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

65312. Ref Brussels 2675.2

1. Although GOR appears be retaining some independence of action re merc/Katgen evacuation, it nevertheless is increasingly clear successful operation can only be undertaken with GDRC open acquiescence [Page 810] and secret cooperation. This appears to us minimum required to make possible overflight and transit rights for European aircraft evacuating mercs and for Katgens relocation Zambia. Without these elements, whole operation seems doomed to failure.

2. We recognize extreme delicacy of this problem for you and deeply appreciate efforts you have already made to bring Mobutu around. Believe however you should make further effort, stressing following points as emanating from very high levels in USG and put forth to Mobutu in spirit of friendship and consistent support which has characterized US-Congolese friendship.

a) ANC has won remarkable victory at Bukavu and appears be meeting heartening successes in dealing with latest merc incursion from Angola. This is remarkable development in history of Congo and underlines progress army is making under his leadership in contributing to strong viable nation. Major task is now to liquidate remnants of problem and return to peaceful development as quickly as possible. Towards this end, Mobutu’s strongest position would be to take following line:

(1) Merc forces with rebel support have been routed in Bukavu and Congo is now rid of this cancer. Mobutu regrets GDRC victories have created problem for fellow African state of Rwanda and he wishes only see this problem liquidated as soon as possible.

(2) Elements presently in Rwanda are worthless and GDRC wishes nothing more to do with them. So far as mercs are concerned, it only wishes assure they do not return Congo, as notorious Denard and others have done.

(3) Therefore GDRC would have no objection to GOR permitting repatriation to Europe of these elements on following conditions: (i) ICRC would obtain appropriate assurances that mercs will not return to Africa, (ii) ICRC would transmit such assurances to countries of which they are nationals in order that they may take steps within their power prevent mercs return to Congo.

(4) Re Katgens, Mobutu should take posture that these are poor misguided people against whom he has no grudge but only feels sorrow. If they desire return Congo, they can do so under absolute guarantee of amnesty which he has already signed. Otherwise he has no objection their settlement in Zambia until such time as they may wish return.

(b) In putting foregoing to Mobutu you should stress that in eyes of world he has won remarkable military victory. Moreover, strong public position which US has taken against Portugal (at considerable expense to other aspects of our relationship) has created considerable embarrassment to that country and appears have forced it on defensive. It would be great pity for Mobutu to lose sympathy which Congo presently enjoys and to obscure onus which presently rests on Portugal by taking vindictive line. (You may wish show Mobutu texts recent NY Times and Wash Post editorials.) In this connection Mobutu should be [Page 811] aware that Nogueira presently visiting US (trip arranged some time ago without relation current developments), and that it would be unfortunate if Congo position played into his hands by actions which ignore humanitarian and practical aspects of present situation.

(c) Mobutu should also understand that USG has, at considerable domestic expense, strongly supported GDRC both through C–130s and its military and economic aid programs. We have undertaken extensive consultations with Congress re participation in humanitarian operation to liquidate merc and Katgen problem. Congress and American people will not be able understand hard and vindictive position by Mobutu which might obviate any possibility peaceful resolution of problem without further bloodshed, and this inevitably will affect what we are able to do for him in future.

(d) Although Mobutu may be able risk adverse international reactions on humanitarian grounds which likely to follow mass extradition of merc/Katgen group to Congo, he should be aware that, if he successfully pressures GOR to agree to extradition, he would open Rwanda to same charges. Rwandan copy book already blotted by Tutsi massacres of 1963 and we doubt it would wish be linked with extradition or involuntary repatriation effort. Putting strong pressures on Rwanda could conceivably force GOR cooperation but might also be harmful to future of GDRCGOR relations.

3. In short, you should try convince Mobutu that he has unprecedented opportunity take statesmanlike, humanitarian posture at this moment which would contrast markedly with very tarnished Portuguese image. We strongly hope he can see problem this way, taking appropriate advantage of OAU resolution, his military victories and his strong position in SC toward this end.

4. In light foregoing, we strongly hope he can find way to facilitate ICRC operation at least by acquiescing in it.

5. Suggest you inform Gafner and Bihin of approach you instructed to make.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 9–7 THE CONGO. Secret; Flash; Limdis. Drafted by Palmer; cleared by Stoessel, IO Deputy Assistant Secretary David H. Popper, and L. Dean Brown; and approved by the Under Secretary. Repeated to Kigali, Paris, London, Ottawa, CINCSTRIKE for POLAD, Brussels, Lusaka, Bujumbura, Lubumbashi, Kampala, Lisbon, Luanda, the Mission in Geneva, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 2675 from Brussels, November 6, Knight reported that Harmel gave him the latest information on Mobutu’s position, which was agreement that the Katangans should be evacuated, but insistence that the mercenaries be turned over to him. (Ibid.)