461. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Central African Affairs (Brown) to the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Williams)1
- Situation and Outlook in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
General Joseph Mobutu’s assumption of power on November 25 stemmed from the increasingly dangerous confrontation between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Tshombe following the latter’s dismissal, October 13, by Kasavubu. Kasavubu named Evariste Kimba as Prime Minister-Designate but the latter was defeated in the Congolese Parliament owing to the opposition of Tshombe and his substantial following. Kasavubu’s reappointment of Kimba, coupled with the efforts of members of Kimba’s government to discredit Tshombe and his followers, rapidly led to political tension and mounting crisis. General Mobutu, considering the situation dangerous for the country, decided, with his senior officers, to seize power and depose both the President and the government-designate. He named Colonel, now General, Mulamba as Prime Minister, suspended certain provisions of the Constitution, and declared that his government and the national Parliament would sit in for five years.
Mobutu instituted government by decree with the tacit approval of Parliament. His declared program is to substitute hard work and unity of purpose in the reconstruction of the rebellion-devastated country and the rehabilitation of its economy in place of political maneuvering, corruption and lack of direction. While obviously sincere, it is too early to discern where Mobutu will draw the line between corruption and the “normal” use of payments and patronage to facilitate governmental operations. His declarations on behalf of better government and improved popular morale have been ringing, and have been accepted thus far with little visible opposition. Many persons are still grateful that his seizure of power resolved a dangerous situation which appeared to threaten the Congo’s existence. The accent is presently on hard work and determination rather than unrest and uncertainty. Rebel activity, while far from dead, has declined.
The principal conclusion is that, in fairness to the new regime, it is too early to predict its success or failure. Mobutu’s motivation appears [Page 672] quite different from that of the run of Congolese politicians of the last five years. Mobutu’s political sense should, hopefully, lead him to pull back from the pitfalls inherent in certain ill-advised decrees aimed at conserving foreign exchange, slashing government expenditures, and sending urban employment back home to assist in his agricultural improvement program. Nevertheless, the following are possible trends:
1. The General’s army-led regime could lead to the exclusion of civilian leaders and the withering away of opposition parties;
2. Resistance to the Government could grow among civil servants whose perquisites and power have been reduced, as well as among the population wearying of measures involving austerity, hard work and discipline;
3. The major role assigned to the military could lead to factionalism and competition for political power both among senior officers close to the seat of power and among middle grade officers tasting political power for the first time;
4. Mobutu’s over-reliance on Belgian advisors, primarily military, could lead to charges of the regime’s manipulation by foreign, European interests, despite present trends in the regime toward an accentuation of Congolese nationalism;
5. The political leaders, especially Moise Tshombe who is apparently the principal opponent of the regime, may become active against Mobutu, leading to an open contest for power involving the General’s supporters and Tshombe’s broad parliamentary and popular following or a political coalition of varying groups seeking power.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, AF Files: Lot 69 D 118, POL 2–5 Information Summaries 1966. Secret. Drafted by Canup.↩