558. Memorandum From Edward Hamilton of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow)1



  • Congo Situation Report (10:30 AM)

1. Our C–130’s have not moved from Ascension. We have told the Red Cross that we are prepared to use them in an international evacuation operation if (a) the plan is workable and (b) there are reasonable security safeguards for the aircraft.

2. The mercenaries and Katangans (about 2,000 with families) are just over the border in Rwanda. They are largely disarmed, but some still wear sidearms.

3. The Congolese are feeling their oats. (After all, this is the first victory in the history of the Congolese army.) Mobutu and this Foreign Minister have told us that they are now against any evacuation and will petition Rwanda to extradite the mercenaries “for trial” in the Congo. They are trying to get the Red Cross to give up and go home.

4. The Red Cross has not given up on the evacuation, nor have the Belgians who are very worried (a) that the mercenaries—who are mostly Belgians—will be massacred and (b) this will bring on racial disaster in the Congo.

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5. Thus, the Belgians have arranged to send a Sabena 727 to Kigali, Rwanda, today. This plane could take most of the mercenaries to Europe in one load if the Rwandans will allow them to proceed from their present location to the City of Kigali and then to leave the country.

6. An airlift for the 1800 Katangans has yet to be arranged. Ours is the only firm offer the Red Cross has. The Canadians and several other countries are thinking over similar offers. Mobutu’s attitude suggests that he may be more receptive to letting the Katangans go than he is about the mercenaries.

7. McBride is having second thoughts about a U.S. role in an evacuation. He recommends we keep our planes at Ascension and wait to see what happens today—whether the Belgian plane actually arrives at Kigali, whether Mobutu softens on letting the mercenaries out, whether other aircraft for the Katangan evacuation actually materializes and whether the Rwandans hold to their willingness to let the evacuation happen rather than driving the group back into the Congo.

8. The consensus here is to go along with McBride, but to be ready to act very quickly if a truly international evacuation effort does jell. Congolese victories, heretofore entirely unknown, are likely to be very fragile.

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XIV, Memos & Miscellaneous, 8/67–10/68. Secret.