399. Memorandum for the Record1

When Struelens came in yesterday to report on his trip to Leoville, I was suitably complimentary. We then discussed the gains Tshombe had made since our last meeting. I underscored how important it is now, with the African moderates gaining strength, for Tshombe to be as responsive as possible to the OAU. If the radicals try to back off, Tshombe must move closer. We want either to tie the radicals to a reasonable peacemaking proposition or pin on them the blame for failure. Struelens seemed to get the point and I agreed with him that this tactic would have its problems since the OAU is unpredictable (to wit, the failure of Guinea and Ghana to show up for the ad hoc commission exercise in Leoville).

Struelens agreed that we had made gains recently. He cited especially the Belgian financial settlement. (In an aside, he said that he had found Spaak highly impressed with Tshombe’s performance during the Brussels talks). Tshombe’s meeting with the African Ambassadors in Leoville had also been quite successful. (He said he had “watched” this performance from behind a curtain.) He didn’t think we had gained too much from Farmer’s visit, but thought that Tshombe had impressed Farmer and that Farmer would hesitate now to speak out against Tshombe personally. Struelens was also pleased with the results of the conference at Nouakchott.

Tshombe’s next big domestic problem, Struelens said, is his election campaign next month. Struelens pointed out that Tshombe is under constant pressures to support local politicians. However, he seems to be bearing up and Struelens expects him to do very well in the election. The current plan is to hold elections in the safe areas first and then to move out later on.

I urged that Tshombe invite observers to come in for the election. Struelens said he didn’t know how many would accept such an invitation and thought there was some problem in having formal observers from the UN. I said I thought it really didn’t matter who came. The important thing was to be able to say after the election that everyone had been invited. Struelens nodded assent.

He said that Tshombe is extremely grateful for US aid. However, one additional point had occurred to him: Would it be possible for us to [Page 582] send one or two patrol boats to hamper the flow of arms across Lake Tanganyika? I said this sounded like a sensible idea and asked Hal Saunders to look into it.

He said confidentially he wanted me to know that Congolese Chargé Cardoso has apparently been involved in some sort of embezzlement here. Struelens said he didn’t want to get involved in this and didn’t know what Tshombe intended to do about it. However, he thought if we knew in advance there would be less chance of misreading if Tshombe called Cardoso home. I told him to take this up with State; Fredericks wanted to talk with him. Struelens also mentioned present plans to settle in Washington after the Congolese election if all goes well for Tshombe.

I worried several specifics: First, I wished the GDRC could keep its planes away from the Ugandan border. He asked exactly what had happened and I replied that we aren’t sure yet. However, the point was that the GDRC had so much more to lose diplomatically than it could gain militarily by taking chances on its planes bombing the wrong side of the border. So I thought it imperative that the GDRC give the border a wide berth.2

Second, I said we had heard rumors that the Congolese forces might be getting ready to use napalm. I had no idea whether these rumors were true, but I wanted to take no chances and mentioned this because Tshombe would get a terrible black eye if his planes, piloted by whites, were to be accused of dropping napalm on “innocent Africans.” Struelens took all this in, and I got the impression that he would weigh in against it.

Third, we agreed that the mercenary problem was still very much with us. Struelens said that Tshombe was quite willing to get rid of the South Africans and accept other Africans in their place as soon as he could find them. He deplored Major Hoare’s public statements about mercenary recruiting. I urged that Tshombe tell Hoare to stick to fighting and leave public statements to the government.

In parting Struelens said he would be in town for the next couple of weeks and would welcome hearing from us any time we had thoughts on these problems.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XI, Memos & Miscellaneous, 1/65–9/65. Secret. Prepared by Komer. Copies were sent to McGeorge Bundy, Fredericks, McIlvaine, and Lang.
  2. Circular telegram 1539, February 20, reported that the Congolese Government responded to the Ugandan protest note in firm but conciliatory language attributing the border incidents to an ill-defined frontier and proposing a mixed Congolese-Ugandan commission to make an on-the-spot study and establish responsibility. The telegram also reported that Tshombe in a February 19 Leopoldville press conference denied that ANC aircraft had attacked Ugandan territory and charged that the incident was a Ugandan fabrication to cover up for rebel incursions into the Congo from Uganda. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 31–1 THE CONGO)