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


  • The Congo

During Prime Minister Tshombe’s month in office various different groups of rebels and dissident tribal elements have taken over much of the eastern Congo threatening to capture three major cities of Stanleyville, Bukavu and Luluabourg and the major Army base at Kamina. Evacuation of Americans from Stanleyville and Bukavu is underway.2

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The fall of one or more of the three cities to the rebels, whose operations have little coordination, when added to the territory already lost by the central government, might lead to foreign recognition of a rebel government. A rebel government has already been proclaimed by Soumialot in the eastern Congo. The Congolese National Army (ANC), lacking officer leadership and discipline, has shown itself incapable of stemming the epidemic spread of the rebels despite our current military aid programs and the help the ANC is receiving in advisers, training and matériel from Belgian and other sources. Tshombe has attempted (so far unsuccessfully) to enlist the cooperation of tribal chiefs in support of the central government and to resist the spread of tribal unrest and rebel uprisings.

Action we have already taken includes frequent consultations between Ambassador Godley with President Kasavubu, Prime Minister Tshombe and other Congolese on the internal security threat and how to meet it and instructions to Ambassador MacArthur to urge Mr. Spaak to make additional officers available either as advisers or to command ANC units. We have also asked our Embassy at Paris to attempt to get the French to use their influence in Brazzaville to restrain the Congolese rebels there.

Earlier proposals for the use of foreign troops, preferably from friendly African countries, have not so far appeared feasible because of African reluctance to associate themselves with Tshombe, Tshombe’s unwillingness to make a request, and the unlikelihood that other African countries would agree to allow their troops to fight Congolese insurgents.

Recognizing the worthlessness of the ANC, Tshombe has brought back his ex-Katangan gendarmes from the bush and Angola. To be effective they would require white officers. Some mercenaries have already arrived in Leopoldville. While we wish Tshombe would choose mercenaries other than South Africans and Southern Rhodesians, who are unacceptable to other African states, to Tshombe they may represent the only immediately available resources to stiffen the gendarmes and the ANC.

Mr. Tshombe is also faced with political opposition in Leopoldville, since he has excluded many ambitious politicians from his government, especially the Binza group, and his relations with President Kasavubu are not close. With the government as presently constituted, Tshombe is facing growing political opposition with the Binza group, particularly General Mobutu, and President Kasavubu who under the new Constitution has the authority to dismiss the Prime Minister. A coup by the Binza group or Mobutu or violence in Leopoldville to prevent such a coup is possible.

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Tshombe has prepared additional military requests designed to arm his gendarmes and integrate them into the police. These requests are being brought to Washington by Michel Struelens, who has been appointed as Tshombe’s personal adviser on foreign affairs and political adviser to the Congolese missions to the U.S. and the UN. Godley recommends that no action be taken on this request without consultation with Kasavubu.

Governor Harriman is considering a visit to Brussels at the end of this week to attempt to work out with Mr. Spaak a joint action program to improve internal security both by military and political means. We want to encourage the Belgians to exercise leadership and take responsibility in the critical situation which now exists. We are prepared to work with the Belgians to enlist the cooperation and support of African nations and other European countries in this effort.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. II, Memos & Miscellaneous, 7/64–8/64. Secret.
  2. The memorandum is attached to an August 4 memorandum from Brubeck to Bundy stating that about 11 a.m. Washington time Godley reported fighting between rebels and the Congolese Army outside the Consulate in Stanleyville, but that the evacuation was proceeding and under control. Brubeck suggested that Harriman go to Brussels the following day to talk urgently with Spaak about what help could be given to Tshombe.