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

4738. Subject: Mercenary evacuation.

1. I am becoming increasingly concerned at snail-like way in which mercenary evacuation operation moving. Dept knows as well as I highly unstable nature of Mobutu and his tendency to lose his temper. Just because he has been sweet and patient over recent weeks since OAU resolution on mercenaries does not mean he will not revert to type. Furthermore, he is under pressure from variety of sources within his own govt and especially in army to reject negotiated settlement and insist on military solution. Bomboko has frankly admitted to me he remains personally opposed to implementation of OAU resolution.

2. In light this background, I consider it currently rather unlikely lid can be kept on during considerable time it will apparently take ICRC representative to visit a lot of African capitals, which have no communication with each other, and while there is interminable haggling as to who will pay expenses of operation.

3. Furthermore if we want operation to succeed, it is imperative to keep Belgians in background. Surfacing of fact D’Ursel is coaching from sidelines in Geneva would be enough to enrage Congolese as he is particularly disliked here, along with Davignon. While it is hard to ask Belgians to pick up tab and at same time be inconspicuous, this is precisely view of Belgian Amb Bihin here.

4. I would hazard guess operation can still have chance of success if carried out in next week or ten days. Otherwise, I would consider chances fairly remote. Furthermore, we are at mercy at any moment of having entire operation blown up if mercenaries are reinforced.

5. On specific points, we agree Rubli suggestion (Geneva 1084)2 it would be better to skip Burundi phase of operations which seems fraught with dangerous possibilities. We also agree with Geneva’s point that more matter in hands of ICRC the better.

6. Obviously we have made no commitments to Congolese for US assistance, but we may receive requests in next few days. While it is easy for me to sit here and say Dept should do something, I cannot in all conscience not state my profound hope that if requests are made of [Page 800] US by Congolese or ICRC, we can carry them out in interest of preventing collapse of operation. If this occurred, we might all be in very serious difficulties indeed in the Congo.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–9 THE CONGO. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Also sent to the Mission in Geneva and repeated to Brussels, Bangui, Kigali, Khartoum, Lusaka, Bujumbura, and CINCSTRIKE.
  2. Dated October 5. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 50588 to Geneva, October 7, stated that the Department shared Mc-Bride’s concern about the slow pace of arrangements for evacuation of the mercenaries. It urged the Mission to convey this concern to the ICRC and to encourage it to take advantage of Kaunda’s offer of C–130s as soon as possible. (Ibid.)