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

6752. VIPTO 71. Subject: Vice President’s trip to Africa, Congo (K). Conversation with President Mobutu, January 4.

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1. Accompanied by Ambassador McBride, Van Dyk, Hadsel and McGuire, Vice President met with President Mobutu, FonMin Bomboko, Ambassador Adoula and Vice Minister Lutete for almost two and one half hours of discussion emphasizing primarily internal security and economic problems. Question of evacuation of mercenaries was not discussed.

2. After receiving warm welcome from President Mobutu, VP presented letter from President Johnson, referred to recent advance of the Congo in solving its problems, and assured Mobutu that US shared with Congolese the devotion to self-determination opposition to apartheid and dedication to independence and integrity of Congo nation. Commenting on presence of both Ambassadors McBride and Adoula, he thought that both governments were well served by men of exceptional competence. VP recalled his own days in Senate when he had resolutely supported Congo unity during early years of this nation’s life.

3. President Mobutu replied by emphasizing not only the good relations between US and Congo but the genuine American understanding of Congolese problems. He extremely grateful for the help of first, President Kennedy and now President Johnson. He wished in time available for conversations to emphasize particularly two general problems, internal security and economic development.

4. Re internal security, Mobutu noted that each time Congo faced major crisis US had been of decisive assistance, latest example being provision of the three C–130 planes to deal with mercenary rebellion. Now that situation is calm, it extremely important that Congo develop its own internal security, rather than wait for next crisis. He not concerned about direct attack, but there are Cubans, Chinese and Russians just across the river and there is serious danger of subversion. Frankly Congo still young government and not prepared to prevent this kind of disruption.

5. Mobutu continued that there were two essential problems. First, he needed C–130’s to provide mobility for approximately 300 men in order that he could rapidly stop rebellious activities, such as recent mercenary efforts. Problems had been studied by US and details were available to General Conway of CINCSTRIKE. VP replied that he thought Mobuto entirely correct in his analysis that period of calm should be used to develop resistance against subversion. It true, of course, that new Foreign Assistance Act had certain restrictions on sophisticated weapons and that cut by Congress of almost one billion dollars entire Act curtailed US funds available for such assistance. He extremely sympathetic to concept of mobile alert force. While he could not foresee exactly all aspects of problem, he promised to present case to President and Dept. of Defense.

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6. Secondly, Mobutu referred to ability neighboring countries to overfly Congo with impunity. He had ten or twelve pilots with Soviet training, but badly needed 6 to 8 pursuit planes, probably located at Kamina. With respect to type of equipment VP asked, in light of aid legislation, if propeller planes were appropriate. Bomboko nodded in affirmative but Mobutu replied he preferred jet aircraft. Mobutu hoped for long term purchase arrangements.

7. In elaboration on problem of internal security Mobutu observed that it was contrary to his fundamental beliefs to play the East and West against each other. He believed he should continue to work with friendly Western countries. However, in recent months USSR had been all smiles. Bulgaria and Romania were offering help. At this point VP interjected his personal view was that the Communists became “respectable” when other methods did not work. Perhaps Yugoslavia and possibly Romania were all right, but others probably intended subversive effort. They claim to come to raise vegetables but really raise trouble. He thought European countries, Israel, Canada, etc. were more likely to give genuine assistance. Perhaps in three to five years Congo would be more able to deal with Communist countries with impunity.

8. During comments on security and in course of moving to economic development, it recognized by both VP and Mobutu that internal security and economic development were inter-related. The Vice President moreover, stressed the identity of purpose of the two governments in pursuing these objectives.

9. Mobutu expounded his deep desire to achieve genuine economic independence. This involved economic emancipation from Belgium. For example when he sought spare parts for the Harley-Davidson motorcycles used in the motorcade, he had to go through Brussels and could not deal directly with American company. When he bought American autos for the OAU conference, he had to buy through Belgium and obtain cars on Belgian ships, even though Belgium did not manufacture them. VP replied that this system made no sense. He fully agreed that Congo should have direct access to American firms and that it most desirable there should be a training program so Congolese could become representatives of these firms as soon as possible. He promised to follow up on the study recently done under the applause of the U.S. Department of Commerce to see what could be done, including opening of direct U.S. sales offices in Congo and training Congolese in U.S. to operate own distributionships for U.S. goods.

10. Mobutu added that this year he had declared 1968 the year of agriculture. He did not wish take the time of the VP to go into full details but he would work with the Ambassador on this problem. The Vice President congratulated him on this emphasis. He thought the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture might be able to help Congolese on some of [Page 826] their problems by sending experts. VP promised that USDA would make contact.

11. The Vice President received with pleasure the news that the agreement with Pan American to build a hotel had just been signed. It was very much in line with his desire to encourage American capital to invest in the Congo. This diversification of assistance was especially important in times when official funds were restricted.

12. Vice President noted that Peace Corps volunteers for Congo had been under discussion on various occasions. As Chairman of the Peace Corps Advisory Council, he personally thought a US assistance of this nature would be a good idea. If Congolese Government desired, he would be pleased to pursue possibility in Washington.

13. The conversation concluded with renewed expression by Mobutu at the pleasure of receiving the Vice President. The Vice President invited General Mobutu to accompany him to see the Lemba housing project.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 US–HUMPHREY. Confidential; Priority.