3. Telegram From the Embassy in the Congo to the Department of State1

1501. Embtel 1498.2 Even discounting reports transmitted reference telegrams, I am genuinely alarmed at direction in which military developments are going and I am increasingly skeptical of capacity of Mobutu or GOC to arrest, let alone reverse, it. Loyalists of ANC units have always been tenuous and fluid; they go along with their paymasters, they do not like to fight and they like to be on winning side. It would be not at all surprising if ANC troops now in this area were to interpret present or further advances of Gizenga’s troops as wave of immediate future and decide to join them. Neither the troops nor more than a handful of their officers know what that would mean for them or their country.

There have been recurring rumors recently to effect that Mobutu has been negotiating with Lumumba on formula which would permit return latter to government, not necessarily as Prime Minister. We have until now discounted such rumors but feel they can no longer be ignored. The inactivity of Mobutu’s troops in face of advances by those of Gizenga, and the Bukavu fiasco, may be indications such dickering. We also have reports on fairly reliable authority of differences between Kasavubu and Mobutu on several counts, (1) formation of new government and (2) proposal to encourage Sendwe to go to north Katanga. For our reaction to latter proposal see Embtels 1491,3 and 1498. We also know that Bomboko and Ndele4 have been unsuccessfully prodding Mobutu to take military action against Stanleyville. Mobutu has said he will not be able to take field until March 1 which would, in our opinion, be much too late.

We have viewed (and reported) with mounting concern directives and actions of UN military forces and results therefrom. It seems clear to us that Kivu was handed over to Gizenga after which Mobutu’s attempt to regain position there was hamstrung. The invasion of the so-called neutral zone in north Katanga was not opposed by UN but an Indian [Page 13] source close to Rikhye quotes him as saying “UN is just waiting for Tshombe’s forces to violate neutral zone.”

We have quite reliable information that UAR plane at Lisala unloaded arms, money and supplies for Gizenga under UAR troop protection while UN has reported plane understood be carrying only “recreational supplies” for troops there. Should note UN has had to rely on UAR troops alone for direct intelligence from Lisala and Equateur area.

I am also disturbed over reports and attitudes of Duran (UNOC civil head Orientale) and UNOC acceptance authority Gizenga government over province Kivu.

Reports of UN military distribution and plans to concentrate in large centers is further indication that control, never very extensive, in most of Congo will go to ANC.

It is therefore not exaggerating to say we may now be very close to a takeover by Lumumba. Momentum is being built up and it could go very fast in this country where deals can be made tomorrow which appear impossible today. Even though the opening formula might not disturb Kasavubu as Chief of State or restore Lumumba as Prime Minister immediately, there is no question in my mind that it would be but a short time before he would manage, with a respectable parliamentary facade, to install himself as dictator.

This would, of course, face us with the most serious problem of continued support for UN effort in Congo, if indeed it could continue at all. The possibility of withdrawal has already been presented to Kasavubu in the recent letter from Hammarskjöld, and Lumumba can be expected to demand again that it serve his policies or get out.

It seems to me that such eventuality would shake the UN to its very foundation. Under the most generous interpretation, it would mean that the effort of the UN to aid the Congo had failed and that the country had been pushed into the Communist camp under UN aegis and with a substantial UN military force in place which could have prevented it. I wonder whether the import of such an event is understood by the small nations (many of whom are performing the UN effort) which stand to lose their greatest insurance to date against becoming themselves victims in an unmoderated power struggle.

We have done what we could, under our self imposed abstention, to encourage a fair and just solution for the benefit of the Congo and its people. Our policy and actions have been in keeping with our own high principles. What we should do in the event that Communist intervention gets the upper hand is, I hope, a matter which is being given urgent consideration by Department and other agencies.

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Meanwhile, and more urgently, I would welcome any indication that we might now be prepared to take a stronger line in UN which could counter the trend which this report indicates. I feel very certain that we have reached the most critical juncture in the Congo and that the result may well affect deeply the whole future of the UN.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1–1061. Secret; Priority. Also sent to USUN and repeated to Brussels, Elisabethville, Paris, and London.
  2. Telegram 1498, January 10, conveyed reports on a number of recent developments. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 1491, January 9, reported a conversation with Jason Sendwe, who represented Elisabethville in the Congolese Chamber of Representatives. (Ibid., 770G.00/1–961)
  4. Albert Ndele, Commissioner for Finance.