201. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Reorganization of the Congolese Armed Forces


  • [Here follows the same list of participants as Document 200.]

The Prime Minister said that he was ready to pass now to the question of the reorganization of the Congolese armed forces. A year ago, the United Nations proposed to initiate a training program for those forces. At that time, however, it was not possible to accept such a proposal because the Congolese army was divided against itself, and if the United Nations had undertaken training it might have had to train what amounted to two different armies. It is only in November 1961 that this difficulty was solved and that the army became unified. A second problem exists, however. In order to reorganize the army it is necessary to start with a small but healthy nucleus. At the present moment the size of the Congolese army is much too great. Of course, it is possible in theory to decrease the size of the armed forces simply by demobilizing men unsuitable for service because either of lack of discipline or of general ineptness. However, the men so released from the army—and who might amount to one-half of its present strength—would have to be placed in the economy. Otherwise, they will increase the already very great number of unemployed and create areas of discontent and of potential chaos. Thus, help would be necessary and the help in question would have to be of an economic nature aiming at finding work for those who would be released from the army.

In answer to a question from the President, the Prime Minister said that while he did not have a personal plan for retraining of the army, he had discussed this question with the military leaders of the United Nations and that all parties agree that the first step would have to be a decrease in numbers, as a prior condition for the undertaking of a training program. A United Nations project for the retraining of the army is in existence but the financial and economic question continues to be a serious obstacle. In the meantime, the Prime Minister has obtained from the Parliament the authority to recruit 2,000 young men of 18–20 years. This, however, still hinges on the financial problem since it is financially impossible to increase the size of an army which is already too numerous [Page 380] and since the economic conditions make it difficult to release 2,000 men out of the presently existing forces.

The President expressed the wish that a more detailed examination of the problem could be undertaken by representatives of the two Governments.

The Prime Minister replied that Mr. Ndele would remain in the United States and would be happy to participate in a detailed consideration of economic questions including those which were tied with the question of the reorganization of armed forces.

Secretary Ball mentioned to the President that conversations had already taken place in the Department of State and that they would continue with members of the Prime Minister’s staff who would remain after his departure from the United States.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Congo. Confidential. Drafted by Glenn. The source text is labeled Part II of two parts; Part I is printed as Document 200.