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

176. Following message should be delivered either orally or in writing to Spaak from Harriman:

“Since our meeting in Brussels July 23 I have continued to follow the Congolese scene closely. Although I had hoped that the political maneuvering between Messrs. Kasavubu and Tshombe would subside, information received during the last few days leads me to believe that we may be approaching yet another and more serious crisis between the two men.

We have been informed from reliable sources, on the one hand, that Mr. Kasavubu, encouraged by his tactical successes over Mr. Tshombe in recent months, is determined to force the resignation of the latter’s government before the Congolese Parliament convenes. On the other hand, we have been told Mr. Tshombe has concluded that it would be impossible for him to continue to work with Mr. Kasavubu and that he plans to contest the presidency.

Both Belgium and the United States, convinced that continuing cooperation between the two men is most important to the immediate future of the Congo, have tried to impress upon Mr. Kasavubu and Mr. Tshombe, as well as other Congolese leaders, their concern in this matter.

However, it seems doubtful that simple expressions of concern will suffice given the volatile nature of Congolese politics and the aspirations for power of the principals as well as others, including the Binza Group. If you share these views, I suggest that Belgium and the United States explore immediately what methods we might employ singly and jointly.

Given the nature of the Belgian and US commitments in the Congo, I think we can best achieve our common aim through coordinated action, since there will undoubtedly be a temptation on the part of those who oppose that aim to divide us in favor of one group or the other.

We have asked our Embassy in Leopoldville for its comments on what steps the United States could best take to prevent a split between Kasavubu and Tshombe. In the interim I would welcome your views [Page 613] including, if possible, an estimate of what actions Belgium might take to this end. I request Amb De Kerchove to consult again with Amb Godley.”2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Priority. Drafted by Schaufele; cleared by Komer, McKillop, Fredericks, and McElhiney; and approved by Harriman. Repeated to Leopoldville.
  2. Telegram 158 from Brussels, August 12, reported that Spaak’s response was that the reports he was receiving from the Congo did not indicate that the situation was worsening. He thought it unlikely that Tshombe would have decided to leave the Congo now if the situation was as critical as Harriman implied and he was inclined to concur with De Kerchove’s opinion that this was an armistice period with each side watching the other. (Ibid.)