- Mobutu’s Opening to the Left and Portugal
- Lisbon 413 and Luanda 081
1. Based on information available to us to date, we do not see any basic change in Mobutu’s policy toward the United States. Proof that he continues to want increased U.S. involvement in Zaire was recently again demonstrated when he awarded the Inga II dam and the Inga-Shaba transmission line contracts largely to American firms. In contacts with US and other Western countries, Mobutu has given no indication that he intends to alter the main lines of the foreign policy he has followed tn recent years.
2. As we have reported earlier, Mobutu’s initiatives vis-a-vis Guinea and the PRC are designed in part to enhance his image as a leader of Africa and a major voice among the non-aligned states. Moreover, in taking these initiatives Mobutu has also kept a pragmatic eye on Zaire’s needs for economic development (e.g. the prospect in his eyes of joining Guinea’s bauxite with Zaire’s cheap electric power; PRC’S $100 million interest free loan to develop [Page 1] agriculture and medicine).
3. As ambassador knight points out, the fusion of GRAE and the MPLA together with Mobutu’s somewhat more strident rhetoric on the necessity for hastening the end of colonialism, may eventually impell him in the direction of greater and more effective assistance to Angolan insurgents. Having brought about the unification of the two main liberation movements as desired by the OAU, presumably the OAU will now look to increased rebel success on the ground. The February 7 meeting between Holden Roberto and the PRC Ambassador (Kinshasa 1047) is disquieting.
4. On the other hand, there are powerful factors militating against a greatly increased military effectiveness on the part of the Angolans. Mobutu is reliably reported to have given as one reason for this role in the fusion of the GRAE and the MPLA his desire to be able to keep a close control over the activities of both groups and not just GRAE as previously. Mobutu engineered the appointment of Holden Roberto as President of the new Angolan front, an individual not noted for his vigor or radical views. Moreover, with Zaire’s history of insurgencies since independence and the presence of large numbers of Angolans in Zaire, Mobutu is not likely to favor the creation on Zairian soil of an effective foreign military force, even one whose political objectives he may support.
5. Moreover, it is true that Zaire remains dependent on the Benguela railway, not only for the export of copper (for which alternate routes are available) but for the importation of essential large, heavy mining equipment. Another factor in favor of moderation is the prospect of Portuguese retaliation against Zaire. If provoked, Portugal could probably engage in many differenct acts of retaliation which would increase Zaire’s military expenses at a time of already severe budgetary deficits and could even damage some of the planned development projects such as the Inga-Shaba transmission line.
6. Comment: In short, it is too early to tell whether Mobutu will be able to continue indefinitely his past policy of having his cake and eating it too as it concerns striking [Page 1] an anti-colonial stance while maintaining tolerable de facto relations with Portugal. We will continue to monitor the developments closely. End comment.
7. In reply to nervous queries by the Portuguese, suggest U.S. officials say that, based on discussions with Mobutu and his advisors since his return from PRC, we can detect no rpt no changes in his basic foreign policies. However, arrival of PRC diplomats has created new situation and, although we inclined to doubt Mobutu will countenance PRC military role vis-a-vis Angolans, we will continue to watch situation closely.
8. For Lisbon: Please repeat reftel to Department.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL PORT-ZAIRE. Secret. Repeated to Lisbon, Luanda, Brussels, London, and Paris.↩
- Ambassador Vance reported that despite Zairez’s initiatives with communist governments in Guinea and the Peoples Republic of China, it had not changed its basic policy toward the United States.↩