224. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Prime Minister Tshombe and
  • Governor Williams

At the close of the four and one-half hour meeting between Prime Minister Tshombe and his advisors and the country team and myself,2 I asked the Prime Minister for the opportunity to speak a few words with him alone. I opened the conversation by referring to the point he had made at the beginning of the long conference of the necessity of establishing a firm basis of confidence between us. I said that the President of the United States was most concerned with the grave situation in the Congo and that he wanted to support the efforts of Prime Minister Tshombe and his government to maintain the unity of the Congo and the prosperity of its people. I then made reference to the fact that he had during the larger conference called attention to the doubts expressed by some of his associates and the attitude of some of the country team toward the Tshombe government. I said that it was the President’s policy to support the present government of the Congo and that it consequently was the policy of all of us.

I pointed out that in the memorandum which he had given me the day before he had raised certain doubts as to the attitude of the Ambassador toward him. I said that for that reason I was sure he would understand that in all friendship I could not accept the memorandum. I said, of course, that if he had any reason not to want Mr. Godley to represent the United States he had only to say that, and that the matter would be taken care of forthwith. (During the general meeting I had already explained the policy of the United States with respect to our maintaining contact with members of the opposition as well as with the Government, and that this was an obligation of the Ambassador. I had already in the same meeting indicated that the President and I had full confidence in Mr. Godley.) Mr. Tshombe brushed the idea of his being concerned about the attitude of Ambassador Godley completely aside. He said when he had spoken in the general meeting that the abscess [Page 328] was drawn, that the whole matter was closed, and that he intended to move ahead with complete mutual confidence.

Mr. Tshombe indicated that he was glad that Ambassador Godley had spoken so firmly and directly in response to Prime Minister Tshombe’s bringing up the question of doubts about people in the country team. He said it was very useful for him to have had Godley speak in this fashion before certain of his colleagues who were in the larger meeting. He indicated that he had had some questions raised by them and that Mr. Godley’s forthright statement would help him foreclose these questions. Prime Minister Tshombe treated the whole Godley matter in an extremely friendly and understanding manner and showed not the slightest indication of concern or displeasure. In fact, he was smiling and extremely cordial and friendly throughout the entire interview. As we rose to leave, he picked up the memorandum and, I believe, put it in his pocket.

During the talk we had alone, Mr. Tshombe also raised the matter of communicating with other African countries for help. He said that after our meeting of the day before he had prepared letters to a number of other African countries asking for help. He mentioned particularly Tsiranana of Madagascar. He indicated his sympathy with the necessity for Africanization but pointed out that he had certain difficulties with this among his associates, particularly General Mobutu.

On the matter of Africanization, I pointed out to the Prime Minister the great importance of this to the President, both as a matter of international politics and also of domestic politics, in as much as there were some in our country who felt strongly that the United States should not take the lead in trying to solve what might appear to some as a purely African situation. It was important that other Africans be engaged as well.

In discussing the request for direct intervention of American combat personnel. I emphasized to the Prime Minister that this was an exceedingly difficult problem for the President because it involved global and domestic policy considerations. I pointed out that the President had authorized me to go a long way in working out matériel and training assistance so as to help prosecute the war effort against the rebels. I said that the President was really as interested as was the Prime Minister himself.

The Prime Minister confided that he was in a somewhat difficult position with some of his colleagues because they tended to chide him on not getting as much American aid as another leader might or as his predecessor had. He said that he felt a particular duty to his country to prove that he could get as much American aid as anyone else. I told him that the best proof of America’s desire to be of help to him and his ability to get aid from the Americans was the fact that we had immediately [Page 329] volunteered to continue all aid programs and that we had then gone ahead and provided even further aid.

I said that I hoped the discussions between General Mobutu and his experts and our American military experts would be successful in nailing down what the Congo needed in the way of matériel, transportation, and training, because I was sure that he would find that we would go a long way to be of assistance to him, and that this in turn would further satisfy those who questioned his relationships with us.

Let me say again, that throughout the entire conversation, Prime Minister Tshombe was exceedingly cordial and, in fact, he spent a great deal of his time trying to ingratiate himself. He went through his whole history of American missionary training, the fact that most of his colleagues had American training or associations, and, indeed, he said, the Belgians frequently reproached them as being too pro-American. In short, he appeared to be as eager as I was to establish a good working relationship, and he constantly reiterated his complete confidence in our cooperativeness and reaffirmed his desire of cooperation.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, AF/CM Files: Lot 67 D 63, Box 1778, Congo. Secret. Drafted by Williams. The conversation was held at Prime Minister Tshombe’s residence in Leopoldville.
  2. Telegram 543 from Leopoldville, August 15, reported on this meeting. (Ibid., Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)