460. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Office of Central African Affairs (Schaufele) to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1
- Status of the Congo (L) Rebellion
The launching of a military campaign last September against the large rebel concentration in the Fizi area was expected to end the last major rebel threat to the country as a whole. Still in progress, the campaign has been successful in recapturing key towns and dispersing rebel forces. Nevertheless, recent reports from the Congo indicate significant rebel activity in the region around Albertville, the Northeast sector, and the Stanleyville area. Locations of rebel strength and activity are marked on the attached map2 and described in some detail below.
In the Northeast sector alone, the number of rebels has been reported to be as high as 17,500, grouped in about ten locations. Further west, the cities of Ango and Bondo are still in rebel hands. To the south, the area between Buta and Banalia is infested with rebels and has recently been the scene of sharp battles. During the period December 12–18 in this area, the ANC killed 23 rebels and took 84 prisoners. The ANC suffered at least seven dead and 18 wounded. Rebel discipline and determination in this area and the Stanleyville region are reported to be increasing. The ANC lost seven men in recent fighting within 15 [Page 670] miles of Stanleyville, and rebel bands continue to infiltrate into the suburbs of the city.
The area where rebels have been most active is located to the west of Albertville. In contrast to other areas where the rebels usually confine themselves to defensive action and ambushing patrols, rebel groups in the Albertville area have been attacking ANC positions and displaying a high degree of sophistication, most notably in the destruction of two solid bridges and use of mines to sabotage railway lines. An ANC communiqué reported that 150 rebels were killed in a pitched battle on December 2 just 25 miles south of Bukavu on the Rwandan border.
Rebels in all areas usually do not possess enough weapons to arm every man, but they have been effectively using automatic rifles, mortars, and mines in addition to the traditional “poo-poo” guns. Although Gbenye, Soumialot and Olenga are generally discredited, rebel field leadership seems to be improving, as evidenced by increased discipline, sophisticated tactics, and improved morale. Foreign advisory assistance is probably a factor, but none of the Cubans alleged to accompany rebel forces in the East has been captured. Support from neighboring countries has diminished considerably over the past several months, but there are still unconfirmed reports of rebel movements in Tanzania and large groups of armed rebels in the southern Sudan. In addition to Rwandan Tutsis, some Burundi nationals have been involved in the fighting in the Bukavu–Fizi region.
The ability of the ANC to defeat or even contain the rebels will depend, as always, upon outside leadership. There are currently some 750 mercenaries in the Congo. Many of these are ineffective, and approximately 100 contracts will expire before March 15. Ambassador Godley has suggested that we consult with the Belgians and perhaps the British on ways of finding replacements for departing mercenaries.