red Cross, (which is widely known for its impartiality and great discretion) and urge Guinea to accept. This would be far preferable to sending a delegation identified solely with the U.S. Government or a U.S. private organization. We should be alert to any Guinean efforts to influence the composition of the delegation. If the ILHR complaint is forwarded to the U.N. Human Rights Commission we would be prepared, consistent with our announced policy on such complaints, to support a thorough study or investigation.

Request for “Coast Guard Cutters”: While we do not know why Guinea requested cutters, or precisely what they have in mind, all but the smallest U.S. made patrol or rescue craft are on the munitions list. Thus the Guinean request raises problems under the arms transfer policy.

The President’s arms transfer policy describes arms transfers as an exceptional foreign policy tool. The Foreign Assistance Act contemplates that arms sales and financing for such sales will not be made to countries with poor records of human rights observance unless the [Page 77] Secretary of State concludes that such assistance is in our national interest. Our security assistance presentations to Congress have never given any indication of possible military sales to Guinea, let alone U.S. funds to finance such sales. There is considerable unease in Congress about U.S. military sales to Africa and reprogramming of Foreign Military Sales (FMS) funds. We believe an FMS sale to Guinea might be justified if it could be shown that it occurred in a context of improved Guinea performance on human rights and would provide an incentive for further human rights improvements by easing Guinea’s fears—whether justified or not—regarding its security. The sale, by removing the only justification Guinea has ever advanced for the Soviet intelligence flights, could also remove Guinea as an important link in the Soviet ocean surveillance system.

Under the circumstances we shall postpone a final decision on the provision of “cutters” to Guinea until a) we can assess their willingness to receive a human rights delegation, b) we have had an opportunity to consult the Congress and c) we have a clear idea of their requirements.


In sum we propose to:

—Explore urgently with the ICRC the possibility of their proposing a delegation to Guinea to examine the human rights situation and urge the Guineans to accept.

—Stand ready at the next U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting to support a thorough study and investigation of the human rights situation in Guinea.

—Express appreciation on suitable occasions for the termination of the Soviet intelligence flights.

—Explore in greater detail the Guinean request for “coast guard cutters” while making clear to the Guineans that progress on human rights and continued denial of Soviet flights will weigh heavily in our final decision.

—Seek to reply promptly and positively to further Guinean requests for PL–480 commodities and agree to consider other requests for assistance.

—Brief informally key Congressional leaders on a possible change in our relationship with Guinea.4

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Material, Mondale Papers, Countries, Box 42, Africa 7–12/77 [2]. Confidential.
  2. See Document 26.
  3. On June 7, the International League for Human Rights released a report on alleged violations of human rights in Guinea and called for a UN inquiry. In telegram 990 from Conakry, June 9, the Embassy described the Ambassador’s discussion of the report with the Guinean Acting Foreign Minister on June 9. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770206–0424)
  4. In a handwritten note at the bottom of the page, Christopher wrote: “8–5–77. Fritz—We are keeping a close watch to see if the Guineans allow the flights to be resumed. I remain somewhat skeptical. Warren.”