26. Telegram From the Mission to the United Nations to the Department of State1
New York, February 10, 1961.
2163. Subject: Congo.
- SYG told Stevenson this afternoon that if Lumumba is dead2 UN must temporarily take over country. He plans to take over airports and [Page 61] control all transport facilities as emergency measure. He also would establish protective guard for all political personalities in Congo and take more drastic steps to protect Belgians. He believes Kasavubu himself would ask for such protection if Lumumba killed and that ANC (Mobutu) would not resist UN action. SYG would also call for SC meeting to which he would report on this action, his defense being that this necessary emergency measure. He would ask for new mandate to cover situation. He admits he would be “way out on thin ice” in doing this, but he could base it on precedent of similar action last Sept and statement he made at end of GA on necessity of UN to give its mandate new interpretations in emergency situations. (Comment: We are not as sanguine as SYG that such move would be acceptable to Kasavubu unless it were carefully balanced in presentation in order to show that UN action is as much for purpose protecting leaders of national government and of civilians in Orientale and Kivu as in preventing any military action by national forces.) He noted that Boland (Ireland) had said earlier today that if Lumumba had been killed Western countries should immediately express their regret and opposition to such methods; SYG also considered this extremely important.
- If Lumumba has escaped toward Léopoldville SYG thinks we should move ahead rapidly toward getting our policy adopted by SC. He is not primarily concerned with further military steps from Orientale, as he has had recent indications from Gizenga supporters here that Gizenga feels weak militarily. He would be more concerned about political moves by other states who might then recognize Stanleyville government. Rapid steps toward demilitarization would be desirable in these circumstances. Res by all means should continue to contain para demanding release of political prisoners, in these circumstances referring to Songolo and his companions.
- If neither of these circumstances applied and Lumumba ended up still in captivity we should go ahead expeditiously with developing SC res. He commented there already was suspicion of Western motives because it had been West which wanted delay in SC meeting. SYG said everyone’s main concern re res seemed to be problem of detention and release of Lumumba. Nigerians continue to stand with UK and US in rejecting immediate release as military situation not under control. On other hand Nigerians were impressed with argument of other side that prisoners concerned should not have to live at continued mercy of Tshombe and Gizenga. Nigeria was therefore interested in Indian idea of UN protective custody. SYG said he had pointed out to Nigerians problems this involved and they agreed there were snags. SYG insistent with them that we could not take responsibility for deciding when prisoners would be released. Either the criteria would have to be clear cut or there must be some procedure whereby he could share responsibility [Page 62] with govts. (This was first time in conversation with us SYG has agreed to any UN assumption of custody for political prisoners. He admitted this was novel and risky undertaking.) SYG thought he might play situation through SC. UN could take over protective custody of political prisoners. Under this UN would assure their safety and also that they would be under what amounted to house arrest. They would be accessible for political consultations but could not leave their place of confinement. Final decision on their release would be made by SC on recommendation of SYG with advice of advisory committee. He gave us draft of statement for use of SC Pres which would cover this (see USUN 2164).3 He suspected we might barely live with this idea which he said was in very preliminary stages of thinking. But he was not at all certain Sovs would, inasmuch as final decision for release would require substantive vote in SC. He hoped that way it would actually work would be that SYG would make report saying time had come to release prisoners and it would be acceptable to members SC without even holding a meeting.
- Re new Congolese Government4 SYG said Mahamba (MNC)5 had sent him letter cosigned by MNC appointees as Sec of State saying “nationalist front” does not accept participate in new government except on basis of legality, that is release of prisoners, convening of Parliament, and investiture of new government by Parliament before it undertakes any functions. SYG pointed out that there were only two pro-Lumumba members of government and this letter shed considerable doubt on their willingness to participate. SYG also regarded timing of government’s establishment as very bad. He was uncertain about what relationship UN could have with it. It was move in right direction and it was advance over College of Commissioners; he also agreed Kasavubu had done what he could. But UN estimate was that govt could not achieve more that 50 votes in Parliament. His basic reaction on UN cooperation was that UN would be able to cooperate with it on de facto basis somewhat better than with College of Commissioners. Political decision on UN de jure cooperation with new govt would probably have to be taken by GA in same manner as it did re Kasavubu. SYG stressed these were preliminary reactions.
- SYG showed us text of letter to him from number Afro-Asian states6 asking for him to investigate reports about Lumumba. SYG put out press release that he had already asked for ONUC to make investigation even before he had received request.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/2–1061. Secret; Priority. The source text does not indicate the time of transmission; it was received at 10:28 p.m.↩
- Munongo announced in Elisabethville on February 10 that Lumumba, Joseph Okito, and Maurice Mpolo, who had been captured with him in December 1960 and taken with him to Elisabethville on January 17, had escaped from custody. Both the Embassy in Léopoldville and the Consulate General in Elisabethville reported that this story was viewed with widespread skepticism. (Telegrams 1710 from Léopoldville, February 10, and 507 from Elisabethville, February 11; ibid., 770G.00/2–1061 and 770G.00/2–1161, respectively)↩
- Dated February 10. (Ibid., 770G.00/2–1061)↩
- On February 9, Kasavubu had established a new provisional government with Ileo as Prime Minister.↩
- Alexandre Mahamba was designated Secretary of State for Mines and Energy in the new government.↩
- This letter, February 10, was from the Representatives of Ceylon, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, the United Arab Republic, and Yugoslavia. (U.N. doc. S/4682)↩