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

1381. For Ambassador from Harriman. Request you deliver following personal oral message from me to Spaak soonest:

I have very carefully re-examined our proposals for the addition of a cease-fire appeal to the Usher resolution2 in light of your comments today.

[Page 540]

I gather we agree in principle that a cease-fire would, on balance, be advantageous to us especially if it could be effectively policed. I regret we have not had more time for full consultations on this point, but we now are faced with an immediate deadline in New York with great pressure among the delegations to get home for the Christmas holidays which offers an opportunity to get this important point across quickly. My major concern in suggesting this addition is to consolidate the GDRC victory in the northeast Congo before the inevitable erosion sets in.

Reports from Leopoldville including our most recent talks with De Kerchove and Van der Walle indicate the GDRC has reached the end of forward thrust and is holding too thinly everywhere to permit confidence it can resist a growing rebel counterattack. You appreciate as well as I that adequate reinforcements for GDRC are not quickly available now, while men and supplies appear to be pouring in to the rebels.

Thus, it seems imperative to erect a political umbrella over Congo which will help forestall rebel recapture of a solid base for a competing government. The cease-fire seems best suited for this purpose. While covert rebel operations may be difficult to observe, they will have to come out in the open if they are to attack towns.

I am most sympathetic to your concern lest foisting a cease-fire resolution on Tshombe without conditioning him lead to a violent reaction. However, we believe that Tshombe back in Leopoldville must be getting the same gloomy picture that we have. So Godley and I are confident that we can quickly show Tshombe the wisdom of this tactic. In the last analysis, however, can we afford to bargain with Tshombe over a move which we think so essential?

In sum, I believe that the clear advantages of getting on to a political negotiating basis and putting the onus on the rebels and their supporters outweigh the valid risks you cite. To wait might be to lose this opportunity, or to have to try for a cease-fire later when our position is visibly deteriorating and it will be interpreted as showing weakness.

We will not go ahead unless you concur, but I hope you will join us in assuming the risks. We have much to gain and relatively little to lose. End message.

Regarding some of Spaak’s specific concerns on Usher resolution, we have following comments:

1) Present text does not inhibit freedom of movement of GDRC; believe it would be mistake to raise this issue in res since doing so would appear to call GDRC’s competence this regard into question.

2) Re mercenaries (operative para 4 of Usher draft), Ambassador Yost believes we can get reformulation which will not be troublesome based on Tshombe’s earlier agreement discharge mercenaries as soon [Page 541] as possible. (Believe our respective UN Dels should be given flexibility this point.)

3) Re alleged problem of abandoning SC responsibility to OAU, we could meet this by reformulation of cease-fire paragraph to read “calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and requests UNSYG, in concert with OAU, to develop urgently appropriate machinery to assure observance cease-fire and report to SC as soon as possible.”

Spaak should realize there now likelihood USSR will introduce condemnatory resolution. This underscores increased importance that moderate Africans have viable alternative which Usher would be willing press. (Moroccan Del has just told us sponsors of SC complaint will not agree Usher should introduce his resolution unless it is strengthened and will otherwise request Soviets introduce condemnatory res.) In our judgment addition cease-fire element provides that necessary additional attraction.

Request you draw on all your well-known persuasiveness to get Spaak signed on to this cease-fire operation, to which we attach both long-term strategic as well as immediate tactical importance.

If and only if your best efforts in this regard fail to bring Spaak around, our ultimate fallback, which you should give him only as last resort would read as follows:

Encourages the OAU to continue its efforts to attain national reconciliation in conformity with OAU Res CM/RES 5 (III) of 10 September 1964 and to bring about an early cease-fire which would facilitate these efforts.

Requests the SYG to lend his assistance as appropriate.

Requests the OAU and SYG to keep the SC informed of their efforts.”

We need answer from Spaak 9:00 AM Washington time, tomorrow, December 23.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Flash. Drafted by Komer, Sisco, and Buffum; cleared by Palmer, Appling, Fredericks, and Harriman; and approved by Sisco. Repeated to Leopoldville and USUN.
  2. Telegram 2247 from USUN, December 17, transmitted the text of a draft U.N. resolution given to Yost by Ivory Coast’s Representative to the United Nations, Arsene Assouan Usher. (Ibid.) On December 28, a revised version of this draft was submitted to the Security Council by Usher and Ambassador Dey Ould Sidi Baba of Morocco. (U.N. Doc. S/6123)
  3. In telegram 1239 from Brussels, December 23, MacArthur reported that he delivered Harriman’s message to Spaak, whose initial reaction was that the resolution was both dangerous and misleading. Spaak also expressed unhappiness with the extent of U.S. commitment to the Usher resolution without what he considered full and adequate consultation with Belgium. After further discussion, Spaak indicated reluctant acceptance of the proposed text if the cease-fire paragraph was modified as suggested in the third paragraph of telegram 1381, and if the paragraph on mercenaries was replaced with a reformulation based on Tshombe’s earlier statements that he intended to discharge them as soon as possible. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)