17. Memorandum From Secretary of State Rusk to President Kennedy 1
- Suggested New United States Policy on the Congo
As you requested, we have undertaken a review of United States policy on the Congo. The enclosed memorandum is submitted for your consideration. It contains three principal recommendations.
- First, with the Afro-Asians in the forefront, we would seek a new mandate for the United Nations which would give it the authority to bring under control all principal military elements in the Congo and thereby neutralize the role of Congolese forces in the politics of the country. Under this new mandate the United Nations would undertake a training program of the Congolese troops. The United Nations would also be expected to step up its efforts to prevent all outside assistance from coming into the Congo. Hammarskjöld would seek to achieve the military neutralization of the Congo by peaceful means in the first instance, though it might become necessary for the United Nations to use force if certain groups are recalcitrant.
- Secondly, we would press Kasavubu to redouble his efforts to establish as soon as possible a middle-of-the-road cabinet government with Ileo as Prime Minister. If the current Round Table of Congolese political leaders fails to achieve this, the United States would give its full support to the establishment of a more broadly based Congolese Government which would include Lumumba elements but not Lumumba himself as Prime Minister. This latter position would be adopted by the United States as a fall back and only if the prior efforts to achieve a middle-of-the-road government had failed. Only after the effective neutralization of the Congolese forces had been accomplished, or is at least under way, and a new Congolese Government was established, would all political prisoners, including Lumumba, be released. Parliament would be called to approve the new Government at a later stage.
- Thirdly, we would seek a greater administrative role for the United Nations in the Congo. Our assumption is that, regardless of the government formed in the Congo, it will not in fact be able effectively to govern and administer. A great deal of United Nations administrative and technical [Page 41] help is essential. The fact that a good deal of the operational machinery would be in the hands of the United Nations, in a context in which all principal military elements were neutralized, would provide added safeguard against a Lumumba takeover.
One of the principal purposes of the new policy is to reorient the United States position so that it will have the support of world opinion generally, and in particular the support of principal segments of opinion in Africa and Asia. For this reason, it would be our intention in implementing the new policy to encourage the Africans and Asians to take the lead on this matter. An early response by you to Nkrumah’s letter2would be involved and perhaps messages from you to the Prime Ministers of India and Nigeria and to others. Such messages as may appear desirable would be sent to you for your consideration. We would intend also to consult with our close allies, particularly the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium, as well as the United Nations Secretary General and President Kasavubu. An approach to the Soviets at some point will probably be desirable.
In our consultations, we would plan to emphasize our determination to make the United Nations succeed in the Congo. At the same time there would be advantage in leaving no doubt, particularly with the USSR, that we are determined that the Congo will not fall into Communist hands and that we would look to other means, if necessary.
I request approval to proceed on the basis of this memorandum and the attached policy paper.
- Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Congo. Secret. The source text includes no drafting information, but a copy filed with a covering memorandum of the same date from Wallner to Rusk indicates that the memorandum was drafted by Sisco. (Department of State, Central Files, 611.70G/2–161)↩
- A letter from Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah to Kennedy, dated January 23, argued that Lumumba was still Prime Minister under the Congo’s Constitution and urged Kennedy to intervene personally to secure his release. Telegram 839 from Accra, January 25, transmitted the text to the Department. (Ibid., 770G.00/1–2561) Kennedy’s interim reply was transmitted in telegram 787 to Accra, January 29. (Ibid.) A draft of that reply, sent to Kennedy under a January 27 covering memorandum from Rusk, bears Kennedy’s handwritten revisions. (Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Congo Security 1961)↩
- Secret. The source text includes no drafting information, but a copy filed with the Wallner memorandum cited in the source note above indicates the paper was drafted by Sisco. Wallner’s memorandum states that the paper had been approved by the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. An unsigned and undated memorandum entitled “Genesis of New Congo Program,” filed with a February 6 memorandum from Deputy Director of the Office of West African Affairs Wendell B. Coote to Williams, states that the general lines of the new policy were approved at a meeting with Rusk on January 28, that the next-to-final draft was sent to Defense and CIA on January 30, and that Defense concurred in a letter of January 31 (Document 16) and CIA concurred in a telephone call that day. (Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/2–661)↩