189. Memorandum From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Harriman) to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


  • Preliminary Comments on New Political Situation in the Congo

President Kasavubu’s motives in naming Tshombe as Prime Minister and giving him the responsibility to form a transitional government are unclear. He may be giving Tshombe enough rope to hang himself or he may feel that it is necessary to get Tshombe’s support to prevent unrest and instability in Katanga. Kasavubu has alleged that he is keeping Adoula out of the transitional government in order to keep him available for the future.

It seems clear, however, that Kasavubu intends to control the situation more closely than he has in the past and the new constitution which has just been submitted to a national referendum provides for a de Gaulle type of president with the cabinet responsible to him rather than to Parliament. A further indication of this is that he has placed the Defense Ministry in a committee, the membership of which is still unknown, reporting directly to him rather than to Tshombe.

The announced cabinet discards all of the old government, brings in Tshombe’s collaborator in Katanga as Interior Minister, makes a gesture to the dissident Committee of National Liberation (CNL) by including one of its leaders and includes representatives of four other political groupings as well as two so-called technicians. It is not so broadly representative as Tshombe seemed to indicate when he called for a government of national reconciliation or as the Belgians wanted. The ability of many of the ministers most of whom do not have high positions in their political parties, is unknown.

Tshombe and his Katangan colleague, Munongo, have concentrated six portfolios and the prime ministership in their hands. Although Tshombe has awakened many Congolese hopes for an effective and unifying government, this fact may soon cause serious difficulties. The individuals and groups not included will probably not wait long to start harassing him.

Immediately after his installation Tshombe called in our Ambassador and complained of breakdowns of the T–28 aircraft and demanded [Page 268] immediate operational availability. We are sending a maintenance mechanic to Leopoldville on Tuesday to work on the planes. Tshombe stated that he planned to repatriate his gendarmes, now in Angola, alleging a strength of 4,000, to restore order in North Katanga and retake the provincial capital from the rebels. Chief of Staff Mobutu was present and raised no objection. Tshombe pointed out these forces would be under Congolese army command. The return of the gendarmes will probably cause strong African criticism of Tshombe to whom the Africans in the past have been hostile. After his first cabinet meeting Tshombe announced that all political prisoners would be released. This presumably includes Gizenga, Lumumba’s senior supporter. It is reported that Kasavubu does not want to free him.

We believe that we should support Tshombe in his efforts to promote unity, internal security and economic stability. Our existing economic and military aid programs should be quietly continued. Former Prime Minister Adoula believes that there should be no change in this regard. We should also endeavor to strengthen our ties and relations with President Kasavubu whose position is so much stronger now. However, until we have a clearer indication of Tshombe’s intentions by his actions, we should be cautious in not appearing to give him unqualified support.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. II. Confidential.