111. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State0

88. From Ambassador Burden. Eyes Only for the Secretary.1 Geneva Eyes Only for Dillon. I received following from Timberlake on Telex this morning with request it be passed to Secretary and Dillon on eyes only basis:

“I am making urgent efforts to find Kasavubu, Congolese President, and talk to him at earliest moment today. Without, as you know, any instructions, I have already talked to Lumumbu [Joseph Yumbu] Vice President of Provincial Council Leopoldville along following lines:

Departure of Belgians, which would probably be followed by practically all Europeans, would convert modern Congo to jungle. Neither Congolese nor Belgians wish reestablish Belgian domination. Belgians agreed employ Belgian troops yesterday only under most extreme pressure and with greatest possible reluctance.

Fact is Force Publique not under effective command nor is its loyalty by any means assured. Command is not exercisable by negotiation nor is loyalty insured by sops.

I have suggested to Yumbu he find Kasavubu at earliest possible moment, repeat what I told Yumbu and ask Kasavubu make official request through Ralph Bunche2 to United Nations for its intervention “as next friend of Congo to assist government reorganization Force [Page 287] Publique and police and to restore public order until such time as government of Congo and United Nations satisfied new organization fully able maintain law and order.” Have explained United Nations formula for Middle East action in past excluded principal powers and I suggest they ask for similar action in this case. This should keep bears out of the Congo caviar. I assume most Americans have not yet developed a great taste for it either.

Formula would involve sending immediately a commander-in-chief of United Nations forces who would take command of Belgian forces already there as part of United Nations force. Later Belgians might be gradually withdrawn as replacable by others. They would be principal force meanwhile.

Needless to say I think Kasavubu must do this at the earliest possible moment if he is to be believed around the world as acting on his own initiative and not with a Belgian pistol at this head. That’s my thesis.

I talked at length with Bunche yesterday to discover how long it might reasonably take for Security Council to get effective forces moving. Bunche said in a matter of hours following Security Council decision and that required official government request.

Realize Soviets might decide to veto application Security Council but I believe they would make vast error in judging public opinion around the world by doing so. Furthermore, assume this could be taken up with Assembly on urgent basis if Security Council failed due to Russian veto”.

Timberlake later added he had just seen Bunche again this morning “who agrees one hundred percent with thesis above and has been approached in same vein by Belgians”.

Comment: I believe Timberlake should be commended for his initiative and that this approach to Kasavubu should be encouraged.3 Despite obstacles his proposal may encounter, it seems best way out of extraordinarily difficult situation:

Belgian troops already engaged in de facto intervention. As long as this intervention limited to its immediate humanitarian purpose of saving lives, even most rabid anti-colonialists will have difficulty attacking it.
Danger in proposed Belgian Government action described Embtels 77 and 784 is from a public and unilateral assumption by Belgium of responsibility for maintaining order and reestablishing government structure in Congo, a responsibility Belgians can not carry out over longer term, especially in opposition to Congolese Government. If as Timberlake suggests Belgian troops act as first contingent of [Page 288] United Nations force under United Nations responsibility requested by Congolese (whether government or Kasavubu himself) then there is perhaps a possibility of arresting anarchy and creating some foundation on which to rebuild an organized society in the Congo without creating permanent break between Belgians and Congolese or encountering adverse world reaction which we fear will greet present Belgian plan.
Belgian Government and people united in support any necessary use Belgian troops to protect and evacuate white population from Congo. Despite decisions it has taken, government appears confused and divided re measures beyond, and deathly afraid of popular reaction here which already beginning Brussels this morning. Conservative faction (Wigny and liberals) appears favor unilateral intervention already decided (Embtels 77 and 78) but some others apparently concerned at possible destruction long-range Belgian position by such a move. Latter group might support United Nations initiative as way out of dilemma. Do not know De Schrijver’s position but from past performance expect he would approve of United Nations solution at east as second-best to Congo-requested Belgian intervention.

In summary, I believe Timberlake should be encouraged proceed on proposed lines and United States should prepare itself politically and practically to support Kasavubu request if forthcoming.

I am of course saying nothing of this to Wigny and will not unless otherwise instructed.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/7–1060. Secret; Niact; Limit Distribution. Repeated to Geneva.
  2. Secretary Herter was at Newport, Rhode Island, with the President.
  3. U.N. Under Secretary Ralph J. Bunche attended the Congolese independence ceremony as the Secretary-General’s personal representative and had stayed on thereafter. He was dependent for communications on U.S. facilities. Telegram 34 from USUN, July 9, contains a paraphrase of Bundle’s report to the Secretary-General assessing the situation. (Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/7–960)
  4. Telegram 68 to Brussels, July 10, instructed the Embassy to convey the Secretary’s commendation to Timberlake for his initiative. (Ibid., 770G.00/7–1160)
  5. Telegram 78 is printed as Document 110. Regarding telegram 77, see footnote 1 thereto.