34. Telegram From the Embassy in Liberia to the Department of State1

2598. Dept please pass NSC for Brzezinski and Richardson. Subject: President Carter’s Visit to Liberia. Ref: Monrovia 2506.2

1. As participants will recall, a number of sidebar conversations ensued during course of Monday, 3 April working luncheon but bilateral discussions in which most of US participated could be broken down into three categories: agriculture, health and security.

2. Under agriculture, President Tolbert and Minister Phillips discussed Liberia’s interest in support for treecrop development designed to increase production of palm oil, coffee and cocoa. There was general discussion on this subject in which President Carter also participated, utilizing his specialized knowledge of ground nuts, but no decisions or recommendations were taken. It was noted that U.S. is already somewhat involved in the palm oil industry in Liberia and questions from the USG side stressed Liberia’s plans for small farmer inclusion.

3. Under discussion on health the exchanges concentrated on river blindness, a disease described by President Tolbert as affecting at least half the population in certain rural subdivisions of the country. Tolbert and Minister of Justice (formerly Health Minister) Oliver Bright asked that U.S. consider support for a regional research center on onchocerciasis. Secretary Vance pointed out that USAID is already doing some work on the subject, that we would undertake to determine whether Liberia could be included in the regional program already established.

4. The discussion under security flowed from President Carter’s observation that the GOL wished to obtain additional patrol vessels [Page 107] under the FMS program in FY–1980. Tolbert lamented the small allocation in the FY–79 budget and said yes, that the GOL did anticipate “an additional ship or two” by 1981 to help in policing its waters. Tolbert and Minister of Defense Burleigh Holder claimed that the Soviets were raping Liberia’s waters of valuable fish. President Carter related USG’s experience with the Soviets and acknowledged that the situation was not improved until several vessels and their captains were brought to stateside ports and courts. President Carter expressed interest in GOL’s request for patrol equipment and asked that the situation be reviewed by (and here I am uncertain) Secretary Vance or NSC Director Brzezinski.3

5. Embassy rapporteur suffers somewhat in fulfilling his assignment because he could not join the various sub-groupings around the table. This problem is additionally compounded by the fact that substantive exchanges occurred between USG and GOL principals riding to and from the airport. FonMin Dennis has promised to provide Ambassador with a debriefing on his exchanges with Secretary Vance but we may find it difficult to resurrect fragments of conversations between other principals.

6. Minister Townsend told Ambassador that Presidents Carter and Tolbert discussed the inroads being made by Communism in Africa in their private discussions while traveling in from the airport. Townsend said Tolbert revealed that he had called in the Soviet Ambassador at the time the GOL was throwing out the TASS correspondent for interference in internal Liberian affairs and warned the Ambassador that any similar involvements would result in the Ambassador’s being asked to leave. Tolbert is reported to have spoken to President Carter of increasing Marxist activities in Liberia, citing the University of Liberia and the radical organization Susukuu as being danger spots.

7. All of the above, according to Townsend, occurred while the two Presidents were discussing the general subject of security. (Townsend said the security discussion developed when President Tolbert sought additional financial support from USG for the Armed Forces of Liberia.) According to Townsend, Tolbert reported President Carter’s attitude as sympathetic and receptive.

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8. This message should be read with the caveat that it is an uncleared draft and the hope is expressed that Washington participants will flesh out the categories as required.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780151–0024. Confidential; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Carter visited Monrovia April 3. In telegram 2506 from Monrovia, April 5, the Embassy transmitted the highlights of a Liberian government memorandum analyzing U.S.-Liberian relations. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780147–0349)
  3. In telegram 90967 to multiple posts, April 8, the Department asked for local assessments of the ability of West African coastal states to patrol their offshore fisheries. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780152–0749) In telegram 3071 from Monrovia, April 27, the Embassy reported on some of the difficulties that the Liberian Coast Guard faced in protecting their fisheries. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780180–0011)