71. Memorandum for the Special Group1


  • Covert Action in the Congo2

1. Problem:

To strengthen the central government of the Congo (GOC) under President Kasavubu to prevent Lumumba/Gizenga forces from regaining control of the country prior to effective implementation of a more vigorous UN operation that will ensure orderly political development along lines acceptable to the U.S.

2. Assumptions:

It is assumed that it is in our interest to ensure that the Lumumba/Gizenga forces, with or without UAR and Sino-Soviet support, do not regain control of the country during the period in which the United Nations is attempting to strengthen its hand in the Congo. It is also assumed that it is our objective to have the Congo emerge as a country unified along acceptable political and economic lines.

3. Facts and Discussion:

At the present time the Lumumba forces, under the leadership of Gizenga, are making every effort to regain control of the Congo by military means from their Stanleyville base. Available intelligence indicates that Gizenga has received support from the UAR consisting of money and weapons, and that further UAR as well as Sino-Soviet Bloc logistic support to the Stanleyville regime will be forthcoming.

The only counter-balance to military action by Gizenga consists of General Mobutu’s military forces in Leopoldville and Tshombe’s army in Katanga. Reporting from Leopoldville and Elizabethville indicates [Page 97] that these forces are currently the target of strong military pressure and subversive efforts directed from Stanleyville. As presently constituted, they are poorly led, in need of weapons, communications equipment, and motor transport, and require, in the case of Mobutu’s forces, sufficient funds to ensure the loyalty of troops.

In Leopoldville our official representatives have been requested by Congolese Foreign Minister Bomboko and General Mobutu to provide funds to maintain their forces.

In Elizabethville, Katanga army representatives have requested aid in the form of weapons and aircraft. In view of the support that Tshombe is apparently receiving from Belgian sources, no action on our part in this regard is considered advisable at this time.

The Belgian Foreign Office has advised that Bomboko has made a specific request to Belgium for military assistance consisting of arms, money and training instructors. Bomboko has also approached the French Foreign Office indicating the seriousness of the situation and requesting French assistance, particularly for arms.

At the present time diplomatic initiatives are being taken primarily through the UN to find a consensus which would allow for a solution to the Congo problem. It is expected that whatever final solution evolves at the UN, the implementation of these actions will at least take several weeks or, more probably, months. It is believed that the widespread publicity which has attended the UN considerations, as well as any number of diplomatic feelers which have been put out, cannot help but have a deteriorating effect on the morale and stability of moderate Congolese political and military leaders. It follows that in the interval between the present and the date of reasonably effective implementation of the UN policy, it is desirable to provide, in a quiet but effective way, reassurance and support to these moderate leaders. This, in effect, would constitute a holding action until it became clear that such support was either unnecessary or conflicting openly with generally accepted and effective UN actions.

This support would also enable our representatives to maintain a degree of influence over the leaders of the Congolese Government to obtain their cooperation in any solution worked out by the UN.

4. Conclusions:

In view of these developments, it is concluded that steps should be taken to improve the capabilities of Congolese Government forces to provide a counter-balance to military action by Lumumba forces directed at regaining control of the Congo. Without maintenance in being of these forces there is an imminent risk that military action from Stanleyville, supported by the UAR and the Sino-Soviet Bloc, will regain [Page 98] control of the Congo for the Lumumba forces prior to implementation of any effective action by the UN.

5. Action Recommended:

It is recommended, that in order to preserve General Mobutu’s military capabilities and to maintain the integrity of the moderate Congolese leadership supporting Kasavubu, authorization be granted to provide financial assistance to the Congolese Government through clandestine channels, initially up to a total of [number not declassified]. It is understood that these funds would be used by the Congolese to obtain transport, arms and communications equipment, to supplement salaries of loyal troops and for action in the political field. Every effort will be made to ensure that the funds are used for this purpose and not diverted to the individual members of the regime.

It is possible that this authorization will have to be increased when the urgent requirements of the Congolese Government are better known, perhaps within the next few weeks.

  1. Source: National Security Council, Intelligence Files, Congo, 1960–1965. Secret. No drafting information appears on this memorandum.
  2. The NSC minutes of the Special Group meeting on February 9 record that Dulles and Bissell “outlined very broadly a proposal to support pro-Western forces in the Congo” but that detailed discussion of the proposal was postponed until the February 14 meeting. Rusk was assured that the proposed channel could be used to induce Kasavubu to cooperate in a broadly-based government, and with the United Nations. (Ibid., Intelligence Files, Special Group—Minutes and Approvals—1961) The minutes of the meeting on February 14 record that Bissell provided more details concerning the project and that the Special Group indicated that it had no objections to the proposal. (Ibid.) On February 11, three days before the formal Special Group authorization on February 14, Bissell sent the Chief of Station a telegram confirming that the Station was authorized to expend the funds recommended in the proposal. See Document 73.