37. Memorandum for the Special Group1


  • Covert Action in the Congo

1. Problem:

To strengthen the de facto government of Colonel Mobutu, Chief of Staff of the Congolese National Army (CNA), in order to prevent Lumumba from regaining control of the Congo.

2. Assumptions:

It is assumed that it is in our interest to support Colonel Mobutu as a counterbalance to Lumumba and encourage him to work towards the eventual formation of a moderate civilian government in the Congo.

3. Facts and Discussion:

It is reliably reported that Colonel Mobutu is considering another coup in the Congo with the objective of a full take-over of the government. Although full details of his plan are not available, it is presumed he would act as Chief of State and might try to assume that title. Our representatives in Leopoldville believe that such a move would fail and lead to a general collapse of current operations designed to build up a moderate political opposition to Lumumba. It is considered that Colonel Mobutu does not have sufficient administrative or political ability to run the government and that he lacks political following. A review of other political personalities in the Congo indicates that none of them appear to meet the absolute standards required for leadership at this time. An attempt has therefore been made to develop a course of action that might be acceptable to Colonel Mobutu, to the Congolese, and world opinion.

Colonel Mobutu had advised he planned to fly to New York to make a direct personal appeal to the UN Secretary General for support of his government. He stated that he intended to expose a plot against him by Ghana, Guinea, the UAR, Morocco, and India, through their UN representatives and contingents in the Congo, and that he would insist on immediate withdrawal of military units of those countries. This trip has now apparently been postponed indefinitely.

In spite of Colonel Mobutu’s claims to the loyalty of the CNA, it is not clear the extent to which certain elements may still be favorable to [Page 50] Lumumba. There is also a resurgence of political activity by Lumumba’s supporters which tends to weaken Colonel Mobutu’s position.

4. Conclusions:

It is concluded that action is advisable at this time to strengthen Colonel Mobutu’s position in an effort to prevent the Communist-oriented Lumumba government from regaining control of the Congo. It is also concluded that assistance provided to Colonel Mobutu should be of such a nature as to encourage the establishment of a moderate civilian government.

5. Action Recommended:

It is recommended that authorization be granted to undertake the following steps to bring about a de facto government of the Congo under Colonel Mobutu’s leadership, with parliamentary support and participation of leading moderate political elements.

a. It is proposed to approach Colonel Mobutu to convince him of the advantages of remaining in the position of a “strong man” behind the government avoiding an overt role. He would be assured of adequate funds to maintain control over troops in the Leopoldville area and expand his authority in the provinces. It is also proposed to offer a personal subsidy to Mobutu further to insure his continued cooperation.

b. If this proposal is acceptable in principle, a ministerial list would be submitted to Colonel Mobutu asking him for his suggestions and possible changes. Our Leopoldville representatives are currently preparing such a list.

c. Once a ministerial list is accepted, Colonel Mobutu would be asked to meet with the principal political leaders in opposition to Lumumba and indicate to them that they cannot obtain office without his support, and that he needs their help to run the government. He would then suggest the formation of a small inner council, [1 line not declassified] to be used as the mechanism to organize support in parliament [less than 1 line not declassified]. In this connection it is proposed to maintain direct subsidies to certain major political leaders to provide an additional element of control.

d. As a next step Colonel Mobutu’s political inner council would call in parliamentarians one at a time, or in small groups, to discuss the political situation and induce them to sign a petition in support of Colonel Mobutu’s government program. All possible pressure to cooperate would be put on these individuals during these discussions.

e. If these steps should succeed, parliament would be convened to obtain a confidence vote in a new government. A vote then would be [Page 51] proposed to lift parliamentary immunity from Lumumba and his more dangerous supporters and collaborators. Finally, a parliamentary vote would be proposed to give the government full powers for an extended period to meet the economic crisis.

It is estimated that funds required to implement these recommendations will amount to approximately [dollar amount not declassified] during the period up to 31 December 1960. Approximately [dollar amount not declassified] would be required for payments to elements of the CNA, the balance being used to obtain parliamentary support for Colonel Mobutu’s government. Adequate funds are currently available in our budget for expenditures of this magnitude. However, if the cost of this program runs higher than these figures during this period, or the program needs to be continued over a longer period, it may be necessary to request additional funds [less than 1 line not declassified].

  1. Source: National Security Council, Intelligence Files, Congo, 1960–1965. Secret. The memorandum was prepared for the Special Group meeting on October 27, 1960.