338. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Belgium1

1107. Following are tentative rationale and guidelines for Fredericks talks with Kanza and/or OAU, subject to Belgian concurrence. When final version agreed, including any changes Belgians may propose, Dept will transmit guidelines as basis and framework for all discussions, including exploratory talks authorized Deptel 1303 (to Leopoldville).2

For Brussels: Fredericks will be prepared discuss this text urgently with you and GOB on Friday morning with goal of getting agreed guidelines in time proceed Nairobi Friday evening.

Begin text of guidelines. First objective of Godley to Gbenye message emphasizing willingness to negotiate is to avoid accusation in US and Africa that US unwilling respond initiative which could affect life US citizen. Second objective, equally important, is to use confrontation with rebels, if it can be arranged, to test whether rebels are ready to accept restoration of GDRC authority under terms which 1) would make unnecessary invasion Stanleyville, 2) would offer prospect of extracting hostages at minimal risk, 3) could be imposed on GDRC by concerted US-Belgian pressures, and 4) would help rehabilitate US–OAU relations.

While our primary effort is to try to bring about rebel acceptance restoration GDRC authority Stanleyville which would make military solution unnecessary, we do not envisage this initiative as replacing present military efforts. We believe it is only credible threat of GDRC capability and will to decapitate rebellion by military means which might predispose rebels to end hostilities under acceptable terms. Further, this initiative does not presuppose any delay of military thrust. We recognize, however, rebels will seek delaying action in order renew build-up of rebel confidence, increase possibility of external military support to rebel forces. These factors make it imperative adopt hard line with rebels, stressing tight deadlines and, if necessary, a take-it-or-leave-it approach with consequences clearly spelled out of rebel refusal to sign-on.

Political deal we would propose picks up themes from aborted Kasavubu declaration as agreed by Spaak during his visit to US: GDRC guarantee of personal safety to all rebels who lay down their arms, [Page 489] public offer of political amnesty, no prosecution of political crimes, full freedom to engage in political activity in preparation for forthcoming early elections, and right of all to hold office if elected. If rebels indicate any interest, we are prepared to offer, in concert with Belgians and possibly OAU, a major effort to win GDRC acceptance and to examine possibility of arranging some sort of neutral presence (e.g. US-Belgian-OAU) in Stan to assure physical safety and order during transfer to GDRC control and further presence (e.g., OAU observers) to assure other undertakings are fulfilled. This might even include token forces—hopefully from OAU, though possibly even US-Belgian with OAU blessing.

Precise terms and modalities of course might be made to conform in some degree to specific, perhaps even personal, rebel demands. Therefore, would be most helpful, if talks with rebels materialize for Belgium to position an officer in whom Spaak has full confidence to consult with our negotiator on the spot. Hennequiau would be a possibility.

We recognize that keystone to whole enterprise would be US–GOB concerted démarche to GDRC in event rebels seem forthcoming in meaningful and realistic sense. The US and GOB must be prepared clearly indicate that present and future relations with Congo in jeopardy unless GDRC is willing to end hostilities under settlement terms outlined above. Our objective, therefore, is to gain GOB go-ahead with clear understanding that negotiations are ad referendum but that both governments prepared to consider such a deal seriously, including potential heavy pressure on GDRC, if our exploration with rebels so warrants.

We believe this final effort absolutely essential to build irrefutable record of US–GOB attempts to gain political settlement as well as being one final effort to secure safety of hostages short of perilous military solution.

Nor do we entirely discount possibility that even at this late date such a maneuver might work. We have never had any illusions that political deal could be consummated except at point when all possible alternatives to rebels had been slammed shut. That time has now arrived. It is crucial we try to test rebel response. End of guidelines text.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Drafted by Palmer, cleared by Brubeck and Creel, and approved by Ball. Repeated to Leopoldville, Nairobi, Addis Ababa, Dar es Salaam, and London.
  2. Dated November 19. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 1011 from Brussels, November 20, MacArthur reported that Spaak considered the proposed negotiations with the rebels dangerous. Kanza would immediately request a cease-fire as quid pro quo for evacuation of the hostages, but the Congo could not be forced to accept a cease-fire, and refusal to accept a cease-fire would be exploited internationally. (Ibid.) In a telephone conversation with Ball on November 20, Harriman said he had just talked with MacArthur, who told him the Belgians thought it would be a great mistake to send Fredericks to Nairobi for negotiations, which should be conducted locally. If the United States made too much of this, it would be more difficult to handle. (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Harriman Papers, KennedyJohnson Administrations, Subject Files, Box 448, Congo (1))