491. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo1

150921. For Blake from Palmer. Subj: Tshombe Trial.

1. While we do not yet know verdict in trial of Tshombe, Tshipola and others,2 believe you should see Bomboko soonest in order make following points:

2) We continue support Central Govt in Congo as we always have and cannot condone extra legal attempts overthrow that govt. At same time we believe that if GDRC is to project desirable image as progressive, stable African leader, full and careful consideration should be given to possible international reaction to trial. Repeat of trials followed by summary executions of last spring could well have adverse effect on Congo’s image throughout world.

3) You should make it plain we are not trying to give any opinion or exert any type of influence on outcome of trial. Our hope is that Congo Govt aware implications of trials and possible public executions on its good name as well as possible effect on general attitudes towards African states. Basic questions will be asked such as was there adequate opportunity for defense with independent legal assistance and did judicial [Page 719] proceedings take place free from public pressures and executive interference.3

4) FYI Above instruction predicated on belief defendants are military involved in Kisangani mutiny for whom we hold no brief; if defendants should include civilians, such as Kishwe or other former Tshombe supporters, summary justice even less justified. End FYI.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 29 THE CONGO. Confidential; Immediate. Drafted by Roy T. Haverkamp of AF/CM; cleared by Brown and Runyon; and approved by Palmer. Repeated to Brussels, Bukavu, London, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, Madrid, and Nairobi.
  2. In September 1966, the Congolese Government formally charged Tshombe, who was in exile in Madrid, with high treason for endangering the security of the Congo. In March 1967, a special military tribunal tried Tshombe in absentia along with several others.
  3. In telegram 5708 from Kinshasa, March 9, Blake reported that he went over the points in this telegram with Bomboko, who said he would discuss them with Mobutu. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 29 THE CONGO)