276. Telegram From the Embassy in Belgium to the Department of State1

614. Re Deptel 636.2 Saw Spaak this morning and communicated orally to him Gov Harriman’s message per reftel. Re Belgians furnishing [Page 401] ammo and adequate sealift, tactfully expressed “expectation” rather than “hope” that GOB will continue to supply rockets and ammo regular basis by sea so as to avoid costly emergency airlift. (My feeling was that to use word “hope” might weaken presentation and lead certain Belgian officials to think that if they did not arrange adequate, timely sealift of ammo, we would perhaps supply both airlift and ammo itself.)

Spaak replied as follows:

1. Belgians realize US airlift of ammo to Congo was to meet special emergency and understand reasons why we must soon begin phased withdrawal from Congo of C–130s. He also agrees Belg aircrews should be sent to Congo soonest now Tshombe has signed necessary letter. He does not know schedule for sending such crews but will inquire of MOD and endeavor expedite their departure. He promised to let us know about this ASAP.

2. He agrees Belgium should supply rockets and ammo to meet needs of ANC and adequate and timely sealift and will ask his people to look into this problem with a view to assuring necessary arrangements.

3. Spaak does not believe other Western European countries will be willing at present to provide military or other assistance in addition to what they are now doing because of uncertainties and instabilities in Congo and hostility of certain African and non-aligned states to Tshombe govt. Therefore, he does not believe it worthwhile to approach other Western European countries for assistance at this time.

4. Spaak then made following general comments on Congo picture. While militarily things not going badly politically Congo is chaotic and future most uncertain. Furthermore econ picture is deteriorating. Serious situation will have to be faced in a few months. Spaak understands rebellion has resulted in reduction of about one third of Congo exports with obvious long term effect on Congo foreign exchange budget, especially when rebel territories regained and sizeable additional imports necessary to avoid galloping inflation with serious political and social repercussions.

Despite earlier impression to contrary (Embtel 577)3 Tshombe does not seem willing to reorganize his govt by end October. He advances number of reasons why this would be very difficult and why Kasavubu would be opposed to including certain Congolese leaders. While Bomboko ready to join Tshombe govt, Adoula much more reserved and insists that Tshombe negotiate with Gbenye. However since Gbenye unwilling [Page 402] to have anything to do with Tshombe there obviously no hope of any talks between them. Spaak said he had reached conclusion that GOC Gbenye negotiations neither feasible nor desirable.

While Tshombe has engaging personality and probably considerable public support in Congo he is not a team player. Recently he has shown increasing authoritarian tendencies which in themselves would not be bad if he had the capability of organizing and running Congo. Spaak doubts he has such capability and said Tshombe obviously needs help. However Tshombe does not trust Africans and relies largely on Belgian and other white advisors.

Spaak said this attitude of Tshombe’s raised a major question in mind of Belgian Govt. Question is extent to which Belgian advisors and technical assistance should assume authority and hence responsibility for taking over the de facto running of the Congo under plan such as Rothschild has in mind (Leoville 1361 to Dept).4 Spaak said there is difference of opinion within GOB on this. While all agree that Belgium must supply adequate technical assistance, there are those who have serious reservations about the wisdom of assuming considerable de facto authority and responsibility as this will leave Belgium open to charges of neo-colonialism. Spaak said Belgians must of course act with circumspection and tact so as to reduce vulnerability to such charges.

I asked Spaak whether he meant that concept of “equipes Polyvalentes” might not be implemented because of risk of charges of neo-colonialism. He replied furnishing of technicians not the issue but rather it was degree of their authority and responsibility which raised questions. This issue would be considered rather in the next several days. I commented that while fully agreeing that Belgian assistance should be handled in way to make it least vulnerable to charges of neo-colonialism, I personally did not believe Congo could be stabilized without very substantial Belgian advice and assistance to Congolese which inevitably would carry with it a degree of responsibility. My feeling was that without such substantial Belgian advice and technical assistance the Congo could come apart at the seams since Congolese themselves not yet capable of administering and managing their own affairs.

Spaak replied he inclined to agree but whole Congolese picture chaotic and uncertain and many people in Belgium reluctant to have Belgians assume positions of authority and responsibility, even if camouflaged with Congolese cover, because they remember how entire world had turned on Belgium in 1960.

Comment: Personally believe Spaak will be prepared to see Belgians assume minimum necessary responsibility because alternative [Page 403] would seem to be to let Congo go by default. Rothschild with whom we talked separately shares this view. However decision on Rothschild plan will probably not be taken before end of this week or early next week.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential. Received at 4:05 p.m. and repeated to Leopoldville.
  2. Document 275.
  3. Dated September 30. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL AFR THE CONGO)
  4. Dated October 5. (Ibid., POL 15 THE CONGO)