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

10953. Subject: Mobutu and the gold bed syndrome.

1. It seemed prudent at this time to warn the Department of the galloping onset of the gold bed syndrome in conduct of President Mobutu. During my absence on leave, this phenomenon which is never far from the surface in Congolese public figures, came on apace.

2. In first instance it has manifested itself in a development of grandeur which, while not wholly unamusing and vaguely and perhaps deliberately reminiscent of a figure on the banks of a more northern river called the Seine, is hardly appropriate to the harsh realities of even a relatively peaceful Congo.

3. The most spectacular instance of folly so far reported was mentioned to me with fascinated horror by IMF representative Dini who was told by Mobutu that latter had been so impressed by Rome that he was planning to build a replica of St. Peters in Kinshasa. While Dini was still reeling, he added it would be better to build three replicas so Kisangani and Lubumbashi could also have one each.

4. Douglas Aircraft representatives inform us categorically that Mobutu has purchased a BAC–111 aircraft for private Presidential use which British Ambassador states will cost two million pounds fitted with bar, salon etc. not to mention details like spare parts. Neighbors of President on Mount Stanley report conversations with Belgian gardeners concerning five-million dollar Versailles-like parks. Der Spiegel and other European magazines have heavily publicized President’s purchase of a luxury villa near Lausanne for one million Swiss francs.

5. Dewilde of IBRD who is now here is appalled at Presidential expenditures. Unfortunately Mobutu seems to have lost touch with reality and economics, never a strong suit of the President’s, seems to have flown out the window.

6. I believe there is nothing which can be done to restrain these frivolous Presidential expenditures because Mobutu has apparently risen in souffle-like grandiloquence. I feel that to call his attention to the dangers of this type of thing although his budget expenses have already risen more than fifty percent over what was foreseen, would be to incur instant wrath.

[Page 836]

7. However, I felt a brief report should be made on his regrettable phenomenon because I believe it is the most serious problem facing Congo at present time and the fault is that of the President and the uncontrollable spending is emanating directly from him. Furthermore, it occurred to me this might have an effect on US policies towards the present regime in the Congo.2

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 30 THE CONGO. Confidential; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 224002 to Kinshasa, August 20, expressed the Department’s serious concern regarding the situation described by McBride, which was potentially damaging to U.S. programs in the Congo; it asked for suggestions as to how the consequences of such extravagances, such as the danger of losing IMF and IBRD support, could be impressed on Mobutu. (Ibid.)