197. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Belgium1

164. Please deliver ASAP following message from the Secretary to Spaak:

It is our judgment that events in the Congo have reached so critical a point that you and we and all our European friends must move immediately and vigorously to prevent total collapse. We estimate that there is no effective internal security force and none in prospect without outside help. Deterioration is so rapid that Elisabethville, Leopoldville and central government may be gone in next several weeks.

Not only is Congo key to central Africa but also chronic instability provides fertile ground for Communist infiltration, prevention of which has been cornerstone our Congo policy last four years. I want you to know that President shares my deep concern over the situation. While appreciating considerations you raised with MacArthur, President and I are convinced that you and we must concert urgently on tangible, specific measures to save the Congo. We agree with you on need to elicit Tshombe’s plans and are attempting to do so.

In view of the foregoing we are requesting Averell Harriman to leave tomorrow to discuss with you what can be done on an emergency basis. I very much hope you and we can develop such a program of action adequate to save the immediate situation. I have asked him to discuss with you the following:

1. In view of the vital European interests in central Africa, what assistance might be forthcoming from a joint military force of the Six, or of some of its member nations. What help can we be to you if you should take the lead in the organization of such a European rescue mission. I should think it possible even the French might participate now that UN military presence has been withdrawn.

2. The need for additional military forces in the Congo which we believe Belgium is in the best position to provide. Averell can go into details of what we might be able to do in this connection.

3. The measures which your government can take to ensure continued Central Government control of Kamina, Bukavu and Luluabourg and to strengthen the government of Rwanda which is put in [Page 284] jeopardy by rebel control of the eastern Congo. This probably requires, on an emergency basis at least, that Belgian officers now in the Congo join and exercise de facto command of operational ANC forces in the field.

4. Establishment as soon as possible of gendarmerie force with mercenary officers.

5. Need for joint efforts on the part of all the Western allies to induce Kasavubu and Tshombe to broaden the base of the present government and to gain greater acceptance for it among African states. I do not understand for example why Tshombe does not utilize Adoula, in explaining the Congo problem to the Congo’s African friends and to request support both diplomatic and military from them.

FYI Inform Spaak, if he agrees, Harriman arriving Friday morning. Also alert Societe Generale management Harriman wishes speak with them.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Tasca and O’Sullivan; cleared by Williams, Harriman, Brubeck, and McKillop; and approved by Secretary Rusk. Repeated to Leopoldville.
  2. In telegram 176 from Brussels, August 6, MacArthur reported that he delivered the Secretary’s message to Spaak, who had said he would be glad to talk with Harriman the following day. MacArthur warned, however, that there had been developments that had further strengthened Spaak’s opposition to any direct Belgian military involvement in the Congo. (Ibid.) In telegram 177 from Brussels, August 6, MacArthur said that Spaak told him there was no hope of getting any support from Belgian Government, parliament, press, or business leaders for either encadrement or direct intervention by Belgian military forces. (Ibid.)