489. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1



  • CIA Memorandum on the Congo

You asked me to comment on the attached CIA information memo.2 I haven’t much to add. It is an accurate picture of the present situation, and the inferences it draws for future developments are entirely plausible. The only compensating fact is that one could have as plausibly predicted imminent disaster for the Congo on any given day for the past six months, but nothing catastrophic has happened.

However, there is no question that danger has reached a new octave in January. We now have a very real threat of mass departures by Belgian whites critical to the mining industry—because of unwillingness to work for the new Congolese firm and/or because the Congolese have no foreign exchange to pay them. This will magnify pressures on Mobutu to refuse to let them leave. (He has already issued and rescinded one directive forcing them to give a year’s notice.) If he acts, Union Minière will have the Belgian Government right where it wants them, and there will be great pressure on us to help the GOB guarantee the safe departure of what will by then probably be the majority of whites in the Congo. Nothing could be worse for Congolese economics and politics.

The way out is to:

1. Find a way to settle the money issues between the GOC and Union Minière—probably through arbitration—so that UM will stop blocking sales of Congolese copper.

2. Set up a new marketing mechanism to replace Union Minière.

3. Get UM or other experienced corporations to sell technical assistance to the new Congolese corporation so that production continues at a reasonable level.

The arbitration of outstanding issues is, once again, beginning to look possible. A consortium of experienced copper producers and purveyors is now in the process of (quiet) formation to deal with the [Page 717] other problems. Meanwhile, however, copper builds up in the Congo and 70% of her foreign exchange income does not flow in. Unless we have a breakthrough soon, the consequences foreseen in the CIA memo could well occur.

I have followed this one fairly closely, putting my oar in from time to time as it seemed necessary. I am satisfied that we are playing our role—moderator, conciliator, go-between—with skill and relative effectiveness. In my view, we should continue to do what we can to promote reason on both sides, and sweat it out.3

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XIII, Memos & Miscellaneous, 11/66–8/67. Secret.
  2. Document 488.
  3. In February 1967, the two sides reached an agreement to submit the legal questions involved in the Union Minière takeover to arbitration, and the Congo signed a contract with a company affiliate to continue to produce and sell copper.