172. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo1

1319. For Ambassadors from Harriman.

Current Congolese Situation

High level interagency meeting held May 22 to review present situation Congo (Leopoldville) and possibilities for further action designed to assist in meeting present crisis. Grave view taken of current developments particularly in Kivu. It appeared that crisis originally expected to occur following UN withdrawal June 30 already underway. Review of present US military program for improving transport and mobility ANC appeared progressing satisfactorily as well Belgian and Italian cooperation this respect. It was concluded following are principal problem areas:

1. Urgent need for presence Belgian officers in ANC line units. Fully appreciate background this subject, natural hesitancy of Belgians in light previous experience place officers in local commands and similarly hesitancy of Congolese to request Belgians to do so. Notwithstanding, we of opinion that presence of Belgian officers Kivu might have avoided present disintegration of command.

2. General Mobutu. While General has many qualities and has performed effectively in past, his vanity and irresponsibility would appear to have contributed significantly to ineffectiveness and disarray ANC. Remains to be seen how he performs on return Leopoldville and appreciate there apparently no present alternative. Would accordingly seem desirable explore additional channels for communication with Mobutu (possibly through individuals such as Nendaka or Marliere) in order for us to get across our ideas to him. In this connection, opportunities should continue to be sought to induce Mobutu to accept further training by Israelis and Belgian encadrement.

3. Presence of CNL Brazzaville and Bujumbura and their current and future activities. Best approach would seem raising this issue with UN SYG or in OAU. As to UN, initiative should be taken by Congolese (L) and/or SYG on recommendation Osorio Tafal. Nigerians or possibly Senegalese might stimulate SYG action. However USUN could be [Page 246] helpful behind scenes. (Separate message to be sent USUN.) We have made representations regarding this matter to Mwami and Burundi delegation here, but Belgians have greater assets for exercising pressure on Burundi. Reported Burundi intention send Soumialot out of Bujumbura helpful but not enough. Rumored rupture Congo (L) relations with Burundi or retaliatory actions by Congo (L) against Brazza would be highly undesirable. Despite erosion French influence Brazza, French may still be able to take helpful action Brazza re CNL. At same time every consideration must be given to sensitivity of both Congos toward outside interference their affairs.

4. UN rescue potential. Additional aircraft now being provided Congo by US presumably will be available for rescue missions UN CivOps and arrival of aircraft should serve bolster confidence such personnel stationed remote areas. However we will continue our discussions with UNNY re separate UN rescue capability.

5. Nigerian battalion. Presence Nigerian forces after June 30 would seem desirable, particularly in light present situation Kivu. Most encouraging Adoula reportedly now intends discuss this with Wachuku (Leo tel 2323).2

6. Tshombe. We still do not have sufficient information re his intentions or full extent his potential in Congo for return to active political role.

Request Ambassadors Godley and MacArthur explore possibilities as they deem best for tackling above items. At same time we should continue keep in mind desirability minimize to extent feasible evidence of active US role in internal Congolese affairs. We face difficult dilemma of needing continuous cooperation Adoula, Mobutu and other key members Congolese government on one hand and of trying to avoid—in Congolese domestic picture, Brazza and other African countries—their appearing to be American puppets on other hand.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23-9 THE CONGO. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Drafted by AFC Deputy Director Matthew J. Looram; cleared by Appling, Tasca, Director of AID’s Office of Central African Affairs Richard M. Cashin, Cleveland, Buffum, and Colonel Gall in DOD; and approved by Harriman. Also sent to Brussels and repeated to USUN, Lagos, Paris, Brazzaville, Bujumbura, and Rome (by pouch).
  2. Dated May 23. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 1885 from Brussels, May 27, MacArthur reported that he had discussed with Spaak the current Congolese situation along the lines of the Department’s telegram. Spaak agreed that the crises expected to follow U.N. withdrawal had already begun. He also agreed in principle that the presence of Belgian officers in ANC line units would be helpful in stiffening them, but pointed out that Mobutu and Adoula had consistently opposed such encadrement. (Ibid.)