292. Telegram From the Embassy in the Congo to the Department of State1

1561. Called at Tshombe’s office 1900 local and was informed by his secretary he not there and was detained “for a long time” with Kasavubu. She apologized profusely and said Tshombe promises phone me tomorrow morning himself to establish an appointment then. Have since confirmed that he similarly stood up acting UNOC Chief Gilpin (1730 appointment).

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We know from CAS that he was meeting Nendaka and Mobutu at 1500 at Nendaka’s hideout near Belgian Chancery. Belgian Ambassador confirmed to me that Tshombe still there at 1745. It is quite logical that they subsequently went to Kasavubu’s. We are, of course, not certain what they discussing, but we gave “Christine” text contained in Department telegram 9922 this morning. We assume that she gave them to Tshombe and that immediately he began consulting with his two closest advisors Mobutu and Nendaka. We also know that Congolese have intercepted telegram sent by Soumialot to Burundi King and believe it is that quoted in FBIS London’s R–192025Z. Believe foregoing is all rather ominous for Mobutu and Nendaka, I fear, will be violently opposed to what Department has proposed to Struelens. It is unfortunate that we gave Christine text this morning, but as we were informed Struelens was forwarding them, such action was, of course, essential. (Struelens message received but badly garbled.)

If, as I fear, Tshombe’s attitude will be negative, we seem to have painted ourselves into a corner. VDW plan, now highlighted by Boende phase, depends on Congo air support. With arrival equipment from Belgium approximately October 25, columns from Kamina should be about ready move out. Here again, however, it will depend upon air support. By this time rebels, who were being deluged by messages from everyone and who, as indicated in FBIS R–192035, are handling them very adroitly, will certainly be aware of stand down. If Tshombe does not budge and if we do not, valuable time will be lost and there is, of course, ever present danger of recognition of rebels. In this connection have just received following from Matheron dispatch 1500Z: “ANC Bukavu continues to request T–28 combat support for area outside local defense of Bukavu and beyond exceptions granted in Department telegram 975 to Leopoldville.3 For example, Beni is once again reported under heavy attack and ANC has requested combat support. (In addition, this entails landing at Goma for refueling.) Local ANC (including De Coster) have not been given any indication whatsoever through own channels about T–28 and B–26 grounding. It is extremely difficult for pilots and Col. Bryant to continue to fabricate excuses; e.g. weather, mechanical and radio failure and pilot illness. Recommend Benezetti be given facts through ANC channels.”

Please instruct urgently and also indicate precisely what Brubeck and Palmer told Struelens, if anything, about stand down and how at this late date we should handle stand down of which Congolese must be well aware.

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It is difficult make recommendations from Leopoldville, but if nothing has been said re stand down, from Leopoldville vantage point it is essential it be quietly lifted and if, however, something has been said to Struelens, some face saving device should be sought but in this connection believe Soumialot’s message to Burundi King gives us fortuitous out.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Top Secret; Flash; Limdis. Received at 6:27 p.m. Repeated to Brussels and passed to the White House, DOD, and CIA.
  2. See footnote 2, Document 291.
  3. Dated October 16. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)