525. Telegram From the Embassy in the Congo to the Department of State1

984. 1. I am restricting distribution on this message since it ventures into realm of prognostication, which is always risky in the Congo.

2. It seems to me that present rebellion falls into three phases. First phase of course ended with mercenary seizure of Bukavu and Kisangani, which gave rise to almost hysteria against foreign elements in Congo. Most extreme danger of this phase was mitigated with US announcement of assistance to Congo. While tension remained high, this decision was a watershed. Shortly thereafter, restrictions against foreigners were terminated. This phase of course ended with mercenary evacuation of Kisangani.

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3. Second phase was local Congolese reaction against mercenary actions which resulted in unbearable tension in Kisangani following its occupation by ANC which resulted in necessity evacuating virtually all foreigners. Although Congolese cooperation has been spotty, this morning situation looks promising that Red Cross planes and C–130 will complete evacuation with full Congolese assistance. This will terminate second phase.

4. We then pass into obvious third phase which will be Congolese effort to strangle mercenaries who are apparently holed up in Punia area. We cannot predict how long this period will last but some experts feel logistic problems will bring end one way or another to mercenary activity within a couple of weeks. Others of course feel it will take longer. In any event, this phase will probably see Mobutu adopt tactics of attrition rather than attempting any direct attacks on mercenaries. With any luck it should be considerably less hysterical than situation up to now, and permit Mobutu gradually begin to work this country back onto its flimsy tracks. His message to his countrymen on TV today is start of this process.

5. Purpose of speculation in para above is background for consideration when we should schedule departure C–130s. If Kisangani evacuation completed today successfully, I would like Dept to consider if I should not on Monday seek appointment with Mobutu and lead into question of departure C–130s. This may of course be extremely sticky but I could point to new and improved situation. Perhaps Dept can furnish other reasons that could be used to justify departure of planes perhaps on some date in about 10 or 12 days. JTF Commander has reported separately on technical situation, but he feels that by middle of next week most supplies and men needing long-range transport will be positioned as Congolese want them. Congolese own capabilities should be able to take over thereafter.

6. I would be eager to have Dept’s view on this subject and instruction upon touching upon subject.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Brussels, CINCSTRIKE, DOD, and JCS and passed to the White House.
  2. Telegram 7604 to Kinshasa, July 16, instructed McBride to inform Mobutu that the U.S. Government would like to set July 24 as the departure date for the C–130s, which would by then have been in the country for 2 weeks. (Ibid.)