14. Telegram From the Embassy in the Congo to the Department of State1
1630. I spent hour with Kasavubu this morning at my request to review Congo situation with him prior my departure for Washington on consultations. After explaining to him purpose my trip I asked him whether he wished have any particular points raised with Department.
Kasavubu, who seemed usual unruffled self, made plea for prompt and direct assistance in obtaining arms to permit loyal troops take initiative against Gizenga forces. When reminded of limitations imposed on us by our commitment to UN, President said he appreciated West might be unable provide arms directly but that arms could be bought without difficulty if necessary dollars were made available in European bank account. He had apparently given some thought to possible modalities, and suggested arms might be bought in Belgium under clandestine US-Belgian agreement as Belgians made weapons identical with those presently in use and would be hardest to trace. I asked Kasavubu whether GOC had inventoried arms actually on hand, but he skirted direct answer and merely said that present stocks are inadequate and that “half soldiers have no rifles”. When I commented that GOC might be able make better case for additional arms if it gave clear evidence willingness use material on hand, Kasavubu simply reiterated need for more weapons.
At this point, I mentioned to him that many people were talking about alternative possibility disarming all Congolese soldiers, whether loyal Léopoldville, Stanleyville or Elisabethville regime, and asked his views on this point in order that I might answer questions likely to be raised in Washington. Kasavubu replied he considered such total disarmament impractical idea, both because of serious difficulties involved in carrying out disarmament operation and because he felt UN force incapable maintaining necessary order throughout country. In addition he said giving such responsibility to UN forces would be tantamount to placing Congo under UN trusteeship and would be incompatible with national sovereignty.
Turning to political sphere, I asked Kasavubu about status Ileo government and prospects for its investiture. He explained installation such government had been deferred until after round-table conference to permit consultation by Ileo with Congolese leaders assembled for conference. [Page 34] This was done both to avoid danger Parliament might favor Lumumba if convened prior to conference and also to determine good or bad faith various Congolese factions. Those who failed attend conference, he said, would thereby reveal their bad faith. Asked specifically about Katanga, President said Tshombe had used series pretexts about date and site to avoid attending, but Léopoldville had given into him on enough points that onus for failure attend falls entirely on him. Said decision not yet made on site phase two of roundtable.
Kasavubu then launched into critical discussion Belgian policy with regard Katanga, which he said will end by strangling Tshombe and stirring anti-Belgian uprising. When he asked whether I could clarify GOB stand on Katanga, I said there appeared to be divergence of view within GOB and between GOB and Belgian private interests but that official GOB position continued favor Congo unity against Katanga separation. I took occasion reaffirm strongly our opposition to Katangan independence and described blunt statement along these lines which both Canup and I have made directly to Tshombe.
While waiting see Kasavubu, I had brief chat with Bomboko who took same line as above with regard need for arms. Bomboko said further weapons were particularly necessary equip reserve units which would receive accelerated training when units presently in Léopoldville-Thysville area moved forward to attack Gizenga forces. He outlined proposal for attack on Stanleyville by river borne para commandos while other columns diverted attention with thrusts toward Aketi and Buta in north and toward Kindu in south. However he said such attack could not be mounted unless reserve troops and arms could be assured.
Comment: Kasavubu’s approach was far more positive than at previous meetings, and he concentrated for first time on possible GOC actions rather than on criticism UN inaction. His preoccupation with problem direct arms aid appeals reflect ideas Bomboko, whose influence with Kasavubu has reportedly been increasing. Key gaps in presentation remain vagueness about present stocks and side stepping suggestion attempt be made to undertake action with equipment on hand as sign willingness and ability take initiative.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1–2861. Secret; Priority. Received at 8:12 a.m. on January 29 and repeated to Brussels, Elisabethville, and USUN.↩