19. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in India1

2069. Re Congo.

For Ambassador. FYI. In light growing deterioration internal Congo situation and manifest inability UN cope with spreading civil war, new program approved by President yesterday. Major purpose new approach is secure support principal segments opinion Africa and Asia, and we hope encourage Africans and Asians take lead on matter. We are informing principal allies and selected Africans and Asians.2 In view great importance India and Nigeria to success of operation, we believe particular pains should be taken secure their approval of program and agreement take lead in advancing it. End FYI.

You are accordingly requested make appointment see Nehru and Balewa urgently, stating you wish discuss Congo with them on explicit instructions from Secretary. You should then explain new policy US prepared support, explaining it was formulated at President’s direction and has his approval. As result this intensive policy review, we are encouraged believe common ground exists between our two countries on which we can build new program which stands good chance of success. You should also make it clear we have consulted closely with SYG who is thinking along same lines.

Behind our policy lies assumption, shared by host government, that Congolese independence must be nurtured and perfected. US policy, as has Indian and Nigerian, consistently has been to provide economic, technical and military assistance through UN and to prevent all outside interference in Congo’s internal affairs. Although UN operation has not proved as successful as we all had hoped, we continue believe it must be made effective; only alternative is direct East-West confrontation in [Page 48] Congo which would have direct consequences for people of Congo as well as peace of the world.

Situation in Congo has reached point where it is entirely clear a new approach is necessary if there ever is to be hope of seeing Congo develop its independence in peace and quiet. In developing our new approach you should say we are convinced overall prospects for improvement must not be impaired by insistence on narrow legalism or deference to any particular individual or faction in the Congo.

We are particularly concerned over possibility that present situation could result in ignominious withdrawal of UN presence. Such an eventuality would seriously, if not irreparably, discredit the UN in the eyes of many states and would lend encouragement to those who seek to weaken organization. Therefore, from all aspects, we regard it as essential UN operation in Congo be made to succeed.

Following program elaborated to achieve this purpose as well as to safeguard Congolese unity and sovereignty. We are certain it has excellent chance of success if Prime Minister will support it and play leading role in its adoption by UN.

We would propose new total approach containing three principal elements. First, we believe a broadly based Congolese Government should be established as soon as possible. We believe that if members of the Afro-Asian group get behind and encourage those principally concerned to establish soon a broadly based government that it can be achieved and can help bring about stability in the Congo. We believe the return to constitutionality under the Chief of State is essential. FYI. We are exercising our influence with Belgians and Kasavubu with view to securing early establishment of middle-of-the-road government. End FYI. As second principal element of this program new mandate for UN would be sought giving it authority to bring under control all principal military elements in Congo and thereby neutralize role of Congolese forces in politics of country. Under this new mandate UN troops could undertake training of Congolese troops. UN would also be expected to step up its efforts to prevent all outside assistance from coming into Congo. Third aspect of this program would be increase and improvement in UN civilian operation so that it can effectively assist Congo and provide only channel for external assistance.

Question which will inevitably arise under this program is when and if Lumumba would be released. On this point our view is that the SYG would be able to obtain the release of and insure the protection of political prisoners when the military neutralization of Congolese forces is at least well underway and it is clear that a civil war has been averted. Further, the establishment of a new, moderate and broadly based Congolese government would seem to us to be essential if he is to have any [Page 49] success in this matter. In the meantime, the US will continue its efforts to achieve dignified and decent treatment for these prisoners.

You should also indicate orally, but not include in any written memorandum you may hand PriMin, that in view of Lumumba’s past record of irresponsibility as PriMin we would view with grave concern his return to that position. Even in a lesser position of authority we consider that he has a high potential for divisive, unconstructive action. It is only Afro-Asian leaders who can be expected to have any moderating influence on him and you should therefore explore with PriMin his willingness exert such influence and his estimate its effectiveness.3

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/2–261. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Ferguson and Rene Tron of the Office of United Nations Political and Security Affairs; cleared by Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs G. Lewis Jones, Rusk’s Special Assistant Emory C. Swank, and Peter A. Seip of the Executive Secretariat; and approved by Wallner. Also sent to Lagos and repeated to USUN.
  2. Telegram 1765 to Léopoldville instructed Timberlake to inform Kasavubu of the new program, enlist his support, and urge the immediate establishment of a middle-of-road government. Telegram 3183 to Paris transmitted a message from Kennedy to French President Charles de Gaulle and telegram 802 to Accra transmitted a message from Kennedy to Nkrumah. Telegrams 3802 and 3803 to London summarized discussions with British Embassy officials on February 1 and 2. Telegram 1440 to Brussels summarized a conversation on February 2 with Belgian Ambassador Louis Scheyven. Circular telegram 1153, sent to 22 Embassies in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America, and Australia, outlined the program and instructed the Ambassadors to inform their host governments and enlist their support. All these telegrams, dated February 2, are ibid.
  3. Telegram 1617 from New Delhi, February 6, reported a February 5 conversation with Prime Minister Nehru, who expressed agreement with the program outlined but indicated that he thought the necessary prerequisites were the release of political prisoners including Lumumba and an end to military assistance to the Congo from Belgian sources. (Ibid., 770G.00/2–661) Nehru made similar comments in a February 7 message to Rusk. (Ibid., 770G.00/2–761) Telegram 703 from Lagos, February 6, reported a conversation that day with Prime Minister Balewa, who expressed general agreement with the program. (Ibid., 770G.00/2–661)