292. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo0

1627. Embtels 1419,1 1432,2 1436.3 We approve your efforts encourage Bomboko and others avoid actions leading to civil war and gather from your reporting (latest Embtel 1452)4 you optimistic Gizenga regime can be overthrown or neutralized by political means backed by economic pressure. Also agree your doubts re possibilities military solution without serious fighting (Embtel 1450).5

On other hand we cannot discount possibility that political efforts may fail or may drag on while Gizenga consolidates and strengthens his position with outside aid. In such eventuality, which would in effect constitute failure UN military mission, we would hardly wish to [Page 644] be in position of urging Kasavubu and allies to continue rely on UN to insulate Congo against outside force. It would follow that we would not discourage military action such as that outlined Embtel 1450 which held good promise of being successful. It follows further that we should not actively discourage current planning and build up for such eventuality. It should be made clear however that we convinced full-scale military operations not now in KasavubuMobutu interest.

Our basic reasons for this position are 1) military operations would almost certainly be interpreted by UN itself and great majority its members as defiance UN Congo effort and run great risk bringing Mobutu forces into direct conflict UN forces (e.g. current reports Bukavu situation). Encouragement such operations on our part would constitute reversal our firm policy of support for UN Congo operation; and 2) Mobutu military action could well be used as excuse, which would appear justified to entire Afro-Asian group, for more overt and effective outside aid to Gizenga, thus contributing to East-West military confrontation in Congo under conditions which would enlist minimal neutralist support on side of West.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/12–060. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution. Drafted by Penfield, cleared with Cumming and David A. Korn of S/S, and approved by Merchant. Repeated to Brussels and USUN.
  2. Telegram 1419 from Léopoldville, December 21, indicated there was a chance to elicit the backing of some Lumumba followers for a government of moderates, which could command parliamentary support. Timberlake advocated the convening of a round-table conference prior to the formation of a government. (Ibid., 770G.00/12–2160)
  3. Telegram 1432 from Léopoldville, December 26, relayed the substance of a conversation between the Ambassador and Ethiopian Major General Iyassu Mengesha, who intended to travel to Stanleyville. Unlike Dayal, he believed that the United Nations should assume full control in the province. (Ibid., 770G.00/12–2660)
  4. Telegram 1436 from Léopoldville, December 27, reported a meeting with Bomboko in which Timberlake attempted to persuade him of the wisdom of avoiding actions which could lead to civil war. Timberlake suggested that economic factors might shortly undermine the Gizenga regime and that negotiations might forestall violence. (Ibid., 770G.00/12–2760) In telegram 1429 from Léopoldville, December 24, Timberlake predicted economic collapse in Stanleyville in 2 to 4 weeks and expressed his preference for a negotiated political settlement. (Ibid., 770G.00/12–2460)
  5. Telegram 1452 from Léopoldville, December 30, reported the prospect of defections from the Gizenga camp in Orientale. (Ibid., 770G.00/12–3060)
  6. Telegram 1450 from Léopoldville, December 30, reported that Mobutu planned a three-pronged attack on Orientale Province on December 31. The Embassy indicated that it was not as optimistic as the authors of the plan that Gizenga and company would flee without fighting. (Ibid.)