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

1741. For the Secretary from McBride:

1. I will in separate message be making certain specific recommendations about possibilities for US actions in Congo now. Purpose of this message to you is unfortunately to signal what appears to be failure of local military situation to improve, partially it must be frankly stated, due to failure of Congolese to cope with their operational problems. I hate to add gloom but facts must be faced. While C–130 mission has achieved its immediate purpose of assisting Mobutu psychologically and materially, in calming dangerous racist situation and presence in case of need for total US evacuation, it must be faced that original problems have not gone away. Second issue of anti-white sentiment is dormant for moment but could flare up again. One possibility would be return of Tshombe, his execution followed by outcry in US and Europe (and in part of Africa) followed by anti-foreign outbursts here that would be more serious than events of early July. Insofar as crushing mercenary rebellion is concerned, little progress has been made. C–130s have efficiently transported matériel and men to periphery of area affected, but there is no evidence ANC, in part for lack of air cover, dares yet to tangle with mercenaries. On contrary, Consulate Bukavu reports panic conditions there in ANC when mercenaries made a couple of distant feints two days ago. It is apparent that all of help ANC has received has not converted its officers or men into force that puts its back into anything with relish except looting and beating civilians. Old hands here insist, however, there is some improvement in that ANC did fight mercenaries for a while in Kisangani, though other reports are discouraging.

2. Worst we fear is that second C–130 and even third will depart without any improvement in military situation. Then the irrational man with whom we are dealing will, far from showing gratitude, turn on us. In state of near-hysteria in which Mobutu finds himself, this is real possibility. Simplest solution by far locally would be maintenance of two C–130s until back of mercenary rebellion is broken, but since this may be long-term matter and knowing problems at home, I have refrained from recommending this as I did not want to pose this again. A single C–130 would have some effect militarily and considerable effect [Page 773] psychologically, and I would of course like to retain one if this were possible, but I fear even this poses grave difficulties for Department.

3. Despite all this, I am still genuinely concerned at immediate prospect of C–130 departure and we have been seeking some way mitigate this problem. These detailed thoughts will be contained in a separate message, but I just wanted to point out that despite efforts on our part, Congolese have not overcome their inability to utilize what assets they have. Their hand-wringing and tendency to panic are chronic. By far the, easiest course would be to wash our hands of this country. But this would of course be basic reversal of our policy to assist present Congolese Govt in its slow progress towards stability which unfortunately has been severely shaken by this latest outbreak—though it must be admitted this one is not of Congolese making. Furthermore, no alternative to Mobutu appears on horizon and he still in spite of everything seems our best bet as pro-Western Congolese leader. It is with conviction in mind that basic policy should not be reversed that we are recommending separately a series of possible courses of action, some of them controversial and some ramshackle, but the best we can devise bearing Washington problems in mind.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Immediate; Nodis.