296. Memorandum for the Record1


We reviewed the events of the past week in the Congo and I explained to Struelens the approach Godley will be making to Tshombe today, regarding letters to the Red Cross and Kenyatta. I explained that we are deeply concerned with two points:

1. That the Congolese Government should make a public record of assurances regarding restraint of attacks against cities, and

2. That we must have some better basis for dealing with the Congolese Government in order to insure candor, cooperation and mutual confidence and ability to consult promptly and frequently when necessary.

I pointed out that the United States Government, with the very great commitments it has made in the Congo, must be assured that its interests are understood and protected and that the events of the past week—our Ambassador tried unsuccessfully for six days to see Tshombe only to be confronted with a fait accompli in the form of a press release on which there had been no consultation—was a very serious matter.

Struelens agreed that the communiqué was unsatisfactory and that the failure to consult and to see Godley was unacceptable. He explained partially in terms of Tshombe’s staff preventing Godley’s appointment, and partly in terms of Tshombe’s problem of dealing with Mobutu, Nendaka and Kasavubu. He insisted that Tshombe does have confidence in the United States commitments to his Government. He believes, however, that Tshombe is much constrained by the difficulties of handling Mobutu, and that in any event the Congolese leaders are not sufficiently experienced or sophisticated fully to appreciate the problems and how to handle them. He believes that Mobutu has become very anti-American and is disposed to turn to the South Africans for air operational support.

It was agreed that Struelens will call me tonight to learn what success Godley has had with Tshombe. Depending on that report, he will probably call Tshombe himself to underline the concern of the [Page 431] United States and to urge Tshombe to work closely with Godley. If Tshombe agrees, Struelens will proceed to Leopoldville Sunday or Monday in order to talk to Tshombe before Brubeck and Palmer arrive. I said, without giving any indication of our other travel plans, that we expected to be in Leopoldville probably Wednesday for “a couple of days” would hope to see Tshombe Wednesday and if necessary again on Thursday and that our primary concern was to assure a close working relationship between the two Governments on the basis of mutual understanding.

Struelens gives every indication of understanding our concern, being prepared to cooperate in his discussions with Tshombe and quite clear where Tshombe’s true interests lie. I have the impression, however, that he is not too confident of his own role and the extent of his influence with Tshombe. He may well have used up some of his credit in the effort he has already made with Tshombe on other issues.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. VI. Secret. Prepared by Brubeck. Copies were sent to Palmer, Ball, and Bundy.