92. Despatch From the Consulate General at Léopoldville to the Department of State 0

No. 404

SUBJECT

  • Interview of Mr. Joseph C. Satterthwaite with Joseph Kasa-Vubu 1

At his request, Monsieur Joseph Kasa-Vubu called on Assistant Secretary of State Joseph C. Satterthwaite at the Consulate General on Saturday morning, June 20. Mr. Kasa-Vubu came to the office alone. The interview lasted approximately one hour.

M. Kasa-Vubu opened the discussion by stating that his people still desire immediate independence. In his opinion, the Government Declaration which was a unilateral Belgian action, properly recognized in its broad principles the basic right of the Congolese people to accede to independence. However, according to Kasa-Vubu, the document was too fuzzy and lacked the practical details for its implementation. In any event, Kasa-Vubu believes that the Declaration is now outmoded since it has been surpassed by events which have since taken place.

When reminded that the Belgian Government had already brought out a draft legislation dealing with the series of forthcoming elections, M. Kasa-Vubu indicated he had no faith in these proposed elections since he believed the Belgian authorities would rig them in their favor. In this connection, he protested against the nomination by Belgian officials of one-third of the members to be sent to the territorial and provincial councils.

M. Kasa-Vubu referred to the present Government General as being ineffectual and expressed his distrust of Belgian officials, with the notable exception of Minister Maurice Van Hemelrijck.2 He added that prior to the latter’s recent visit to the Bas-Congo, Governor Jan Baptist Bomans had dispatched Messrs. Gaston Diomi3 and Arthur Pinzi4 to that area in order to “arrange” the various public receptions. The two emissaries, according to Kasa-Vubu, had been instructed to prepare a warm reception for the Minister on the part of the natives, who were cautioned against mentioning publicly the word independence. Kasa-Vubu stated that this was done in order to keep from the [Page 256] Minister the real desire of the population for immediate independence. However, Kasa-Vubu continued, the people were not deceived by these tactics since, during the Minister’s visit, they shouted for independence and for their leader, Kasa-Vubu.

M. Kasa-Vubu also declared he had requested the local authorities to reinstate legally the Abako movement. Thus far, according to the leader, no action has been taken. He has, however, made it known to the appropriate Belgian officials that if no action is taken by the time the Minister leaves Leopoldville for Brussels, he will take it upon himself to announce publicly the reactivation of the Abako party.

M. Kasa-Vubu also reiterated his desire for the establishment of a federal rather than a centralized form of government. In this connection, he turned over to Mr. Satterthwaite a document, a copy of which is enclosed,5 which is to be handed the Minister during his visit to Leopoldville this week. The document, signed by Messrs. Simon Nzeza, Daniel Kanza and Kasa-Vubu, calls for the establishment by January 1, 1960, of the Republic of the Central Congo which is to replace the present Province of Leopoldville. The government of the new republic will have a President, Vice President, a Senate and a Chamber of Representatives. It will have three distinct branches, the legislative, the executive and the judicial. Senators and representatives are to be elected by universal suffrage. The executive branch is to be composed of fifteen ministries under a Prime Minister. The President of this autonomous state is to be elected on December 12 and 13 of this year. Finally, the document calls for electioneering to begin in July.

Throughout the interview Mr. Satterthwaite counselled patience and moderation and impressed upon Kasa-Vubu the necessity for following a policy of non-violence. On a number of occasions Mr. Satterthwaite expressed his faith in the Belgian Government to carry out its promise to lead the Congo to independence. He pointed to the steps which the Belgian Government had already taken in order to implement its Declaration. The Assistant Secretary also focussed attention on the dangers of dictatorship and communism to which a precipitate acquisition of independence might lead.

Comments:

Apparently Kasa-Vubu has decided to press now for the establishment of a separate Bas-Congo political entity. This policy can lead only to the fragmentation of the present geographic unity of the Congo. It should be borne in mind that Kasa-Vubu and his colleagues are demanding the establishment, not of a provincial government, but [Page 257] rather of a republic. Throughout his talk, Kasa-Vubu implied that the Bas-Congo with its ports and natural resources was a wealthy territory which could be economically viable.

The Abako leader appeared very confident both in his ideas and in his backing by the Bas-Congo population. In his present state of mind, it appears unlikely that he would be swayed by counsels advocating moderation or patience.

His proposed action in confronting the Minister during his forthcoming visit to Leopoldville with his plan for the establishment of the Central Congo Republic no doubt presages a period of intense political activity on the part of Kasa-Vubu and of his followers. At present, Leopoldville is rife with rumors that demonstrations are to break out this weekend. This may be based on Minister van Hemelrijck’s visit to the city from June 23 to 28 and on information contained in a tract which is now circulating, a copy of which is enclosed, to the effect that on June 26 the independence of the Bas-Congo is to be proclaimed.

Jerome R. Lavallee 6
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 110.15–AF/6–2359. Confidential. Also sent to Brussels, Brazzaville, and Elisabethville.
  2. Kasavubu headed the Alliance des Bakongo (Abako). Assistant Secretary Satterthwaite had attended the African Regional Conference in Lourenco Marques, June 9-11; see Document 16.
  3. Minister for the Congo.
  4. Burgomaster of Ngiri-Ngiri.
  5. Burgomaster of Léopoldville.
  6. The enclosures are not filed with the source text.
  7. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.