511. Memorandum From the Department of State Executive Secretary (Read) to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1


  • Further Information on the Congo Situation

1. Belgian Position. We have asked the Belgians here and in Brussels for further air crews for the Congo. They know that we have had a request for C–130s and have agreed to delay replying to a Congolese request for matériel assistance until they learn our reaction. Mr. [Page 748] Rostow will discuss the subject again with the Belgian Ambassador at 2:45 today.2 The Belgian position is a bit shaky. The abduction of Tshombe was badly received in some Belgian circles. More importantly, the GOB is smarting under Congolese press and radio attacks lumping the mutineers, many of whom are Belgians, with the rest of the Belgian population of the Congo and with Belgian financial interests. Brussels has said that Belgian air crews now in the Congo will carry out GDRC orders, that other Belgian military personnel (training troops) will stand by, and that a request from the Congo government for arms and munitions has been received. The Belgians may act favorably on the latter request, if we provide assistance and if Congo press attacks abate. However, their initial reaction indicates that they would insist on a moderation of anti-Belgian propaganda as precondition to such aid. Our Ambassador in the Congo is pointing out to the Congolese the dangers of over-exciting the Congolese population. We have made the same point to Ambassador Adoula here. We are keeping the Belgians informed of these actions.

We do not, in summary, expect the Belgian government to consider taking the lead in providing assistance to the Congo until it is sure that the US is ready to help and until it is sure that a wave of anti-Belgian and anti-white propaganda in the Congo is brought under control and possible incidents avoided. Internal political considerations in Belgium dictate this cautious stand. Should there be an unprovoked slaughter of Belgians (and such may have just occurred in Katanga) then the Belgians will pull back from assistance.

2. Mercenary Objectives. Mercenaries in the Congo, even though in the pay of the Congolese government, always represented a potential Trojan horse because their political sympathies were essentially very conservative, even colonialist, and often pro-Tshombe. No single leadership of the various groups has been clearly identified nor has there apparently any public statement which could be attributed to the rebels.

Embassy Kinshasa speculates that mercenary objectives may be to establish control over the Eastern Congo as a base to channel in reinforcements and eventually take over mineral-rich Katanga. Presumably they would welcome the Congolese (or Katangan) leadership of someone like Tshombe or other pliable Congolese elements willing to go along with them.

In the absence of further information it is uncertain exactly what the mercenaries seek. It is perhaps significant that they have not used the radios at Kisangani or Bukavu to broadcast their aims. However, as [Page 749] the rebellion of 1964–65 showed, a very few determined, well-trained and well-armed mercenaries can take over large parts of the Congo and this is the threat that the GDRC now faces.

The Belgians tell us that they are unsure what the exact motivations were. They say it could have been part of a long-planned pro-Tshombe plot, a sudden move to thwart the extradition of Tshombe, or perhaps only a dissatisfaction with lack of pay.

3. African Reaction. Zambia condemned the mercenary rebellion and offered assistance. Kaunda said: “The Congo aggression means there will be no peace for countries small in terms of military might.” He congratulated the US and USSR for condemning the mercenaries.

Rwanda has condemned the mercenaries, pledged support to Mobutu and opened the airport of Kamembe to US aircraft for the evacuation of American citizens and to the Congo Government, should it need it.

Congo (Brazzaville) has strongly castigated the mercenary actions and pledged assistance, including troops if necessary, to help suppress the rebellion.

The Nigerian Ambassador here has expressed the view of many of his colleagues in strongly condemning the mercenaries. The Somalis and Ethiopians have told us that they are horrified that foreign mercenaries are trying to disrupt the unity of the Congo.

At the UN, the non-permanent members of the Security Council (including Ethiopia, Mali, and Nigeria) met Friday morning and unanimously agreed to support the Congolese proposed resolution calling on all countries to refrain from assistance to the mercenaries.3

4. Military Situation. For an as yet undertermined cause, dissident elements which have held Bukavu for two days left the town in three columns on their own volition early this morning and Congolese troops returned. There seems to be some danger of anti-European acts by the ANC.

Despite GDRC claims that an ANC paracommando unit dropped on Kisangani early this morning, destroyed dissident-held T–28 aircraft, and occupied most of the city, another more reliable report indicates that Kisangani still is partly in mercenary hands and that the T–28s were not destroyed.

The Congolese police report that Kindu radio went silent this morning, which may mean that town is in rebel hands.

Anti-white tensions are reported high in Lubumbashi and we have just learned that 13 Europeans were massacred by the army.

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5. Assessment of Russell/Rivers Reaction. In Bill Macomber’s absence, Tully Torbert talked with Mr. Stempler, DOD Legislative Liaison. Stempler feels that neither Russell nor Rivers would be enthusiastic about the return of the C–130’s to the Congo but would go along if the move were explained in a clear, well considered policy statement. In general, it would be important to have something to show for the assistance, for example a better public posture by Mobutu toward white Westerners and/or a deal on Tshombe. Torbert defers to Stempler’s judgment on the reaction of the House and Senate armed services committee chairman.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XIII, Memos & Miscellaneous, 11/66–8/67. Secret. This memorandum is apparently a response to a note dictated by the President at 11:10 a.m. on July 7, referring to Eugene Rostow’s July 6 memorandum (Document 508) requesting further information. (Johnson Library, National Security Council Histories, Congo C–130 Crisis, July 1967 [Tab 1])
  2. Memcon will be LDX’d to WH as soon as it is completed. BHR. [Handwritten footnote in the original.]
  3. July 7. On July 6, the Congolese Representative asked for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to consider the question of aggression against the Congo on July 5.