102. Telegram From the Consulate General at Léopoldville to the Department of State0
469. On eve formation Congolese Government basic elements political instability and immaturity, lack of qualified or experienced leadership, superficial familiarity with inter-relationships between economic and political problems and role in family of nations, more painfully apparent than ever. Except for pious general statements of future well-being of Congo and need for European backstopping, there is too little solid evidence of serious effort or thought on part of Congolese leaders on how to hold country together. Initially, tribalism is predominant as Bakogos and Mongos seek detach themselves from presently constituted provincial authority when dominated by others or fair distribution of posts not agreed. This tendency though in part a political bargaining weapon could get out of hand (ourtels 452 and 463).1
If Lumumba comes to power without a country-wide supporting coalition, forces of disintegration are likely to be strengthened with Bakongo under Kasavubu leading the way. In our view, there is imminent danger of widespread chaos if government of national unity, including Lumumba, cannot be formed. Advice of Belgian officials is usually suspect and that of private citizens, Belgian or other European colons, is often irresponsible and at variance. In meantime, Czech consul Virius and Guinean Councillor to PSA, Mme Blouin, who temporarily forced out of country, and other Communist or leftist influences are at work, though immediate aims not clear. PSA freeze-out of Abako in Provincial Council leading to latter’s decision to form own government is example of divisiveness from which Communists can benefit.
In meantime, we have maintained hands-off policy in this confused political struggle. As Belgian influence declines and in absence any show of US interest in means for achieving greater political stability in this country, question arises as to whether we should not now attempt exert more positive influence despite risks involved. Basically, there is no large-scale pro-Communist sentiment but a large measure of goodwill exists toward US which we have not yet directly exploited. Many Belgians feel that we must come to the aid of the Congo, though [Page 276] chiefly on the economic side. On the political side, the retiring first Burgomaster of Leopoldville, M. Georges Depi, called June 11 in a private capacity to plead for a more active US political role, but without concrete suggestions as to how. He feels that the leaders, such as Gizenga, Lumumba, Kashamura, who are tarred with the Communist brush, cannot be considered as seriously committed to the Communist camp and believes we should attempt work on them as well as others. Secondly, he feels that the provisional fundamental law2 is unworkable and will be quickly discarded because of its wholly democratic basis unsuited to the Congolese at this stage of their development. Pre-local authority and something approaching dictatorship at the national level is necessary to hold the country together. Governor Stenmans of Leopoldville Province, one of ablest and most confident of Belgian administrators, is still hopeful coalition will be formed but deeply disturbed by Bakongo separatism displaying itself before national government formed. But neither he nor any officials other than Department have suggested any US involvement in influencing Congolese on political side. We have no idea whether Belgians have any alternative plan of action in mind if chaotic situation develops as result of failure to form a temporarily stable government of premature breakup into tribal groupings.
Untrustworthy and unreliable as Lumumba is, and despite the fear of him by other leaders, we see no better alternative on the horizon than a government built around him, preferably a government embracing the other major parties, with an appropriate cut in the pie. If the wherewithal is immediately provided in the form of substantial financial aid by the Belgians and ourselves (ourtel 460)3 together with our ICA program there is as good a chance as any keeping such a government reasonably oriented toward the West.
In view of the foregoing we believe we should talk with Congolese leaders along following lines:
- It is our hope that Congo will emerge as one free and independent state in which the Congolese peoples can win the confidence of the nations of the free world and contribute to their future well-being and prosperity, while at the same time developing their own internal institutions in such a manner as to satisfy regional aspirations of their peoples. While not discouraging federation we should counsel against balkanization and separatism as defeating opportunity for realization of greater economic and political benefits for the Congolese peoples as [Page 277] a whole and express US interest in extending assistance to a Congolese Government which is truly representative of all the Congolese peoples.
- Encourage leaders in formation of government of national unity, without mentioning leadership or favoritism toward any one of them and suggesting such a government more auspicious from the standpoint of effective use of US aid after independence.
We believe talks along these lines will demonstrate sympathetic US interest and bolster confidence (and compromise) among Congolese leaders when it is desperately needed.
Unless Department instructs us otherwise, we propose following this course.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 755A.02/6–1460. Confidential. Repeated to Brussels and Elisabethville.↩
- Dated June 9, telegram 452 reported that Abako representatives had decided to set up their own provincial government. (Ibid., 755A.02/6–960) Telegram 43, June 13, reported that Abako representatives had petitioned Belgian authorities to create a seventh province which would be Abako-dominated. (Ibid., 755A.02/6–1360)↩
- The Loi Fondamentale was promulgated by King Baudouin on May 19, 1960. For text, see Documents Parlementaires, Chambres des Représentants, no. 489, pp. 1–44.↩
- Telegram 460, June 10, warned that financial burdens might lead the new government to repudiate its debt and to fire Belgian civil servants, and it recommended assuring the new government of substantial external assistance provided that it avoided taking those actions. (Department of State, Central Files, 855A.10/6–1060)↩