397. Memorandum for the Record1


  • Meeting of the Special Group (CI) on Thursday, 11 February 1965

1. The meeting was primarily devoted to a presentation by the three ambassadors to East Africa of their views on the current situation in each of the three countries. They were respectively William Attwood, ambassador to Kenya; William Leonhart, ambassador to Tanzania; and Olcott Deming, ambassador to Uganda.

2. In the latter part of the meeting, Governor Harriman opened debate on what measures might be taken by Tshombe to make his regime more acceptable to the East Africans and conversely what steps might be taken to persuade the East African states to cease their assistance to the Congolese rebels. In the course of this discussion, Ambassador Attwood commented that if Tshombe could not be persuaded to take the steps that would make him acceptable, we might consider withdrawing our aid to him since the resulting chaos might be preferable to our ever deepening involvement in an unpopular cause. Governor Harriman asked in Mr. Helms’s absence if we had any comment on this point. I said that if chaos alone was all we had to fear, then a strong case could be made for our disengagement. I went on to say, however, that we had firm evidence that the Chinese Communists saw in the Congo rebellion a great opportunity and were determined if possible to gain a position of commanding influence by support to the rebels. They did not underestimate both the Congo’s mineral wealth and its strategic position. Governor Harriman supported my view and restated it even more strongly, warning that nobody should have any illusions as to what a rebel victory might mean. He said at best we could expect something like the Ben Bella regime in Algeria, and perhaps something a good deal worse.

3. Governor Harriman concluded the meeting by requesting that each of the three ambassadors draw up a list of the minimum concessions Tshombe would have to make to gain acceptance in East Africa.2

Cordmeyer, Jr.
[less than 1 line not declassified]
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, Job 78–03805R, DO/IMS Files, Box 4, Folder 14, U.S. Govt.—Special Group CI & 303. Secret. Drafted on February 12.
  2. The minutes of the Special Group (CI) meeting on February 11 state that the Special Group agreed to take the recommendations of the three ambassadors under consideration. (Ibid.)