528. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo1
9612. For Ambassador from Secretary.
1. We see an acute political problem arising here in US if Mobutu executes Tshombe. It could affect adversely Congressional reaction to our entire African assistance program and, more specifically, might force revision of our aid policy to Congo, which has been its mainstay since independence. As you know, aid program already in deep trouble as result Middle East, Nigeria and other problems.
2. With Algiers indication that Supreme Court will hand down its decision on Congo demand for Tshombe extradition this Friday2 and Congo statements that no further trial needed in Congo as Tshombe already found guilty, time is pressing in.
3. I know that it will be most difficult for you to approach Mobutu on this matter, that he may deeply resent your raising subject and that the close working relationship you have so quickly worked out with him could be seriously jeopardized. Nevertheless I believe that we must have record clear with him and he know that the execution of Tshombe will have a strong, adverse political effect here in US.
4. I know that you will have to tailor approach to him as you see fit but believe following are points which could enter into your presentation. You should make it plain that you are doing this under instructions:
a. US has no desire interfere with Congo’s judicial processes nor in its internal affairs.
b. US has no brief for Tshombe and understands Congo’s desire to end his plotting against govt of Congo. Reaction US public opinion, [Page 771] however severe it might be, is not aimed especially at the Congo or this particular case, but derives from a strong aversion to politics by violence. Political exile and political asylum are deeply entrenched in the thinking of a nation with our historic background. The difference between exile or imprisonment on the one side and summary execution on the other is a very important distinction.
c. US continues to support the govt as evidenced by its prompt reply to Mobutu’s request for assistance in meeting the threat of mercenary mutiny, an action taken by the US despite the political problems it caused for the Administration.
d. US is concerned however that summary execution of Tshombe, following on Pentecost hangings of 1966, will evoke serious adverse political effect in US and thereby seriously threaten steady support US has been able to give Congo since independence.
e. US therefore strongly urges Mobutu that, if Tshombe extradited, he not carry out any planned execution and thus avoid arousing political protests in US and elsewhere which would damage good name of Congo on international scene.
f. Forbearance on this issue, while politically difficult in Congo, could confound Mobutu’s and our critics and enable Mobutu to capitalize on stature gained as result of monetary reform and skillful leadership during crisis caused by mercenaries.
5. Since we cannot be sure Tshombe may not be transferred to Kinshasa even before Algiers announcement, you should act on this message soonest.3
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 30 THE CONGO. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted by Brown; cleared by the Under Secretary, Meeker in L, and Palmer; and approved by Rusk.↩
- July 21.↩
- In telegram 1329 from Kinshasa, July 20, McBride reported that his staff was convinced that the Embassy could not persuade Mobutu not to execute Tshombe; he suggested a letter from the Secretary to Bomboko. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 30 THE CONGO) In telegram 10369 to Kinshasa, July 20, Rusk responded that McBride should give Bomboko a personal, oral message from him, drawing on the points in telegram 9612. (Ibid.) McBride reported in telegram 1425 from Kinshasa, July 21, that he delivered the oral message to Bomboko. (Ibid.) In telegram 1453 from Kinshasa, July 22, McBride reported that Bomboko discussed the U.S. démarche with Mobutu who believed he had no alternative but to go ahead with the execution. (Ibid.) Algerian President Boumediene did not sign the extradition order.↩