578. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (Palmer) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Bohlen)1


  • Recommendation for Covert Financial Assistance to President Mobutu, [less than 1 line not declassified]

1. President Mobutu has on several occasions since mid-August requested USG financial assistance for his current efforts to encourage moderate military leaders in Congo (Brazzaville) to neutralize radical leftist influences in that country as well as eliminate the Chinese Communist presence. Mobutu has become increasingly insistent in these requests and expresses emphatic disappointment that no USG financial assistance has been forthcoming. Finance Minister Nendaka and Foreign Minister Bomboko have warned that failure to extend substantial financial assistance to Mobutu might seriously impair USG relations with the Congolese Government.

[Page 837]

2. Ambassador McBride recommended on September 52 that [dollar amount not declassified] be made available to Mobutu for the purpose of preserving and enhancing the USG’s future relations with Mobutu and providing the USG with the opportunity to exploit the rapidly developing situation in Brazzaville in its own interest.

3. It should be noted that Kinshasa [less than 1 line not declassified] reports indicates Mobutu has expended in the last three weeks approximately $200,000 of his own funds in his efforts to assist moderate leaders in Brazzaville. Reports from Mobutu and Nendaka, as well as unilateral [less than 1 line not declassified] contacts, provided the USG with accurate advance information on political developments in Brazzaville, including the armed conflict of 30–31 August, and on Mobutu’s activities vis-à-vis the situation.

4. The Bureau of African Affairs and the Central Intelligence Agency jointly concur in Ambassador McBride’s recommendation that [dollar amount not declassified] be made available to President Mobutu for the reasons discussed below. [2½ lines not declassified]

5. There are basically two issues involved in this request. One is the desirability of lessening Chinese and/or Cuban influence in Congo (B), the other the possible impact on US–Congo (K) relations of a failure to be responsive to Mobutu.

a. Of itself, the lessening of Chicom influence in this volatile part of Africa is a desirable goal through the elimination or curtailment of communist influence in Congo (B) and of communist opportunities to use Congo (B) as an operations base for activities elsewhere. This is a matter of deep concern to Congo (K), whose internal security has frequently been menaced by threats orchestrated from abroad using nearby bases. For this reason, it is also of concern to the USG in pursuance of its policy to aid Congo (K) in combatting these threats.

b. The second problem, namely Mobutu, is complex. He is the ultimate source of power in Congo (K) and ready access to him is vital if we hope to continue our long-standing policy of assisting the Congo to unity, stability and economic progress, with the eventual goal of seeing a stable, western-oriented government in the heart of Africa, capable of exercising important influence not only in the general area of Central Africa, but in the Africa-wide councils as well. Mobutu has asked for our support, rightly or wrongly on the assumption that the interests of the USG in Congo (B) approximate his own. He is an emotional man, and a proud man. Recently he has shown a proclivity towards adventure outside of Congo (K) borders, not all of which are necessarily well-conceived. If he feels he has been let down on this issue of Congo [Page 838] (B), he is quite capable of translating his annoyance into a broad spectrum of issues not related to the immediate problem of Congo (B).

6. We do not wish to risk the impairment of access to him which if it occurred would very probably be carried over into contacts throughout the Congolese Government [less than 1 line not declassified], access to the Foreign Minister and access to a number of government contacts on the economic side whom we consider important for the orderly conduct of our day-to-day relationships and the ultimate achievement of our goals. Impairment of access would also risk a serious adverse impact on our ability to exercise leverage on Mobutu. This applies immediately to his role vis-à-vis Congo (B). It may also apply, however, to other matters of importance to us, both in the foreign and domestic areas. The potential depth of such a development is difficult to judge. It might only be transitory. We would prefer it not occur at all, especially when the immediate issue of Congo (B) is one to which we are favorably disposed. It is clear from Amb. McBride’s cables that this aspect and the potential danger of a developing strain in US–Congo relations and in his own relations with Mobutu, weigh heavily on his mind.

f [7]. Recommendation

a. That you concur in the attached cable to Ambassador McBride;3

b. That you authorize INR/DDC on your behalf to obtain the concurrence of the other 303 principals.4

  1. Source: National Security Council, Intelligence Files, Congo, 1966–1968. Secret; Eyes Only. Sent through INR/DDC Trueheart.
  2. Not further identified.
  3. Not attached and not found.
  4. A handwritten notation on the memorandum states that the recommendation was approved by the 303 Committee telephonically on September 6.