20. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Congo


  • Sir Harold Caccia, British Ambassador
  • Mr. H.S.H. Stanley, First Secretary, British Embassy
  • The Secretary
  • Mr. Woodruff Wallner, Deputy Asst. Secretary, IO
  • Mr. James K. Penfield, Deputy Asst. Secretary, AF

The Ambassador came in at the Secretary’s request to discuss Lord Home’s message concerning our proposals on the Congo.2 The Secretary [Page 50] first explained our thinking on the problem in general terms. We are faced with a deteriorating rather than a strengthening situation. In the context of the views of African countries, particularly on Lumumba, we are getting into a dangerous situation, both vis-a-vis these countries themselves and in regard to the Congolese. In these circumstances we are not trying to impose a hard and fast plan on anyone. Rather, our aim is to try to find some consensus which would provide a basis upon which some sense can be made out of the Congo picture. There appears to be a misunderstanding in Lord Home’s mind over our views on the Congolese Army (ANC). We do not envisage disarmament enforced by fighting. We look toward a UN force strengthened by the addition of “reliable” troops, the replacement of Dayal and then negotiation, perhaps assisted by pressures, such as in the supply field, which would result in bringing the ANC into more coordination with the UN force. Congolese troops could then be retrained, reorganized and repositioned so that they would be less likely to erupt as a force on their own. The word “neutralization” is perhaps not accurately descriptive of this process but it is clear that Lord Home’s idea of an integration of the ANC into the UN Force would, if it proves practical, be fully in line with our thinking.

There are two considerations bearing on the ANC problem which are of particular importance. The process of “neutralization” cannot be allowed to take place in one part of the Congo unless it can be achieved throughout the country in stages. Second, it is important to plug the loopholes through which unilaterally dispatched military supplies can enter, specially in the northeast. Gizenga appears for the moment to be in some difficulty. This in itself is a temptation to others to step up their activity. We are reluctant to gamble on Mobutu’s ability to handle this situation and prefer to rely on the UN.

With reference to Lord Home’s point on “turning the Congo into a sort of protectorate” we see little chance that below the Cabinet level the Congolese themselves can administer the country. They must rely on others, including Belgians, and we therefore envisage the UN building an administrative structure below the Government. The foreign technicians would thus run the country in much the same way as the British “advisers” to the Maharajas did in India. One of the objectives of such an arrangement would, of course, be to meet the financial point raised by Lord Home. Our Governments cannot continue to support the Congo while the country remains indefinitely unable to exploit its own resources which are sufficient for at least its minimal needs.

In response to specific comments and questions by the Ambassador the Secretary agreed that a long process would be involved. Kasavubu’s support, or at least acquiescence, must be won, more troops must be obtained and Dayal must be replaced before real progress can be made on [Page 51] the “neutralization” front. The Secretary General apparently cannot get the necessary troops in the present situation and he must therefore have a new basis for action. It is still not clear, however, whether this would have to be in the form of a new Security Council resolution. The important thing is to get started. If the present Security Council session changed the atmosphere sufficiently to enable the Secretary General to get even a token force increment to replace the departing troops and if he got a strong replacement for Dayal, he might be able to start a trend in the right direction and get a long way down the trail through negotiation and maneuver. The command situation in the ANC would have to be worked out in this context. The British seem to rate Kasavubu’s ability to play a lone hand higher than we do, but we feel that even Kasavubu, whose position as Chief of State we certainly have no intention of challenging, could not be an exception to whatever “neutralization” arrangements are worked out. If, for instance, he wanted to attack Katanga, the UN “would have to try not to be helpful”. The Secretary and the Ambassador agreed, however, that for the moment Kasavubu should be encouraged rather than discouraged to continue his efforts to set up a broadly based Government.

The Secretary mentioned that it seemed particularly important to him that we identify ourselves with some constructive new initiative through the UN because if we later find ourselves faced with the necessity of making a serious effort in the Congo outside the UN framework, it would be essential to show that we had exerted ourselves to work effectively through the UN.

The Secretary referred to the Higgins story in this morning’s Herald-Tribune and said that to the best of his recollection the Congo had not once been mentioned during the course of his conversation with Menshikov.3

In reply to the Ambassador’s question the Secretary said that we had put our thoughts to Kasavubu but had so far had no reaction. He added that we had assumed that initially hardly any of the important elements in the problem would, for different reasons, agree with us. He reiterated that we must make the effort and see whether any consensus emerges.

It was agreed that the Ambassador would transmit the Secretary’s views to Lord Home by way of reply to the latter’s message. The Secretary said that he might later attempt to formulate a written reply incorporating these views.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/2–461. Confidential. Drafted by Penfield on February 6 and approved in S on February 7. The time of the meeting is taken from the Secretary’s appointment book. (Johnson Library)
  2. Lord Home’s message to Rusk, dated February 3 and delivered on February 4, argued that neutralization of the Congolese army would not be accepted by the Congolese and would have to be forcibly imposed by the U.N. forces, that part III of the plan would in effect turn the Congo into a “sort of protectorate,” and that the plan would pull the rug from under Kasavubu’s feet and open the way for Lumumba’s return to power. (Ibid., Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204, UK Officials Correspondence with Secretary Rusk)
  3. Rusk’s meeting with Soviet Ambassador Menshikov on February 3 is recorded in a memorandum of conversation by Director of the Office of Soviet Union Affairs John M. McSweeney. There is no mention of the Congo. (Ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 65 D 330) It is printed in Vol v, Document 14.