446. Telegram From the Station in the Congo to the Central Intelligence Agency1

2385 (In 98411). Ref Leop 2381 (In 98325).2 Ambassador Godley requests that following information be passed soonest to Governors Harriman and Williams and Ambassador Knight.

1. After a general discussion of political situation with Mobutu on 19 Nov, Mobutu turned to Devlin and stated he wished seek latter’s personal advice. He emphasized he speaking to Devlin as friend and not as USG rep and insisted that latter not discuss with anyone matters which he wished to raise. After preface, Mobutu stated following:

A. Both Kasavubu and Kimba have requested he place Tshombe under house arrest. Mobutu has refused carry out this request (it never phrased as direct order). He added that both Nendaka and Bomboko favor this solution and said he no longer fully trusts them.

B. Mobutu asked Devlin if he realized seriousness of present solution. Without waiting for answer he added that current political crisis is rapidly coming to a head and expressed view there does not seem to be any easy solution. He stressed that Kasavubu’s popularity is waning but also said he could never bring himself to serve under Tshombe, were latter to become president. Mobutu explained that he considers Tshombe to be an opportunist and liar. He also added that were Tshombe to become president, it would place Congo in hands of wrong type of Belgians and thus would eventually lead to new racial crisis.

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C. Mobutu stated that on 17 Nov, after luncheon for General Stone, Congolese officers present remained after departure of American group and recommended that army intervene in current political crisis to avoid an explosion. Those present were Colonel David Nzoigba, commanding officer of second groupement headquarters in Leo; Lt Colonel Fredinand Malila, chief of staff of ANC; and Lt Colonel Nonore Nkalufa, G–3 of ANC. These officers stated that, while army wants to maintain parliament and various provincial assemblies in being, they see no solution to current conflict between Kasavubu and Tshombe. Thus, they asked Mobutu if it would not be possible for army to resolve conflict, possibly by eliminating offices of president and prime minister and for army to give central direction to govt formed by parliamentarians. Mobutu added that on following day he met with his senior paratroop officers. He said these officers also urged him find solution to current political problem.

D. Mobutu stressed he does not repeat not wish to stage another coup d’etat. However said he believes it to be his duty to try find compromise solution to current political impasse. Thus, he asked Devlin if he could suggest a solution.

2. Devlin replied that he concurred with the general’s view that compromise solution would be required if Congo is to avoid another political crisis which can only advance cause of rebels and other extremist groups. He also insisted upon need to find a place in govt for Tshombe, pointing out that elimination of Tshombe from political scene would almost certainly increase problem, rather than resolve it. Devlin also concurred with Mobutu’s views that Kasavubu’s popularity has diminished sharply over last month. Devlin concluded by stating one possible alternative would be for Mobutu to select compromise candidate for presidency, one who would be responsive and acceptable to both FDC and Conaco, and for Mobutu then to convince Tshombe that for good of country he must agree to such compromise and accept position of prime minister.

3. Mobutu stated that he would want to discuss this problem again with Devlin, probably on Sunday 21 Nov, but again stressed that he wished Devlin’s personal views and he asked that conversation not be discussed with Embassy or Washington.

4. Station concurs that present political impasse is rapidly reaching critical stage. Neither FDC nor Conaco has actual or lasting parlimentary majority. Balance is such that either side could win a narrow majority by purchasing a few votes. On other hand, Tshombe appears to be most popular leader in country. However, Mobutu has repeatedly stressed that he would never agree to work under Tshombe. At 19 Nov meeting he again stated he would resign were Tshombe elected president. Since Station knows of no satisfactory alternative to Mobutu as [Page 648] commander of army, and in view of Mobutu’s long-time cooperation with USG we do not believe that a solution which would remove Mobutu from governmental scene would be advisable. Thus, Station believes it is incumbent upon USG to try help Mobutu find compromise solution. Failure to take this step would, in long run, almost certainly lead to even greater political crisis and contribute to undermining seriously USG position in Congo.3

5. Embassy will submit its views by separate cable through this channel, as will Station, morning 20 Nov.4

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, [text not declassified], Vol. III, Mobutu. Secret; Rybat; Immediate. Received at 20:05Z.
  2. Reported Mobutu’s refusal to arrest Tshombe. [Footnote in the original.] This telegram dated November 19 is ibid.
  3. Telegram 2408 from Leopoldville to CIA, November 19, transmitted a message from Godley to Harriman, Williams, and Ambassador Knight stating that he believed the time had come for him to see Kasavubu. He asked for the Department’s views and instructions, suggesting that he tell Kasavubu that he must not underestimate the U.S. conviction that only a government of national unity could succeed in giving the Congo the stability and security it so desperately required until a presidential election. Such a government need not include Tshombe but should include a strong CONACO contingent with Tshombe’s approval. Godley also intended to warn Kasavubu that the United States would not tolerate violent repressive measures against the opposition. (Ibid., Job 78–00435R, DDO/ISS Files, Box 2, Folder 12, [cryptonym not declassified] Operations)
  4. Telegram 59745 from the CIA to Leopoldville, November 20, transmitted a message from Williams to Godley, stating that the Department agreed that the situation had reached the point that he should call on Kasavubu. It believed, however, that this approach should be based on the expression of U.S. concern over the potential for trouble which the current situation portended. The Department preferred to hold in abeyance a tougher démarche pending future developments. (Ibid.)