310. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Kenya1

1649. For Ambassador.2 Ref: Geneva’s 885 to Dept, info Nairobi 41;3 Geneva’s 886 to Dept, info Nairobi 42.4 FYI Dept deeply concerned that through misunderstandings or inadequate communication between ICRC and Kenyatta, opportunity may be lost for ICRC to establish effective presence in Stanleyville which would afford measure of protection foreign community and constitute foot in door for carrying out wider humanitarian mission. Our concern is sharpened by increasing risks to foreign community as GDRC military progress increases. In this connection, GDRC columns advancing from south should be in position threaten Kindu within few days and, with similar stepped up offenses from west, operations may shortly begin close in on Stanleyville. This undoubtedly accounts at least in part for increasingly strident notes Stanleyville propaganda and restraints placed on foreign community. End FYI.

Clear from reftel that failure ICRC put its message to Gbenye in form ICRC acceptance his invitation is due ICRC uncertainty authenticity invitation and, even if authenticity established, to Kenyatta’s failure transmit message to ICRC. Dept therefore regards it as matter greatest importance and urgency that Kenyatta formally forwards to ICRC full text of Gbenye message. (It obviously would be even more [Page 450] helpful if, in forwarding message, Kenyatta would urge ICRC to respond affirmatively to Gbenye’s invitation.) If, for any reason, full text Gbenye message to Kenyatta not suitable for forwarding to ICRC, you should endeavor persuade him to transmit to ICRC substance of that portion of message which could form basis for ICRC affirmative response. Since ICRC expected review on Nov 5 situation created by its failure to arrange reentry Stanleyville, most important that Kenyatta inform ICRC of Gbenye invitation soonest.

If, for reasons that may not be apparent here, Kenyatta is reluctant to involve himself or OAU Commission by notifying ICRC of Gbenye message, we hope that you will make every effort to remove his hesitancy. If you are still unsuccessful, we hope as minimum that you will be able obtain text of Gbenye message for such use as we may be able to make of it with ICRC under such circumstances, as well as your recommendations as to what measures we might take with other OAU members or otherwise to try to persuade Kenyatta to seize ICRC of Gbenye message and to encourage and support a favorable response by the ICRC.

We would hope that you could make Kenyatta understand that deteriorating situation with respect foreigners in Stanleyville confronts Africa and OAU Commission (as its duly designated instrument) with major moral and humanitarian problem. You are free to emphasize in this connection that we have done our utmost in Leopoldville to encourage Tshombe to place prudent restraints on his use of air power in order to cooperate in a humanitarian effort with the ICRC and the OAU to protect innocent civilians and secure respect for Geneva Conventions. Similarity of proposals expressed in Tshombe letters to Kenyatta and ICRC (Leopoldville’s 169 to Nairobi)5 on one hand and Soumialot and Gbenye messages to Kenyatta on other hand seem clearly to create a situation where Kenyatta and OAU Commission, with statesmanlike initiative based on humanitarian considerations, could play effective role in mitigating some of worst effects of unfortunate internal conflict and perhaps pave way for even more far-reaching political initiative within terms their mandate to assist GDRC in achieving national reconciliation. It seems clear to us that a vigorous OAU initiative towards these ends would clearly enhance prestige of the organization and of the commission under Kenyatta chairmanship as its agent. We therefore hope that Kenyatta will view this chance to facilitate ICRC presence Stanleyville as a real opportunity which may not recur.

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In making foregoing points, we hope that you will also be able to obtain full text of Kenyatta message to Gbenye (last para Embtel 1157),6 as well as ascertain whether Kenyatta has replied to Tshombe message and, if so, obtain text.

For Geneva: You should inform ICRC soonest re efforts we are making to confirm authenticity Gbenye message to Kenyatta, to obtain text thereof, and to persuade Kenyatta to forward it to ICRC Geneva. You should express strong hope that in any event ICRC will not take any decisions on Nov 5 which would preclude (1) further exploration of resumption mercy mission, (2) establishment effective ICRC presence in Congo to enhance safety Congolese and foreign civilian populations, and (3) encouragement compliance Geneva Conventions. You should emphasize our belief that even continued position of ICRC plane in Bujumbura and continuing efforts ICRC officials to assert humanitarian responsibility in Congo represents in and of itself a measure of deterrence against excesses by Stanleyville regime. In view importance of problem and degree of very deeply appreciated past informal cooperation between us, we strongly hope ICRC will not take any decisions to terminate its efforts without consulting further with us and other countries affected.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential; Flash; Limdis. Drafted by McElhiney and Palmer; cleared by Officer in Charge of Kenyan Affairs W. Paul O’Neil, Runyon, Walter B. Gates in SCS, and Ball; and approved by Palmer, Also sent to the Mission in Geneva and repeated to Bujumbura and Leopoldville.
  2. Telegram 1648 to Nairobi, November 3, from Ball to Ambassador Attwood, emphasized the urgency of telegram 1649 and instructed Attwood to impress the urgency on Kenyatta. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 885 from Geneva, November 3, reported that ICRC representatives there had confirmed that the ICRC message to Gbenye on October 30 deliberately omitted any reference to Gebenye’s alleged invitation to the ICRC to return to Stanleyville and verify conditions because they had doubts as to its authenticity. (Ibid.)
  4. Telegram 886 from Geneva, November 3, reported that the ICRC was very discouraged at the lack of any response to their message to Gbenye. (Ibid.)
  5. Not found.
  6. Dated November 3. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)