550. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Congo


  • United States
  • The Acting Secretary
  • Mr. L. Dean Brown, Country Director, AFCM
  • Mr. Robert Anderson, Country Director, France–Benelux Affairs
  • Mr. Arthur A. Hartman, Special Assistant to the Acting Secretary
  • Belgium
  • Foreign Minister Pierre Harmel
  • Ambassador Louis Scheyven, Embassy of Belgium
  • Baron Van der Straten-Waillet, Director General for Political Affairs, Belgian Foreign Ministry
  • Viscount Etienne Davignon, Chef de Cabinet to the Foreign Minister
  • Mr. Rene Lion, Minister, Embassy of Belgium

Foreign Minister Harmel thanked the Acting Secretary for the personal interest he had taken in the problem of the mercenaries in the Congo, and said that he wished to register his Government’s deep appreciation for USG support to the Belgians during this difficult period. He also made special mention of the excellent collaboration given by our Ambassadors in Brussels and Kinshasa.

The Foreign Minister said that his Government had no intention of disengaging because of its fidelity to the Congolese people, its desire to prevent further disorder and its wish to contribute to the peaceful development of the country. In his view, after three months of acute difficulties the operation looking towards the evacuation of the mercenaries now appeared to be proceeding satisfactorily.

The Acting Secretary said that we appreciated this Belgian recognition of our efforts in the Congo, and that we were particularly grateful for Belgian efforts there to seek a peaceful withdrawal of the mercenaries. He, too, hoped that the mercenary evacuation plan would be successful and that the International Red Cross would not insist on dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”, as undue delay might jeopardize its success. In commenting on the plan, he said that he was particularly [Page 798] encouraged by the recent OAU summit meeting in Kinshasa, which represented a major effort by African leaders to deal with their own problems.

As for future Belgian technical assistance in teaching and health, Harmel said that a decision to return Belgian technicians depended on satisfactory security guarantees from the Mobutu government.2 He hoped that a solution would be found in the following days so that the uncertainties and dangers which Belgian nationals have traditionally faced would be removed. As one element in giving Belgians the necessary sense of security, the Foreign Minister was particularly interested in the establishment of a permanent Belgo-Congolese Commission to deal effectively with future crises as they arose.

The Acting Secretary said that he was pleased to note the Belgian desire to continue its assistance to the Congo and hoped that satisfactory guarantees could be worked out to ensure the safety of the Belgians in the Congo. He thought future crises inevitable but hoped that in the ups and downs of Congolese politics they would become less and less serious. In his view, the seriousness of any particular crisis would probably rest on the question of how much power General Mobutu has throughout the country at any given time.

In conclusion the Foreign Minister said that while the Congo was of almost constant concern to Belgium, his Government was in the final analysis far more preoccupied with the evolution of Europe and the future of the Atlantic Alliance.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Confidential. Drafted by Anderson and approved in U on October 12. The original is labeled “Part I of III.” The meeting was held in Acting Secretary of State Katzenbach’s office.
  2. Telegram 47323 to Brussels, October 2, reported that Bomboko told Bihin on September 29 that the Congolese Government had decided against providing the Belgian Government with written assurances about security in the Congo. (Ibid.)