574. Memorandum From the President’s Special Assistant (Rostow) to President Johnson 1

Mr. President:

I thought you’d want to know that a stormy chapter has quietly closed in the Congo. Yesterday morning, under an OAU deal with the Red Cross, the 120 white mercenaries interned in Rwanda were finally evacuated to Europe. They flew out in two chartered planes—one to Belgium, the other to Switzerland with a stop in Italy.

We don’t know all the details of the evacuation. Our people stayed strictly out of the way while the Africans bargained with the Red Cross. But it’s been plain for weeks that everybody concerned, including Mobutu, was tired of haggling and just wanted to be done with it.

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You may recall that the sticking point was the Congolese demand for some assurance from the parent countries (mainly Belgium, France, and South Africa) that the mercenaries wouldn’t return. Mobutu apparently got some vague promises to this effect and let it go at that.

The job now is to get the Congolese back to serious business in development. No one is betting we’ve seen the last of these mercenary adventures or that Mobutu will have an easy time holding the country together even without outside interference. But at least we’ve bought some more time; for the Congo, that’s worth celebrating.2

  1. Source: Johnson Library, National Security File, Country File, Congo, Vol. XIV, Memos & Miscellaneous, 8/67–10/68. No classification marking. A handwritten notation on the original indicates that the memorandum was received at 6:42 p.m.
  2. A note at the bottom of the original in Johnson’s handwriting reads: “For George C. L.”