John F Kennedy: When the US President met the heroes of Africa’s independence

President John F. Kennedy met with Ghana’s first President and Pan-Africanist chief Kwame Nkrumah on the White Home in March 1961

In our collection of letters from African journalists, Sierra Leonean-Gambian author Ade Daramy makes use of an archive of pictures of US President John F. Kennedy, who set the sample for US relations with Africa.

Short gray line of presentationShort gray line of presentation

Brief grey line of presentation

Earlier than Kennedy turned president in 1961, his nation had made little try to know the speedy adjustments in Africa.

By the point of his assassination in 1963, the state of affairs had radically modified.

Throughout his brief interval in energy, Kennedy had obtained within the White Home both the pinnacle of every impartial African state – numbering greater than two dozen on the time – or his ambassador.

President John F. Kennedy greets President of Senegal L & # xe9;  opold S & # xe9;  Dar SenghorPresident John F. Kennedy greets President of Senegal L & # xe9;  opold S & # xe9;  Dar Senghor

Senegalese President Léopold Sédar Senghor, a key determine within the anti-colonial motion in French-speaking nations, flew to Washington in November 1961

A yr earlier than changing into president, 17 African nations had gained independence from their colonial masters, and conscious that the world was altering, Kennedy knew {that a} new relationship needed to be cast.

This relationship was based mostly on the help of the brand new African nations.

It was a international coverage perspective that basically survived, given the occasional changes, till President Donald Trump’s efforts to switch it together with his extra transactional method.

It has been reported that Mr. Trump has infamously used derogatory language when talking concerning the continent, and Kennedy’s predecessor, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had his personal damaging views.

He advised Togo’s President Sylvanus Olympio that the explanation the USA shared an envoy between Togo and Cameroon was as a result of he didn’t need his diplomats “to should dwell in tents”.

President John F. Kennedy speaks during the arrival ceremonies of the President of Togo, Sylvanus OlympioPresident John F. Kennedy speaks during the arrival ceremonies of the President of Togo, Sylvanus Olympio

Togolese President Sylvanus Olympio was greeted on the airport by Kennedy in March 1962

In the course of the 1960 election marketing campaign, Kennedy repeatedly criticized Eisenhower’s administration for “neglecting the wants and aspirations of the African individuals” and pressured that the USA must be on the facet of anti-colonialism. and self-determination, not on the facet of the colonialists.

As soon as in workplace, Kennedy invited African leaders on state visits and laid out the pink carpet.

Haile Selassie greeted by President KennedyHaile Selassie greeted by President Kennedy

Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, one of many founders of the Group of African Unity in Could 1963, was welcomed to Washington by First Girl Jacqueline Kennedy and the President in October of the identical yr.

Accompanied by First Girl Jackie Kennedy, he would greet every of them – together with Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie and King Hassan IV of Morocco – upon their arrival within the nation.

Haile Selassie drives through WashingtonHaile Selassie drives through Washington

Haile Selassie was pushed via the streets of the US capital

There have been additionally honor guards, lavish dinners, and visits to the ballet, theater, and locations of historic curiosity.

President Kennedy hosts state dinnerPresident Kennedy hosts state dinner

Félix Houphouët-Boigny, first president of Côte d’Ivoire, and his spouse, Marie-Thérèse Houphouët-Boigny, have been invited to an official dinner throughout their go to in Could 1962

The visits have been all highlighted within the media and the general public was inspired to come back ahead and cheer.

Kennedy and his company can be pushed via streets adorned with welcoming banners and enthusiastic crowds and, climate allowing, in an open-top automobile.

After all, there was a component of realpolitik in all of this. The Soviet Union was making related overtures to African states in search of to distance themselves from the outdated colonial masters.

Upon taking workplace, Kennedy knew he needed to act rapidly to befriend rising African nations.

President John F. Kennedy delivers remarks during arrival ceremonies in honor of the President of Guinea, Ahmed S & # xe9;  kou Tour & # xe9 ;.President John F. Kennedy delivers remarks during arrival ceremonies in honor of the President of Guinea, Ahmed S & # xe9;  kou Tour & # xe9 ;.

Guinean President Ahmed Sékou Touré, who in 1958 led the nation to independence from France two years earlier than most of its different African colonies, was in Washington in October 1962

Within the Oval Workplace, he advised the Nationwide Affiliation of Golf equipment of Girls of Colour: “I imagine that … if we dwell as much as the beliefs of our personal revolution, the course of the African revolution within the subsequent decade will likely be in direction of democracy and freedom. not in direction of communism and what may very well be a way more severe form of colonialism. “

A month after his inauguration, he requested Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson to journey to Senegal to satisfy with President Léopold Sédar Senghor, whom he thought-about a key ally in attempting to rally French-speaking nations.

Then a month later Kennedy launched the Peace Corps – which despatched younger People world wide – and in August 1961, invited the primary group of volunteers to the White Home to arrange to journey to Ghana and Tanganyika. .

The assassination of the hero of Congolese independence, Patrice Lumumba, with an alleged CIA involvement, three days earlier than Kennedy took workplace, reminds us that the battles of the Chilly Struggle with the Soviet Union have been additionally fought on the continent.

President John F. Kennedy meets William VS Tubman, President of LiberiaPresident John F. Kennedy meets William VS Tubman, President of Liberia

William Tubman, President of Liberia, whose capital is called after former US President James Monroe, met with Kennedy in October 1961

However I might say Kennedy was genuinely within the improvement and development of the continent. African leaders who fought onerous for independence weren’t naive and took Kennedy at his phrase: that the connection may very well be mutually helpful.

His premature dying was deeply felt in Africa – particularly as his successor, Johnson, didn’t share his drive to cement relations.

Now, 60 years later, President Jo Biden is starting to form his coverage in direction of Africa.

In a press release earlier this month, he stated the USA stands able to be “Africa’s companion, in solidarity, help and mutual respect.”

Biden’s phrases echoed Kennedy’s pledge – now we’re ready to see if the actions match the rhetoric.

Extra letters from Africa:

Comply with us on twitter @BBCAfrica, on Fb at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica

Images by Robert Knudsen, Cecil Stoughton, Abbie Rowe, White Home pictures, John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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