11. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Congo Policy


  • Mr. Hare, Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs
  • Mr. Satterthwaite, Assistant Secretary, AF
  • Governor Williams, Assistant Secretary designate, AF
  • Governor Stevenson, USUN
  • Governor Harriman
  • Ambassador Yost (Morocco)
  • Mr. Cleveland, Assistant Secretary designate, IO
  • Mr. Wallner, IO
  • Mr. Cargo, IO
  • Mr. Sisco, IO
  • Mr. Buffum, IO
  • Mr. Penfield, AF
  • Mr. Tasca, AF
  • Mr. Ferguson, AF
  • Mr. Herz, AF
  • Mr. Woodruff, AF
  • Mr. Ruchti, AF
  • Mr. Blue, EUR
  • Mr. Sanger, INR
  • Mr. Edmondson, INR

Governor Stevenson reported his meeting with the Secretary General2 giving the following details of the SYG’s estimate: Both Mobutu and Gizenga have about 5,000 troops each. Gizenga is a barbarian but Lumumba is capable and dangerous. The Congo is now divided into three parts (the Kasavubu, the Gizenga and the Tshombe areas). UNOC can control the borders between the parts of the Congo without U.S. assistance and wants none. Nasser practices brinksmanship but he would not go too far. The Sudanese will not cooperate with the USSR. As to the future, an Ileo government should be formed, parliament should be [Page 26] summoned, and the Congolese should be left alone to fight out the political struggle internally. If more UN troops are needed to replace those withdrawn by the current contributors, the following countries could be called upon: Senegal, Iraq, Mexico and Ethiopia. Such troops may be required if UNOC drops much below 20,000.

Asked for his opinion of the next U.S. move, Governor Stevenson said that he had been considering a direct approach by the U.S. to Khrushchev. He felt that Khrushchev has not been successful with his own tactics in the Congo, that he may be willing to back away if we do likewise, and this would reduce the Cold War danger in Africa. Governor Stevenson commented that this was an old idea which he had mentioned a month ago.

Ambassador Yost said that a Moroccan troop withdrawal would be based on their disagreement with UN policy in the Congo. The essential background for such a move, however, would be “palace considerations”, i.e., the King and the Crown Prince were determined not to allow any other Moroccan political element to be more “nationalistic” than they. Ambassador Yost felt that it would be desirable for the Casablanca powers (UAR, Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Morocco) to withdraw their troops from the Congo.

There was a general consensus that it would be desirable for the Casablanca troops to leave the Congo.

A general discussion followed on a basic point raised in a draft AF paper.3 The draft states that the U.S. faces isolation and that the Soviets seemed to be gaining increasing support due to their respective policies in the Congo. IO participants argued that the U.S. was not being isolated, citing voting statistics in the UNGA in support of seating the Kasavubu delegation. AF participants argued that the isolation of the U.S. was particularly notable among the African countries because of the widespread feeling in Africa that Lumumba represented the only legitimate government while the U.S. backed Kasavubu. Other reasons were cited by both sides as major factors: African emotions, the color problem, and racial overtones. It was agreed that the African states held unfavorable views of Mobutu and this was a further factor contributing to the “isolation” analysis. IO added that Belgian tactics of trying to retain their influence through the back door had not helped.

In answer to Governor Stevenson’s question, it was agreed that we should make clear that we do not support Belgium’s tactics supporting Mobutu. Mr. Wallner particularly emphasized that it was necessary to get our policy with Belgium on a clearer footing. He said the extreme points of view of Belgium policy which are held by African countries, by [Page 27] the Secretary General, and by the Soviet Union stem from the initial re-entry into the Congo by Belgian paratroopers and subsequent Belgian actions in the Katanga and through the Union Miniere.

Mr. Herz said that a certain inconsistency in our Congo policy plagues the U.S., especially among Africans. Even though the U.S. has succeeded in putting some distance between itself and the Belgians elsewhere in the Congo, it was a fact that Belgian military support was flowing to the Katanga, most recently in the form of white troops. Africans believe we acquiesce, at least, to this action. Belgians maintain this action is required to retain control of the Katanga for the West. Additional evidence was cited by Mr. Woodruff to show that Belgian plans were far advanced in the military field.

Governor Stevenson said that the Secretary General expected there would be a meeting of the Security Council the week of January 30 to hear the complaint raised by Mali on behalf of the Casablanca powers.4 The Secretary General’s advice to the U.S. was to be quiet and let the Africans fight in the Security Council. Mr. Sisco doubted that the U.S. needs a new resolution from the Security Council since the previous ones have given us sufficient latitude.

There followed a general discussion of the internal political situation in the Congo and various views of the most prominent Congolese leaders. It was agreed that it would be desirable to have a stable, legalized Congolese government and that it would be useful to have parliament recalled. There was considerable doubt that parliament would prove stable because its members are subject to bribes and threats to their physical security. The key however would be the role of Lumumba. It was agreed that there would be a considerable danger, particularly after his imprisonment, that Lumumba would attempt rabble-rousing tactics to rally the parliament for a radical policy. It was agreed that although Lumumba was not originally a Communist that he had become violently anti-U.N. and anti-U.S. because of his lack of success in July in obtaining Western support for his strongly centralized regime and for his policy of re-uniting the Congo by force.

It was generally agreed that the Africans, north and south of the Sahara, were not frightened of Communism. They feel that they could control the Soviets or their own local Communists without any trouble. There were several comments deploring this naive and dangerous point of view.

The following points for use by Governor Stevenson in his press conference January 27 were agreed: That U.S. policy on the Congo [Page 28] would remain within the UN framework; that the U.S. would oppose strongly any aid to the Congo outside of the U.N. framework; that we wished success to the Congolese Round Table Conference; that we would wait hopefully the outcome of the Conciliation Commission efforts; and that we had confidence in the Secretary General’s ability to cope with the problem of adequate troops for UNOC. These points were incorporated in a message which was telephoned to USUN for Governor Stevenson.

Mr. Cleveland, referring to a draft paper prepared by IO,5 raised the question of what realistic operational alternatives could be found to the IO suggestion that we “continue to do what we are doing—only better.” Mr. Penfield said we could launch a new endeavor to stir up activity by approaching Nehru and by asking the British to talk to the Nigerians. Mr. Hare explained that such an endeavor was based upon the following consideration: If we are to get a new Congolese government, get it to work with the U.N. to keep foreign powers out, encourage it to retain its security forces and have a reasonable expectation that it can restrain the Congolese, then we must mobilize other African states in support of this policy. This would help us to achieve our minimum goal of keeping the Cold War out.

Mr. Hare reviewed the development of the Congo problem from the preindependence period this Spring. He cited our original decision to go along with Lumumba, our decision to refrain from recognition of the Katanga, and our need to obtain the cooperation of the other African states. This led us to the U.N., since we needed this mechanism to achieve our objectives. The key problem now is that we are losing the support of Afro-Asians. This is due to the Cold War problem, the role of the Belgians and the LumumbaKasavubu controversy. Since we can no longer build on the Congolese, we must have the support of the Afro-Asians. If we can not rely on the Afro-Asians we must either try to split the Afro-Asians or resort to the Belgians.

Governor Williams said that he did not believe the IO and AF papers were contradictory. Both were designed to gain time. He felt, however, that the chances of successfully pursuing the course of action advocated by IO were quite small. His opinion was based on the lack of success that this policy has had so far.

Mr. Cargo reviewed our efforts to obtain a Congolese government and to re-establish order. He said this is the course that IO would like to set in motion. The IO recommendations are that we follow the Round Table Conference carefully, that if those preliminaries succeed, a more stable government should emerge, thereafter it may be possible to roll [Page 29] back Gizenga, and finally there would be close U.N.-Congolese cooperation.

Mr. Sanger said that any long-range U.S. policy must build on the assumption that the Congo will be really independent. He advocated that the U.N. seal off Belgium and Soviet aid to the Congo and that we go along with the Round Table Conference.

There followed a discussion of the possible outcome of the Round Table Conference. Ambassador Yost said that we must find a way to protect the Congolese Government if it is to be really effective. There was general agreement that we could not include Gizenga, who was possibly a Communist. Mr. Satterthwaite said that it would probably be necessary for Lumumba to appear at the meetings and his influence might be dangerous although he might be outmaneuvered.

Governor Williams raised the following questions:

What is our estimate of the situation? It is generally agreed that our current position is not good although, there is some difference between AF and IO on the effectiveness of our policy.
What should be our short-term program? How can we improve our current negotiating position?
How can we get wider support from the Afro-Asians particularly the Africans for what we want to do in the Congo?
What is the final set of goals that we want to achieve? It is agreed that we would like to have a legalized Congolese government but do we wish to back Mobutu in a military campaign to achieve Congolese unity?

Governor Williams asked Mr. Sanger to head an intelligence group to prepare an estimate of the situation as stated in item 1 above.6

IO was asked to prepare a study of how we can improve our short-term negotiating position.

Mr. Ferguson was asked to head a group to study how we can improve our position and gain wider support from Afro-Asians for what we wish to do.

Mr. Penfield was asked to work with someone from IO to pull together a “final package” which would synthesize the studies resulting from items 1, 2 and 3.

Next meeting for the ad hoc committee was set for Monday, January 30 at 2:30 p.m.7

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1–2661. Secret. Drafted by James R. Ruchti. Participants not previously identified include Deputy Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs James K. Penfield and Henry J. Tasca, Director of the Office of West African Affairs C. Vaughan Ferguson, U.N. Adviser in the Bureau of African Affairs Martin Herz, Officer in Charge of Congo Affairs Arthur Woodruff, Deputy Director of the Office of Western European Affairs William L. Blue, Director of the Office of Research and Analysis for Africa Richard H. Sanger, and William B. Edmondson, Acting Chief of the West Africa Division in that office.
  2. Stevenson met briefly with Hammarskjöld on January 24 and at length on January 25. The conversations are reported in telegrams 2000 and 2011 from USUN, January 24 and 26. (Ibid., 304.11/1–2461 and 320/1–2661, respectively)
  3. Not identified.
  4. A January 26 letter from the representatives of Ceylon, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, the UAR, and Yugoslavia to Hammarskj old requested a meeting of the Security Council to discuss developments in the Congo. (U.N. doc. S/4641)
  5. Not identified.
  6. Sanger sent a situation report on the Congo with an evaluation of factors affecting prospects for the future in a January 31 memorandum to Williams. (Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1 –3161)
  7. No record of this meeting has been found.