456. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to All African Posts1

1025. On November 25 General Joseph Mobutu, head of Congo (Leo) armed forces, staged a bloodless coup d’etat deposing GDRC President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Kimba. Twenty-four hours after coup capital and principal cities in Congo remain quiet and military presence scarcely apparent. In 13 point announcement, Mobutu said he had assumed all prerogatives of President, and will guarantee continuance national institutions including Parliament, safeguard personal rights and property Congolese citizens, respect all international agreements, continue adhere international bodies particularly UN and OAU and maintain GDRC’s adhesion to OCAM unless Parliament decides otherwise. Mobutu also said recent measures against foreigners, expulsions, newspaper suspensions, etc. rescinded and editors of opposition newspapers whose offices recently sacked will receive compensation.

Mobutu announced he will retain presidential prerogatives for five years, during which Colonel Leonard Mulamba (Military Governor Stanleyville area) will serve as Prime Minister and General Bobozo (Commanding Officer Elisabethville garrison) will be Commander in Chief Armed Forces (probably nominally). Mobutu also claimed support from presidents Congolese Parliament chambers and confirmed them in their positions for five years.

New leader of GDRC has announced that “Government of National Union” will be formed by Colonel Mulamba today and presented to Parliament November 27, claiming support former Prime Minister Kimba and his ministers for this move. He predicted approval by acclamation. New government reportedly will be composed one Minister from each province and Leopoldville.2

Reaction in political circles to Mobutu’s power seizure ranges from outright though qualified approval to wait-and-see attitude. Significant there no known opponents this move so far and no restrictive measures against former leaders, notably Kasavubu, who apparently have free [Page 664] movement but are presumably expected remain Leopoldville. Former Prime Minister Tshombe reportedly reacted favorably at overthrow Kasavubu, but is less enthusiastic over five years duration Mobutu’s position, which eliminates presidential elections scheduled next March.

Mobutu’s actions raised internal Congolese constitutional prob-lems as well as question recognition new regime by foreign states. Power seizure clearly unconstitutional regardless how justified it may prove to be in preventing political and military disintegration stemming from increasing possibility of violent confrontation between Kasavubu and Tshombe. Although new regime reportedly will include only two military leaders, i.e. Mobutu and Mulamba, it issues from extraordinary reunion armed forces regional commanders Leopoldville on November 24 and maintenance of regime in power will in last analysis rest upon armed forces. Also, Mobutu will oblige Parliament modify constitution by 1) reducing presidential age requirement from 40 to accommodate 35-year old Mobutu; 2) confirming his own and Prime Minister Mulamba’s tenure for five years; 3) enabling increase in number of ministers from present 19 (including State Secretaries) to at least 22; 4) acquiescing in cancellation next year’s presidential election.

No state has yet openly announced recognition new regime although France and Belgium have made clear no overt recognition required from them since their diplomatic representation is to state rather than to GDRC. African reaction slow in developing. Noting Mobutu’s effective control of machinery of government, apparent lack overt opposition, reported pledges of support from leaders both houses of Parliament, restoration free press, failure so far to take punitive action against former leaders, and announcement new government will respect all African and international agreements, Department will maintain discreet and informal contacts with new leaders pending completion our study this question.

Dept answering press inquiries by saying USG following events closely, studying question recognition, and was not involved in coup or informed in advance.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by Canup; cleared by Richard J. Peltier of AF/P, Strong, Root, Ben Thirkield of P, Deputy Assistant Secretary for EUR Walter J. Stoessel Jr., Schaufele, and AFW Director G. Edward Clark; and approved by Trimble. Also sent to Cairo, Brussels, Rome, London, Paris, Bonn, Lisbon, Luanda, and Salisbury.
  2. Circular telegram 1033, November 29, reported that the Congolese Parliament approved the Mobutu government on November 28 by 256 votes to 2 abstentions with no opposition. (Ibid., POL 15–1 THE CONGO)
  3. The United States recognized the Mobutu government on December 7.