“Some of the peoples of Africa have been out of the trees for only about fifty years” ….

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Richard Nixon - Wikipedia
Richard Nixon

“Some of the peoples of Africa have been out of the trees for only about fifty years” so said Richard Nixon in this Memorandum of Discussion at the 432d Meeting of US National Security Council on Africa on January 14, 1960

Attended by Eisenhower, Nixon et al 

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958–1960, Africa, Volume XIV – Office of the Historian


Click on link above for full account of meeting

Mr. Dulles thought the chances of achieving orderly economic development and political progress towards self-determination by the countries of the area were just about nil. In his view there was no chance whatever for an orderly economic development. The President [Page 75]agreed, saying that these countries would be independent long before they achieved orderly economic development or political progress. However, he felt that economic development and political progress in this part of the world must be a U.S. objective whether the countries concerned were independent or not. De Gaulle had told him that within two years there would be 30 independent nations in Africa.

7 Mr. Dulles said none of the 30 independent nations referred to by De Gaullewould have the capability of governing themselves. The President agreed with Mr. Dulles’ remark, if South Africa were excluded. The President said that the King of Morocco had told him that U.S. policy should be to help the countries of Africa to become independent and then assist in their development. The President had characterized this position as putting the cart before the horse.

8 Bourguiba had a slightly different point of view; he was anxious about Algeria and angry with France about the boundaries at the southern end of Tunisia, but he wanted to resume close relations with France.

9 The Vice President said the British had told him that Ghana, although the most viable nation in Africa, had only a 50 per cent chance for an orderly development. The British anticipated that in many countries of Africa such as Nigeria, a South American pattern of dictatorship would develop. The U.S. must avoid assuming that the struggle in Africa will be between Western-style democracy and Communism. We must recognize, although we cannot say it publicly, that we need the strong men of Africa on our side. It is important to understand that most of Africa will soon be independent and that it would be naive of the U.S. to hope that Africa will be democratic.

The Vice President added that it was difficult to realize the problems faced by Africa without visiting the Continent. Some of the peoples of Africa have been out of the trees for only about fifty years. Since we must have the strong men of Africa on our side, perhaps we should in some cases develop military strong men as an offset to Communist development of the labor unions. The President agreed that it might be desirable for us to try to “reach” the strong men in Africa. Secretary Anderson felt it might be possible to try the same procedures in Africa that we had successfully used in the Philippines. In his view, an outstanding job had been performed by an American lieutenant colonel10 who was a counsellor to Magsaysay.11 The Vice President said thatNkrumah was being [Page 76]influenced by a former British laborite.12 Most of the African leaders were incapable of exercising power when they obtained it; they needed a great deal of advice

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