295. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo1

1017. Ref: Embtel 1573.2 For Ambassador from Acting Secretary. Department cannot accept Tshombe’s statement as satisfactory response [Page 427] to our very fundamental concerns. Moreover we cannot ignore tactics he has used in refusing us his cooperation in this matter. For us to lift stand down of planes on basis his empty statement would not only fail secure what we have sought in connection civilian populations but lay ourselves wide open to repetition on future matters of importance to us. We do not believe this can in any sense be regarded as satisfactory basis for future relationship.

Struelens is being told tonight the USG will not tolerate a situation in which the Chief of Government of a nation we are trying to help gives the American Ambassador the run-around for six days and then acts in total disregard of our expressed interests.

Of three points on which Tshombe has failed to meet our position in his statement, we attach greatest significance of course to voluntary restraints with respect to air actions over cities and towns. We believe general reference to Geneva Conventions is sufficiently satisfactory that we need not insist on specific reference to Article 3 which in any event has primary applicability to Stanleyville. With regard to OAU, we would be prepared reserve this point for subsequent discussion and negotiation with him. We regard it as essential, however, that he meet our concerns re air activities over towns and cities.

You should therefore see Tshombe again soonest and express our astonishment both with respect to substance of statement (enumerating omissions of important points) and to his extraordinary action in publishing it without full consultation with us despite six days of effort on your part and our part with Struelens to evolve mutually acceptable statement. You should make clear to him that in light level of assistance and support which we are extending to strengthen GOC and accomplishments its objectives, we fail to understand his lack of responsiveness on matter of very fundamental concern to us. In these circumstances, we must make clear to him necessity of finding more satisfactory basis on which to conduct our relationship. Point of departure must be an immediate and satisfactory resolution of problems which communiqué fails to meet. We certain that he too attaches sufficient importance to this relationship that he will be able devote time and effort to understanding and meeting our concern.

Against this background, you should give Tshombe following draft letters:

First should be addressed to President ICRC and should read as follows:

“On October 21, I issued the attached statement in order to make clear the desire of the GDRC to abide by the Geneva Conventions and to show our respect for generous humanitarian measures which would avoid needless suffering by civilians. I similarly called on those who [Page 428] are illegally in rebellion against my Government similarly to respect these conventions and to protect human life.

In the spirit of this announcement, I am directing my air force to limit its actions to military objectives and not to conduct strikes against cities and important localities which would endanger the civilian population. FYI. Language of this sentence is deliberately ambiguous because of unresolved State/Defense issue. State position is that cities and important localities should not be hit at all because such action would endanger civilian populations. Defense position is that military objectives in cities and important localities are legitimate targets and should be hit if in so doing civilian populations are not endangered. State/Defense differences will be resolved Oct 22 in context control guidance which will be sent you through other channels. For purposes this statement, however, it essential that ambiguity be maintained and that sentence structure not be altered by insertion of comma before ‘which’ or otherwise. To assure precision on this point, following French text of sentence should be used without change. Begin text. Dans l’esprit de cette declaration, j’ai donne l’ordre a ma force aerienne de limiter ses actions aux objectifs militaires et de ne pas faire des attaques contre des villes et localites importantes qui mettraient en danger la population civile. End text. End FYI. I hereby invite you to designate an impartial observer to come at once to Leopoldville in order to observe and verify compliance of my Government with the undertakings of my announcement of yesterday and of this letter. I assure you of the full cooperation of my Government in providing facilities to carry out its mission.

Similarly, I urge you to make every effort to send an observer to Stanleyville for similar purposes and to verify compliance of rebel authorities there with the applicable provisions of the Geneva Conventions. In order to assist you in this objective I am addressing a letter to the Chairman of the OAU Ad Hoc Commission on the Congo Mr. Jomo Kenyatta asking his assistance in obtaining agreement of the Stanleyville rebels to cooperate in these arrangements.”

Second letter is to Kenyatta and reads as follows:

“Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I am enclosing a copy of a letter which I have sent today to the President of the ICRC urging that organization to send impartial observers to Leopoldville and Stanleyville to observe and verify compliance by the GDRC and the rebels in Stanleyville with the applicable provisions of the Geneva Conventions and of other undertakings set forth in my letter to the ICRC.

In your capacity as Chairman of the OAU Ad Hoc Commission, I urge you to assist the ICRC in obtaining the agreement of the Stanleyville rebels to cooperate in these arrangements.”

[Page 429]

You should urge Tshombe to send and publish these letters immediately.

You should also again make clear to Tshombe in strongest terms that employment of South African T–6’s will pose grave problem for US-Congolese relations and put in question continued US military assistance. FYI. You should of course make every effort prevent deployment and deny support of any US airlift or matériel to T–6 operation. End FYI.

You should reaffirm our desire to cooperate fully with GDRC in restoring peace, referring again to Secretary’s letter. You should likewise point out that, in fact, air support has continued for urgent needs, despite your inability to see Tshombe and to get solution to problem of overriding importance to US. You can cite, e.g. air ops at Bukavu, reconnaissance at Boende and logistic flights. You should point out, however, that inability to resolve this problem in manner that protects interests of US as well as GDRC will raise serious question as to continued cooperation in air ops. You should again point out that purpose of statement is to put an end to Stanleyville blackmail threat, strengthen position of GDRC, and make possible effective US military and political support, including air ops. It is not our purpose to deny GDRC support essential to its military requirements and as problems arise we willing to consult with GDRC to ensure satisfactory solution. We cannot however accept situation in which with heavy US commitments and risks, there is inadequate consultation and failure to respect interests of US.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Flash; Exdis. Drafted by Palmer; cleared by Ball, Brubeck, and McNaughton; and approved by Palmer. Repeated to Nairobi.
  2. Telegram 1573 from Leopoldville, October 21, transmitted the text of Tshombe’s communiqué limiting the operations of the Congolese air force to military objectives, with the request that it be delivered immediately to Struelens to be issued by him. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 1580 from Leopoldville, October 22, Godley warned against pressing Tshombe so hard to obtain the precise wording that the Department considered necessary to safeguard U.S. personnel in Stanleyville. His concern was that using the stand down as a means of exerting pressure on the Congolese and neutralizing air units whose operations the United States controlled might push the Congolese into reliance on South Africans and other disreputable elements. (Ibid.)