436. Memorandum From Harold H. Saunders of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)1


Tshombe is definitely out. So just when the mercenaries are mopping up the last organized rebel remnants, we have a real political mess on our hands. He refused to resign as Kasavubu asked because he believed Kasavubu would trick him and not reappoint him. Neither had clear constitutional justification since they were still working with a transitional government moving toward both parliamentary (last spring) and presidential elections (early next year).

Our push to keep them together failed because Kasavubu just isn’t sensitive to the kind of leverage we have. His main interest is staying in power, which he does by manipulating the levers of tribal politics. He shows little concern for governing sensibly, so he couldn’t care less whether we cut aid or pull out some planes.

But Tshombe is far from finished. He’s deciding this weekend whether to use his parliamentary majority to block formation of the new government. We already have reports his party has turned down offers of several ministries. So we might be in for a long stalemate like the recent one in Greece.

Everyone expects Tshombe to fight; the $64 question is how. He can stay in Leo and play out the game by constitutional rules. This weekend’s decision will tell us whether he’s going to provoke a showdown right now or risk riding along with Kimba’s government to oppose Kasavubu in the presidential elections. He told Godley he doesn’t intend to be a “force for disorder,” and he has tried to keep his followers from reacting violently. Whether he risks waiting for the presidential elections will depend on whether he thinks Kasavubu will let him play out the political game without jailing or exiling him. (His chief rival now is fast-rising and opportunistic Interior Minister Nendaka, whose police could make life miserable.)

If Kasavubu plays dirty, Tshombe might try to use his mercenaries and possibly some army units to mount a coup. Or if that course seems blocked, he could go back to Katanga. In appointing Kimba, Kasavubu is obviously trying to preserve the Leopoldville–Katanga “axis,” which holds together the Congo’s two main power centers. However, though [Page 632] Kimba was Tshombe’s foreign minister during the Katanga secession, he represents a Katanga minority and probably couldn’t hold Katanga against Tshombe.

How we operate will depend on Tshombe’s course. If he plays out the constitutional game, it might well serve our interests if he unseats Kasavubu. He’d probably do a much better job of governing. On the other hand, we can’t back him in kicking off another civil war.

Spaak has told his people to lie low for the time being, and Godley recommends we do the same. That’s probably wise as far as using CIA money is concerned. However, Godley sees Tshombe and Mobutu regularly, and we have to have some notion of where we want to go. RWK and I have been pressing State all week to begin some contingency thinking to give us a clearer picture of our options and their merits. They’ve held off so far, waiting to see how the new government turns out. In the interim Godley is simply telling Tshombe not to bring the house down.

Harriman and RWK will talk Congo with Spaak Monday afternoon,2 and we’ll bring you up to date in case you want to get beyond Europe with him Tuesday. Our main purpose is to push the Belgian nose closer to the grindstone in taking the aid and technical assistance lead. We’ll undoubtedly talk about the political turnover, but the aid problem is still basic.

Unhappily Tshombe’s ouster puts us in an uncomfortable position with Dodd. We can stand up for past policy, but he’s at least on good told-you-so ground if we decide to let Tshombe go after Kasavubu. Our argument is that our interest is to see the game played out constitutionally and only now has Tshombe had a chance to challenge Kasavubu by the rules.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XII, Memos & Miscellaneous, 10/65–10/66. Secret.
  2. See Document 437 and footnote 3 thereto.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.