478. Circular Telegram From the Department of State to All Posts1

20361. Congo Situation: For Information Only.

1. Congo again in grip of political convulsions as Mobutu regime gravely threatened by mutiny July 23 of Katangan forces in Kisangani.

2. Situation complicated by coincidence with reported Tshombe plot, with connivance some South African and Rhodesian mercenaries, to depose Mobutu government and reinstall Tshombe as Prime Minister.

3. Existence of separate Katangan units probably loyal to Tshombe has been disturbing to many political foes of Tshombe. Mutiny may have been triggered by ill-advised order to disarm them but other factors such as arrears in pay, homesickness for Katanga and discrimination against Katangan units also factors. Although mutineers hold city Mobutu decided to negotiate with them by sending Prime Minister Mulamba and Katanga governor and Tshombe supporter Munongo to Kisangani. No progress has been reported.

4. Situation also linked to continuing friction with Belgium characterized by GDRC stubbornness in settling economic issues with GOB and private companies, official attacks on Belgium, petty GDRC snubbing of GOB negotiators, harassment of Belgian advisers and escalation of already vituperative press warfare between two countries. GOB has also contributed to friction by its occasional lack of responsiveness to Congolese sensibilities.

5. Now Mobutu apparently thinks Belgians may be involved in plot and mutiny. Order for Belgian military assistance personnel in Kisangani [Page 700] and Bukavu areas to withdraw to groupement headquarters and to refrain from participation in ANC operations apparently reinforces his belief as does neutral position of mercenaries in city, some of which are Belgians. Belgian Consul General in Lubumbashi has been PNG’d.

6. Following on heels increasing deterioration in Belgo-Congolese relations since May present fracas has disturbing connotations. GOB is awaiting GDRC reply to stiff note seeking more moderate Congolese attitude and is prepared threaten suspend all technical assistance if satisfactory reply not forthcoming. Possibility of break in relations cannot be excluded.

7. We have followed course of attempting exert moderating influence on Mobutu and remind him that USG cannot be expected fill any gap left by complete or partial Belgian withdrawal.

8. Given nature of Congolese politics it is almost impossible to predict outcome of current crisis. However, despite strong hand he has shown since assuming power and although he may surmount immediate problem, Mobutu is faced with essentially fragile situation net effect of which may weaken his hold.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential; Noforn. Drafted by Schaufele; cleared by EUR/FBX, Strong, Brown, Edward W. Holmes in AF/SE, Peter C. Walker in AF/NE, and James A. Parker in AF/CW; and approved by Trimble.