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

99130. 1. Secretary met with Foreign Minister Bomboko January 15 and hosted small lunch during which conversations were continued. Bomboko received later in afternoon by Vice President at Capitol. Also met with Palmer and Straus of AID. Bomboko returning NY this evening and proceeding directly to Kinshasa as scheduled arriving January 17.

2. Following is uncleared summary of conversation with Secretary subject to review. Bomboko discussed at some length same problems Mobutu had raised with Vice President in fields of security and economic development. He followed closely lines of memorandum. He stressed need for four C–130s and squadron of fighter planes. Re development he mentioned GDRC desire to have American technicians help Congolese develop projects for increasing production of major crops and importance of direct US–Congo commercial relations to eliminate need for Belgian middlemen.

3. Concerning mercenaries, Bomboko told Secretary problem no longer in Congolese hands and as far as GDRC concerned issue virtually closed matter which would presumably be shortly resolved. (In earlier conversation with Palmer, Bomboko had said that problem is now in hands of OAU and no longer of direct concern to Congo. Fact problem is now an OAU one means Congolese cannot deal directly with Rwandans and GDRC precluded from using force to bring back mercenaries. Bomboko said Congolese had earlier indicated to Rwandans their willingness to see all of mercenaries except for handful of ring-leaders repatriated but GDRC prevented from reaching any agreement with Rwanda owing to Rwandan Government’s refusal to discuss matter.2 Congo interest in matter now terminated and country turning its attention to problems of economic development.)

4. Secretary indicated our understanding of issues presented and our desire to be helpful. He pointed out however many problems connected with acquisition of sophisticated aircraft, and need for having [Page 829] military experts give careful study to best ways of coping with Congo’s security needs.

5. During discussion with Vice President, Bomboko raised security and economic development matters but did not touch on mercenaries. Discussion was extremely friendly and Vice President indicated US interest in assisting Congo with problems presented by Bomboko but made no commitments other than to emphasize our willingness to look into matters and to seek ways of meeting very real needs of Congo in these fields.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 7 THE CONGO. Confidential; Priority. Drafted by McKesson and approved by Palmer. Repeated to Brussels, Kigali, CINCSTRIKE for POLAD Tampa, Niamey, Addis Ababa, and Paris.
  2. On January 9, Mobutu issued an angry denunciation of Kayibanda, labeling him a traitor to Africa for refusing to extradite the mercenaries. Kayibanda responded that Rwanda was sticking to the terms of the September OAU resolution. On January 11, the Congo broke diplomatic relations with Rwanda and closed its border. Rwanda followed suit, saying it had no choice but to respond to Congolese provocation.