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

696. Leo’s 1028 repeated Brussels 551.2 De Kerchove’s views reported reftel show realistic appraisal potential for positive Belgian action in Congo as well as inherent pitfalls. Reports from Leo give us cause for concern about Delperdange’s ability walk tricky tightrope Congolese politics.

Therefore keeping in mind caveats expressed para 6 reftel3 and our desire not to get involved in question Delperdange’s effectiveness Embassy Brussels requested express USG views to GOB, preferably Spaak, along following lines:

1. Assumption of power by Mobutu may be last real opportunity in short-run for Congo to gain political stability which has eluded it since 1960. Welcome given Mobutu coup shows basic awareness by Congolese politicians that country tired of instability;

2. However politicians out of power cannot be expected in long run accept system which denies them fruits of power. Over period of time opposition to present regime will probably build, possibly making Mobutu, unless he able to strike balance and adjustment with most political groups, revert to increasing repressive measures;

3. Therefore it seems important that regime make good start, within limitations its present resources, to resolve outstanding problems or begin to do so;

4. GOB appears to have unparalleled opportunity with maximum Congolese cooperation to make constructive contribution to resolution security, administrative, economic and financial problems;

5. US hopes therefore that GOB can show maximum flexibility in meeting needs for technical, economic and military assistance to present government. In many ways military assistance in terms increased number military advisors, which apparently desired by Mobutu, is easiest method of assistance. Although we believe ceiling on [Page 667] numbers Belgian military personnel should be raised we suggest this should be gradual process. Too rapid build-up would not only give Belgium bad image Congo and elsewhere but in long run also make Mobutu vulnerable to domestic and international criticism. More fundamental method help Congo probably lies in field technical assistance especially strengthening administrative teams. Finally balance of payments assistance (including but not restricted to proposed $20 million credit) is needed to fill FX gap and contribute to stability we seek for Congo. Latter, we realize, is predicated on more effective performance by GDRC in putting financial house into better order;

6. In summary we believe GOB should seize opportunity offered it to be forthcoming toward reasonable, realistic, well documented requests for assistance. At same time it would be best avoid precipitous action which could be interpreted as Belgian re-colonization or neocolonialism.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential; Limdis. Drafted by Schaufele; cleared by Brown, Moffat, and Stearns; and approved by Williams. Repeated to Leopoldville and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. In telegram 1028 from Leopoldville, November 28, Godley reported that De Kerchove was desperately worried about the situation in the Congo because Mobutu was looking to Belgium for assistance and he feared that Belgium might not come through. (Ibid.)
  3. In paragraph 6, Godley reported that De Kerchove had spoken to him frankly and in confidence, but that he had told Spaak he would be discussing his views with Godley.
  4. In telegram 655 from Brussels, December 3, Knight reported that he had given Spaak a full rundown on Washington’s thinking concerning the new situation in the Congo as reflected in this telegram. Spaak stated that he concurred in the basic thrust of the Department’s assessment, although he did not comment directly on specifics. He said he had sent a warm letter to Mobutu. The Mobutu government represented a last chance and every effort must be made to take advantage of it. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)