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Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958–1960
Volume XIV, Africa, Document 136


136. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of StateSourceSource: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/7–1960. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Léopoldville.

258. While Deptel 1471Telegram 122 to Leopoldville, July 16, repeated to Brussels as telegram 147, stated that Lumumba’s attitude concerning the Soviet Union and the United States appeared to be a “matter for serious concern” and requested the Embassy’s views. (Ibid., 770G.13/7–1660) addressed Leopoldville and problem dealing with Lumumba is Leopoldville’s responsibility, Department and Leopoldville may wish consider following Embassy views based on numerous discussions with Belgians. Specific suggestions may be rapidly overtaken by fast-moving developments, but Embassy believes situation calls for urgent measures on various levels if even reasonable degree stability and Western entree into Congo to be salvaged from present anarchic situation.

1. Whatever circumstances and motivations may have led to present situation, Lumumba has now maneuvered himself into position of opposition to West, resistance to United Nations and increasing dependence on Soviet Union and on Congolese supporters (Kashamura,2Minister of Information Anicet Kashamura. Gizenga) who are pursuing Soviet’s ends. Only prudent, therefore, to plan on basis that Lumumba government threatens our vital interests in Congo and Africa generally. A principal objective of our political and diplomatic action must therefore be to destroy Lumumba government as now constituted, but at same time we must find or develop another horse to back which would be acceptable in rest of Africa and defensible against Soviet political attack.

2. Lumumba’s present strength (which may now be at lowest ebb) depends on:

(A) His “legitimacy” in eyes Congo and rest of Africa as duly appointed Prime Minister-

(B) His adroitness as a politician and propagandist, reinforced by Kashamura’s control of Congolese Radio;

(C) His apparent dominance over Congolese Chamber (but not Senate) which helps protect him from legal coup d’etat; and

(D) Fact Kasavubu has gone along with him and may really share his present viewpoint, especially because of presence Belgian troops.

His principal weakness is absence any instrument or structure through which to exercise power. Elimination Force Publique as effective instrument and massive departure White administrators serves Communist purposes, but from Lumumba’s viewpoint these facts make it extremely difficult to establish his authority outside range his oratory.

3. Political action in support objective paragraph 1 must be internal and external, and might include following courses of action among others:

(A) Desirable that with minimum United States direct action, public image be created among politicians and people of Congo and leaders and populations of independent African states that Lumumba is witting or unwitting instrument of Soviet intervention in Central Africa, and will thus bring to Africa a new and worse form of White imperialism.

(B) Most immediate hope of dropping Lumumba would of course reside in his repudiation by Congolese Parliament which would eliminate his constitutional “legitimacy” and permit him retain power only by open coup d’etat for which he may not have necessary naked force, especially in Leopoldville. Cannot judge from here whether someone now attempting such a maneuver or its chances of success, although appears Ileo is attempting to move Senate in that direction.

(C) Alternative or perhaps simultaneous approach would be seek to build up provincial governments as de facto authority, attempt have them adopt position of “no confidence” toward central government which would weaken Lumumba in face his political enemies, and then build back toward some central authority exclusive of Lumumba. Problem of Katanga is of course related and Embassy feels it should be dealt with within this conceptual framework of dealing with “de facto” provincial authority. We should not discourage Tshombe from building any relationship he can with other provinces leading toward “confederation”, but should continue for now to discourage Katanga legal “independence” and any recognition of it in the international field.

(D) Parallel to internal action, United States and others should point out privately as appropriate to leaders neutral countries, especially African, fact Lumumba is serving Soviet ends as suggested above. In individual African countries point could be made that Lumumba appears be instrument which will bring Soviet bloc fully into “their continent”, thus defeating dream of Nkrumah and others for creation of neutral pan-African bloc and causing inevitable clash of East and West on African continent which all have sought to prevent. For this purpose important persuade United Nations authorities and representatives see situation in Congo as we do, remembering that Security Council has approved Congo membership3On July 7. but it not yet voted by General Assembly and therefore question of membership and credentials of Congo Government still unsettled.

4. We can claim no particular prescience—especially from this distance—re subsequent steps to facilitate creation stable, responsible and friendly Congo Government following possible discrediting or removal of Lumumba. Everything will depend on circumstances at time. Continue hope, however, that once removed from Lumumba’s malignant influence, Kasavubu might well prove to be rallying point for more moderate and constructive elements. Our focus might well be directed at encouraging and strengthening constructive individual leaders and provincial governments and authorities without recognizing independent status of any, at least for time being, in hope that Kasavubu might eventually develop into centripetal force based on common interests of all provinces. As President, Kasavubu has constitutional tenure which Lumumba, as Prime Minister, lacks and weak as former has shown himself to be, he would seem to be best bet for immediate future.

5. Embassy realizes internal aspects of this problem are responsibility Embassy Leopoldville. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Brussels reporting separately some specific suggestions. Because of transcendent necessity for information and action during this fluid period, Embassy suggests Department may wish instruct posts in countries surrounding Congo (Brazzaville, Khartoum, Kampala, Dares-Salaam, Salisbury and Luanda) make every effort obtain all possible information on internal Congo situation from evacuees and local authorities to be fed into Department and led [used?] for guidance in possible courses of action to be adopted. Facade might be used in all surrounding countries of necessity visit border areas to check on problems of evacuees of American nationality. Further suggestion this connection re desirability immediately send American representative to Usumbura has already been put forward in Embtel 2244Telegram 224 from Brussels, July 18, recommended establishment of a consulate at Usumbura which could report on developments in the northern and eastern portions of the Congo. (Department of State, Central Files, 120.270G/7–1860) to Department.

Burden


* Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/7–1960. Secret; Priority. Repeated to Léopoldville.
1 Telegram 122 to Leopoldville, July 16, repeated to Brussels as telegram 147, stated that Lumumba’s attitude concerning the Soviet Union and the United States appeared to be a “matter for serious concern” and requested the Embassy’s views. (Ibid., 770G.13/7–1660)
2 Minister of Information Anicet Kashamura.
3 On July 7.
4 Telegram 224 from Brussels, July 18, recommended establishment of a consulate at Usumbura which could report on developments in the northern and eastern portions of the Congo. (Department of State, Central Files, 120.270G/7–1860)