149. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Mandungu Bula Nyati, State Commissioner for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Zaire
  • Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger
  • Winston Lord, Director, Policy Planning Staff, Department of State

Minister Bula: They (i.e., the press) say that you will give us arms.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, we will.

Minister Bula: But you have a problem with the Congress.

Secretary Kissinger: So far it’s only with one committee.

Minister Bula: Is he (Lord) your assistant?

Secretary Kissinger: He is a close associate and very discreet, so you can speak freely.

Minister Bula: I read that Mr. Davis did not agree with your policy. Is that true?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. I noticed you did not let him into Zaire.

Minister Bula: From the beginning we tried to avoid misunderstanding. Neither he nor Mr. Hinton bettered our relations.

Secretary Kissinger: Right. You explained that to me at the United Nations.

Minister Bula: I informed Mr. Hinton that we wished to separate ourselves from the Soviet Union, but he didn’t believe us.

Secretary Kissinger: He didn’t believe you and did not report it because he was afraid I might do what I did. I did not understand the situation until the end of June, and then we sent Mr. Vance to your President and we began to understand.

Minister Bula: I told my President in March that Mr. Kissinger was not aware of what was going on. Mr. Hinton would say that the Secretary of State said so and so, but I wondered. I gave the full picture to him and also told Mr. Easum.

Secretary Kissinger: He didn’t want to believe it either.

[Page 380]

Minister Bula: I said that if we were not careful the Soviets would send in squadrons and take over Angola in six months. Mr. Easum was optimistic and even said that we should help the MPLA.

Secretary Kissinger: That was foolish.

Minister Bula: I told the President that Kissinger was not aware of this.

Secretary Kissinger: You were right.

Minister Bula: I saw President Sadat last Monday.

Secretary Kissinger: He said that he would support you.

Minister Bula: He will send a military mission to Zaire and see what can be done. It is important that you back him.

Secretary Kissinger: I had dinner with President Giscard yesterday evening and he said he would send a mission to Kinshasa soon.2 He said he would move.

Minister Bula: When?

Secretary Kissinger: Very soon, in two to three weeks. He will also send helicopters. When I am back in Washington we will go for new decisions to send you arms. Tell your President not to lose courage.

Minister Bula: The other side is using Katusha (?) [Katyusha] rockets.

Secretary Kissinger: I talked to Giscard yesterday. He will send helicopters with cannons and pilots, and the choppers will go after the rockets.

Minister Bula: Did you know that Brazzaville has missiles?

Secretary Kissinger: No.

Minister Bula: We passed the information. They are trying to frighten us. My President wants you to send us some.

Secretary Kissinger: I don’t believe that you get frightened.

Minister Bula: We are not scared. We do need to boost the morale of the troops. Last Friday they blew up a bridge. We believe the Soviets want to strangle us and that is why we want help.

Secretary Kissinger: You will get help in the next two weeks.

Minister Bula: Material help is the key. We need heavy weapons. They believe that the United States will not intervene. When they hear the Congress, they are convinced the U.S. won’t intervene.

Secretary Kissinger: The Congress is unbelievable.

Minister Bula: We don’t understand all the noise.

[Page 381]

Secretary Kissinger: There is no excuse. The major thing is that the Executive Branch is backing you.

Minister Bula: I will tell my President.

Secretary Kissinger: Tell your President that I talked to President Giscard. He is looking for experts. We will finance. He will get people, guns and helicopters.

Minister Bula: How about missiles?

Secretary Kissinger: I will look into that.

Minister Bula: It is urgent. They have Katushas (?) [Katyusha] and are sometimes firing 150 per hour.

Secretary Kissinger: They won’t do that once you get helicopters on the battle field. When the rockets are launched they will go after them with their guns.

Minister Bula: They have some missiles.

Secretary Kissinger: Really?

Minister Bula: Yes. Why don’t you send missiles?

Secretary Kissinger: I’ll see whether we can get the Redeye.

Minister Bula: It is very important. We want to launch a counter offensive. There is already 5,000 people. We need support for the soldiers. Perhaps you could send somebody to Kinshasa to deal with these problems.

Secretary Kissinger: Okay. Can Mr. Medwin(?) do it?

Minister Bula: He can. There is the problem of Congress.

Secretary Kissinger: The Congress will be out of session and will do nothing for four weeks.

Minister Bula: They know about the Americans who work there, even that there are eight.

Secretary Kissinger: Is that true?

Minister Bula: It’s not impossible. It’s better to have your own people rather than to have a leak.

Secretary Kissinger: It’s disgraceful. I have to admit it.

Minister Bula: I can’t understand the collective masochism in the United States.

The Yugoslav Minister told me today that we should not worry, there is a gentleman’s agreement between the USSR and the USA and before that there will be fighting.

Secretary Kissinger: There is no such agreement. It’s not true.

We are thinking of publicly proposing a ceasefire and then stopping of all outside arms. Shall we do this or not?

Minister Bula: Yes, provided you supply arms to Zaire.

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Secretary Kissinger: Then there would be no outside arms being sent to Angola.

Minister Bula: We are inside. At the same time diplomacy should be working.

Secretary Kissinger: If they accept this proposal . . .

Minister Bula: The Soviets won’t leave. The Soviet Ambassador said that we have to continue bilateral relations with them and that the Angola problem is an international problem that we shouldn’t care about. We said, no, Angola is a problem of security for Zaire and that comes first.

Our problem now is armament.

Secretary Kissinger: We’ll do our utmost to speed arms to Zaire the next few weeks.

Minister Bula: You should work with European countries.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, France for example.

Minister Bula: And Italy. You have equipment in Europe. If they come to us with it, no one will see American equipment, and we can prove to Congress that there is no American involvement. I believe European countries are ready to help. Giscard will expect American backing.

Secretary Kissinger: At dinner last night I told him that America would back him.

Minister Bula: There’s Germany too.

Secretary Kissinger: Let me see. We will approach them.

Minister Bula: They have good missiles, Roelants (?) [Roland].

Secretary Kissinger: I will have to check. It is complicated but we will deal with it.

Minister Bula: For the time being it is better to have the Executive deal through European countries. Nobody will protest if France and Italy come to Zaire with American armament. The other side has Russian T–54 tanks. (He then explained some of the other side’s military objectives with regard to Cabinda, a seaport, etc. and what his side was trying to do to organize against this.) We are trying to counter the Soviet Union and we can’t let them do all that they want.

Secretary Kissinger: We will counter them and not let them do what they want. First of all we will send someone out to you with a concrete program. I will discuss this with the President.

Minister Bula: He should give us a program. It is a question of time. On Sunday I saw my President for a discussion, and he asked me to tell you that the military situation is very serious. The Katusha (?) [Katyusha] rockets are very powerful; the Germans were afraid of them during the war. We have the men but cannot fight against it.

[Page 383]

Secretary Kissinger: We’ll get some French planes in there.

Minister Bula: So you will send someone next week?

Secretary Kissinger: Yes. Next week is Christmas, so it will be at the end of next week or over the weekend.

Minister Bula: Tell my Ambassador. We will try to have the Ambassador present his credentials next week.

Secretary Kissinger: Good.

Minister Bula: We thought we should have a new Ambassador in Washington. What do you think?

Secretary Kissinger: It’s up to you. I didn’t know the old one.

Minister Bula: The President is happy with Mr. Cutler.

Secretary Kissinger: We picked the best man. We want you to be happy.

Minister Bula: Have you briefed him on Angola?

Secretary Kissinger: He knows all.

Minister Bula: Can you help us with communications?

Secretary Kissinger: That I am sure we can do.

Minister Bula: We are trying to counteract the Nigerians.

Secretary Kissinger: Why did they recognize the MPLA?

Minister Bula: They told me it was because South Africa is inside Angola and they want to get them out.

Secretary Kissinger: We will get them out when the Russians are out. We don’t want the South Africans in there.

Minister Bula: For the time being we don’t want them to get out. We will be Machiavellian. Let the South Africans use their forces and we will then use this to get the Africans to get the Russians out. That’s my opinion. Talk will not settle anything. The Russians won’t leave. We’ll continue to attack South Africa and we will condemn the Soviet Union too.

Secretary Kissinger: That’s what you did at the last General Assembly.

Minister Bula: And we will do the same thing at the OAU.

Secretary Kissinger: Tell your President that the French President and I have agreed on joint action. We will do our best. We also talked to the Chinese3 and they will be more helpful. I will talk to the German and Italian Ministers.

Minister Bula: It is not good for your people to come.

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Secretary Kissinger: Yes. I agree.

Minister Bula: Let the Germans, Italians and French come.

Secretary Kissinger: I agree.

Minister Bula: Then no one will complain about the armaments.

Secretary Kissinger: The Congress is playing politics. We will fight them.

Minister Bula: I will tell my President.

Secretary Kissinger: Give my best regards to him.

Minister Bula: Next week your man will come.

Secretary Kissinger: He will be there the end of next week. The French Government will probably contact you Friday or Saturday.4

Minister Bula: The French will be helpful.

Secretary Kissinger: They are great admirers of you.

Minister Bula: I saw them, and they said wait until they see whether President Ford will help Zaire.

Secretary Kissinger: Yes, on Friday or Saturday the French will come to you.

(The Minister then briefly talked about the situation in Brazzaville. It was agreed that Zaire would keep Ambassador Cutler informed about developments.)

Minister Bula: Let the South Africans know that we will be attacking them as well as the Russians. We will be comparing the Soviets to Hitler in 1939.

Secretary Kissinger: You are a devil.

Minister Bula: History has no place for losers. You once told me that.

Secretary Kissinger: I didn’t think you remembered.

Minister Bula: Yes. Let the South Africans know that this is just our way of showing up the Russians.

Secretary Kissinger: Keep up your courage. We will send somebody. You look tough.

Minister Bula: We will continue to attack the Soviet Union in speeches. Today I was talking about imperialism in the West and in the East. The Yugoslavs are afraid of our propaganda against the Soviet Union. I say that we have to do this. We are convinced the Soviet Union is trying to destroy us.

Secretary Kissinger: And that’s why we are helping. We are only sorry that it took so long.

Minister Bula: Please keep trying.

  1. Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 344, Department of State, Memoranda, Memoranda of Conversations, External, September–December 1975. Secret; Nodis. The meeting was held at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence. Kissinger was in Paris to attend the Conference on International Economic Cooperation.
  2. No memorandum of conversation of the dinner meeting between Kissinger and Giscard d’Estaing has been found.
  3. Both Kissinger and Ford discussed Angola with Chinese officials during the summit in Beijing December 1–5. See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume XVIII, China, 1973–1976, Documents 134136.
  4. December 19 or 20.