543. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Congo1

27382. 1. We believe effort must be made to keep GDRC headed toward path of pacific solution to mercenary problem. Therefore, at such time as you feel appropriate keeping in mind Schyns’ request (Kinshasa 5480)2 you should speak with Mobutu and Bomboko, and possibly, Nendaka along following lines:

2. We appreciate political considerations which make it difficult for Congo to resume negotiations, even indirectly, on merc withdrawal and evacuation. We also regret GOR’s action in refusing cooperation and issuing communiqué.

3. Nevertheless we continue believe kind of solution which commendable Congolese initiative envisaged seems to be most desirable, i.e. peaceful withdrawal of mercs and Katangans either through Rwanda or from Congolese territory.

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4. If GDRC insists on military solution it obvious there could be considerable loss of life, danger that confrontation would spill over into other parts of Congo and neighboring countries, confirmation to international opinion that Congo is site of recurring violence and bloodshed, and jeopardizing of OAU conference.

5. If merc/Katangan force determined stand fast GDRC would need further resources which would increase already heavy burden on GDRC budget and whole economy. Even if successful effects would be long-lasting.

6. Mobutu too wise and experienced not to realize that turning to other sources such as Massamba-Debat’s Cubans or Soviets for assistance will in long run lead only to undermining his regime and endangering long-run Congolese stability.

7. Whatever short term political disadvantages Mobutu might see in peaceful withdrawal and evacuation, he should realize that, with goodwill and cooperation, actually it likely to be accomplished more rapidly than military reduction of mercenary force. In long run it will have proved his statesmanship in getting rid of element disruptive to Congolese internal security, and saving his country from further bloodshed. If, as we assume, peaceful solution faster than military, internal pressures on him will be relieved much sooner and interracial harmony will have been preserved.3

  1. Source: Department of Stare, Central Files, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Immediate; Limdis. Drafted by Schaufele, cleared by Brown, and approved by Palmer. Repeated to Kigali, Bujumbura, and Brussels, and CINCSTRIKE for POLAD Tampa.
  2. Reference should be to telegram 3251 from Kinshasa, August 25, which reported that Dr. Charles Schyns, a Belgian businessman who had offered to act as an informal intermediary between the Congolese Government and the mercenaries, made a personal plea to Mobutu for one last effort to evacuate the mercenaries peacefully, and asked that there be no other U.S. or Belgian efforts until August 27. (Ibid.)
  3. In telegram 3286 from Kinshasa, August 26, McBride reported that he discussed this with Mobutu, who was very bitter about the mercenaries at the outset, but whose thinking had seemed to evolve somewhat in the direction of a negotiated settlement as the conversation continued. Mobutu said he would meet Schyns with an open mind the following day. (Ibid.)