99. Memorandum of Conversation1
- US-Zaire Relations
- Umba-di-Lutete, Commissioner of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
- Matungulu N’Kuman, Counselor, Office of the President
- Basele Ikondi ya Bankoko Lopori, Counselor, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Mbeka Makosso, Ambassador of The Republic of Zaire
- The Secretary
- Mr. Edward Mulcahy, Acting Assistant Secretary, AF
- Mr. Walter Cutler, Director, AF/C (notetaker)
- Ms. Helen Kaps (interpreter)
The Secretary: It is a great pleasure to have you here. How is your President? I am sorry for having had to postpone our meeting. As you know, we have had some domestic problems to sort out and these have taken much of my time. I understand you had a problem at the airport the other day. I want to apologize for any over-eagernesses on the part of our police. There is nothing to do about it now, but I am very sorry. We will do our best to see that such discourtesy does not happen again.
Umba: Thank you for receiving me. I understand the unusual situation in your country and I appreciate your finding the time to meet with me. The incident you mentioned is now past. The relations between our two countries are so friendly and important that any such incident cannot possibly harm them.
The Secretary (smiling): I am sure that nothing like that would happen to me when I visit your country.
Umba: Oh, no. We would never let anything like that occur.
Umba: I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment. I would also like to express appreciation for the remarks you made on Saturday to the African Ambassadors.2 I was pleased by your assurance that United States policies would be continued under your new President.[Page 230]
I wish to raise two matters. The first concerns our bilateral relations. We have noted that you met with the Belgians during a recent trip to Europe. President Mobutu is very concerned by Belgium’s efforts to discredit Zaire in the eyes of foreign investors. The Belgians have carried on this campaign with a number of other countries, including Germany, Japan and France. They have tried to create the impression that my government is moving against all foreign investments in Zaire. But their campaign has failed. Zaire has not touched any Belgian assets or properties that were built with their own country [capital]. And we will never seize any capital or properties in Zaire which belong to foreigners. We appreciate the importance of foreign investments in Zaire: as much as $1.5 billion, most of which is from the United States. Reynolds alone has almost $600 million invested in our country. President Mobutu appreciates the confidence that the United States has continued to place in Zaire. Despite Belgium’s campaign, the relations between our two countries remain very good.
The Secretary: Our relations with Zaire are of very great importance to the United States. We regard Zaire as one of the key countries in the world and a king-pin in our policies toward Africa.
Umba: I now wish to move to the second question: the Portuguese territories in Africa and Angola in particular. If we speak mostly about Angola it is because it is so important to us. Zaire shares a common frontier with Angola which is 2,000 kms. long.
The Secretary: I did not realize the border was so long.
Umba: Moreover, there are now about two million Angolan refugees in Zaire.
The Secretary (to Mr. Mulcahy): Two million? What is the population of Angola?
Mr. Mulcahy: About six million.
Umba: I would like to speak frankly about independence in Angola. The socialist countries—especially the Soviet Union—have shown a great interest in Angola. They have put forth much propaganda in support of Agostinho Neto, who until now has been the leader of the MPLA, calling him the only true leader of Angolan liberation. Zaire, on the other hand, has supported Holden Roberto, leader of the FNLA. He is a genuine non-communist patriot. Neto is a propagandist, a man of talk and no action.
The Secretary: What can the United States do?
Umba: We are concerned about the activities of the socialist states, which are exerting pressure on the Portuguese to deal with Neto. Perhaps the United States could assist us in our efforts to counter this pressure.[Page 231]
The Secretary: But if you are supporting Holden, nobody is going to push Zaire around for doing so.
Umba: That’s right. Holden is strong. Among the liberation leaders only he is fighting rather than merely making propaganda. Neto is in the process of being removed from MPLA leadership and now, at last, other African countries are swinging their support behind Holden. Zaire is not under any pressure to support Holden. If we do, it is because he is serious—not an ideologist—and is fighting instead of simply engaging in propaganda.
The Secretary: If you support one Angolan leader, and the communists support another, I have confidence you will succeed.
Umba: As I said, others are beginning to understand the true situation—that Holden is the most genuine of the liberation leaders. He has recently been invited to visit Nigeria, Morocco and Libya.
The Secretary: What should the United States do?
Umba: We believe you should support Holden Roberto. Since the socialists are behind Neto, and since it is said that Holden is favorably inclined toward United States interests, we think he deserves US support.
The Secretary: How? From the practical standpoint, how would we support Holden?
Umba: The communists are rushing to have their ambassadors accredited in Lisbon and to urge support of Neto. The US could assist by helping to create pressures in favor of Holden.
The Secretary: My colleagues believe that foreign policy should be conducted in reasonable ways. But I agree with you, sometimes if you want to get something done you have to exert pressure. As for your request that we support Holden Roberto, frankly I have not been able to study the problem. We think well of Holden, but I have not studied this matter enough to know how something might be done. I understand your position: Zaire has an interest in the future of Angola and you wish us to help by supporting Holden.
Umba: One way this might be done is by raising the level of your contacts with Holden.
The Secretary: Where?
Umba: That would of course be for you to decide. Here in the United States or perhaps in another country. You would be in the best position to decide.
The Secretary: I do not exclude this possibility. We will consider it. It might be a good idea as the situation in Angola continues to evolve. When we do so, we would let you know when we are doing it.
Umba: I have another suggestion I would like to make. We have helped Holden a great deal. Even though we have military strength, in[Page 232]cluding Mirages, our means for assisting Holden are more limited than those of the socialist states who have been backing Neto. We think there should be some way by which the US might help Holden to strengthen his position as interlocutor with the Portuguese. He is of course already the best qualified interlocutor.
The Secretary: We will have to look into this. Please assure President Mobutu that any suggestions he has will be studied sympathetically. Do you regard Holden as the only viable, pro-Western candidate for leadership in Angola? Are there any others?
Umba: No, not at present. Perhaps there are others who are not in evidence now; but Holden is the only one we have so far been able to identify. The MPLA is, fortunately, on its back. Holden and we share the same political views.
The Secretary: We have to look into this very carefully, now that the Portuguese government has pronounced itself in favor of the principle of independence for its African territories. We will study the matter carefully. We always take President Mobutu’s views into serious account. If he is concerned about Angola, then his concern deserves our attention. When we have made a decision, we will let you know. I am very sympathetic with the basic principles you have expressed. We would appreciate your letting us know what you think we can do. We will have a new Ambassador—Deane Hinton—in Kinshasa when you return. I know him well; you can have confidence in him.
Umba: We will make sure that he is able to present his credentials quickly.
Umba: I would like to make one more point: events can move quickly, and the situation in Angola could very well move quite fast. It is important that events not pass us by.
The Secretary: You were wise to have come here. You have succeeded in attracting my attention to Angola, much to the dismay of my colleagues, I am sure. I will do something about it.
Umba: We hope that the United States may help the process of negotiations on the Portuguese territories, and on Angola in particular, by intervening with the Portuguese at the right moments.
The Secretary: We will do that at the appropriate times. We will talk to the Portuguese.
Umba: May I ask a personal question: how do you manage to master so many problems at once?
The Secretary: I haven’t mastered this one yet. That is why I value your judgment. I have great respect for your President and for his views on African problems. Please convey my warmest regards to him. The interests of our two countries have many parallels in Angola. We understand your desire to have a friendly government on your border.[Page 233]
Umba: There have been reports that Zaire wants to establish itself in Angola and Cabinda. These reports are jokes; they are false. We are committed to the principle of a free Angola. We have plenty of natural resources in our own country. We have no reason to harbor territorial designs on Angola.
The Secretary: I interpret your views to mean that, being a neighbor of Angola, you want to see a government that is at least not hostile to you established in Angola; that economic factors do not concern you; that it is rather the human elements that count.
Umba: Before leaving, I would like to express appreciation for the support you and the Department of State have given to our Ambassador here in Washington. I am most gratified for your receiving me.
The Secretary: May I assure you that President Mobutu is always welcome in the United States, and that President Ford attaches very great importance to the relations between our two countries.
- Source: Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box CL 257, Geopolitical File, Zaire, August 1974–June 1975. Secret; Exdis. The meeting took place at the Department of State. Drafted by Cutler on August 13.↩
- See Foreign Relations, 1969–1976, volume E–6, Documents on Africa, 1973–1976, Document 18.↩