540. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National Security Council Staff to President Johnson 1


  • Congo situation report

1. As you know, the Congolese Foreign Minister seemed on the verge yesterday of working out a scheme with Schramme whereby the mercenaries would “surrender” and be evacuated from the Congo via Rwanda.2

2. Last night, however, after listening for hours to the mercenary radio inciting Congolese troops to desert, the Foreign Minister told our people he couldn’t go through with the plan without some dramatic move against the mercenaries first. Without some show of government strength, he said, the effects of public announcement of a negotiated settlement would be disastrous for Congolese army morale, and perhaps even threaten Mobutu’s future as President.

3. Specifically, the Foreign Minister proposed to give Schramme an ultimatum: give up within 48 hours or the town of Bukavu (where Schramme is headquartered) will be “razed to the ground” by Congolese bombs. If the bluff were called, he would carry out the raids with Ethiopian F–86’s based in the neighboring country of Burundi.

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4. Our people went at him hard to show him the lunacy of this course. We pointed out that (i) it would probably destroy the Congo’s last chance to end the mercenary problem with minimum political disruption and loss of life, and (ii) the threat would be incredible and probably impossible for the Congolese to carry out. (These F–86’s are not equipped for bombing; the best they could do would be rockets, and God knows whom they would hit. More important, the airfield in Burundi is under repair and there is no F–86 fuel there.)

5. McBride also went to Mobutu (more than 1000 miles away, in Kinshasa) and asked him to instruct his Foreign Minister to stop the nonsense and get back to working out the settlement. Mobutu complied.

6. By the time Mobutu’s instructions arrived this morning, however, the Foreign Minister had left for Burundi, presumably to investigate for himself whether his plan is feasible and whether the Burundians will allow themselves to be implicated in such an operation. Our man in Burundi will try to intercept him and talk some sense into him, as well as relaying Mobutu’s instructions.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Files of Edward Hamilton, Congo (B). No classification marking.
  2. Telegram 22134 to Kigali, August 17, instructed the Ambassador to Rwanda, Leo G. Cyr, to deliver a note to Bomboko, who was in Kigali attempting to negotiate the departure of the mercenaries through Rwanda, stating that the U.S. Government was prepared to cooperate as appropriate to facilitate the peaceful withdrawal to Rwanda and the safe and voluntary repatriation or resettlement of certain foreign and Congolese elements. Cyr was told to make it clear to Bomboko that the U.S. Government could not guarantee the security of persons who were not U.S. nationals and not under U.S. control, and that neither the note nor U.S. cooperation involved a financial commitment. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 THE CONGO)