117. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • US-Zairian Bilateral Relations


  • US

    • Secretary Cyrus S. Vance
    • Mr. Richard M. Moose, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
    • Mr. Lewis D. Junior, Director, AF/C
  • Zaire

    • Commissioner for Foreign Affairs NGUZA Karl-I-Bond
    • Ambassador KASONGO Mutuale
    • Ambassador NGOY Kapenga Kamakanga, Deputy Director of Cabinet

Nguza opened by thanking the Secretary and other American authorities for their interest and support for him personally during his recent “bad days”.2 The Secretary responded that he was overjoyed to see Commissioner Nguza restored to his present position.

Nguza said that he had already spent three days in Washington, most of it on Capitol Hill, where the subject matter had been only about one-third Zaire and two-thirds Rhodesia. Concerning Zaire, however, he had found a good deal of sympathy, even among those most critical of Zaire and President Mobutu, e.g., Mr. Solarz.

In response to the Secretary’s question as to the situation on the Senate side, Nguza said that he had met with Senators Church, Javits and McGovern, all of whom had taken a positive view. Javits had told Nguza that, although he was a Republican, he would support the administration view on Zaire. Senator McGovern had been very helpful and Senator Church, accompanied by several staff members, had posed many questions and promised to be helpful vis-a-vis the House. The Secretary said that he would personally speak with Congressman Solarz on the issue of aid to Zaire.

The Secretary asked Commissioner Nguza for a report on the Zairian action program for internal and economic reforms.

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Nguza responded that President Mobutu has done a great deal in meeting the requirements of Zaire’s international partners. He ticked off, among other accomplishments, the successful amnesty decree which had resulted in the return of 150,000 Zairians from Angola, the reconciliation with Angola, and progress on the internal problems of Zaire. Mobutu had asked Nguza to explain to all Zairian dissidents located outside Zaire that they should and could return to Zaire to work for the good of the country without fear of the central regime. Referring to the decentralization of power, the President had created the office of Prime Minister and was giving the incumbent, Bo-Boliko, a good deal of authority and discretion in the use of his power. Bo-Boliko has been given sufficient independence to make important decisions, in consultation with his cabinet colleagues. The National Assembly has been freely elected, granting that it was within the context of a one party system. Even so the Zairian people had in many instances their choice of up to ten candidates for each post to represent them in Kinshasa. Another hopeful development was the new process of interpellation of department heads in the legislature.

The Secretary asked to what extent the Shabans are being reintegrated in the political life of the country.

Nguza, in response, pointed out the thousands of returnees to Shaba from Angola. Moreover, Shaba is represented in the Political Bureau by a number of members, including himself. Nguza is a member of the National Security Council. Counting himself, there are a total of three Shabans having ministerial portfolios and there is one regional commissioner (Governor) from Shaba.

In response to the Secretary’s question as to the progress on reorganization of the army, Nguza said that criticism against the army had been at two levels. The first had pertained to the regrettable acts committed by the soldiers, acts which, however, were more understandable when one recognizes that they frequently had not been paid for periods running to three or four months. The solution to this problem had been to create an independent office within the Ministry of Finance which would be responsible for regular pay to the soldiers.

The second and larger problem was the creation of a “new army” with more training and more discipline. The FAZ needs officers and non-commissioned officers who care about their profession and who will not confuse their own private interests with those of the country. It was in this context that the government of Zaire had requested and received assistance from Belgium and France in the training of 3,000 new soldiers each. Additionally, Zaire has asked the Chinese to train up to 3,000 commandos.

The Secretary asked how long it would take to complete the training process. Nguza felt that by the end of September sufficient troops [Page 312] would be trained to complete replacement of the Inter-African Forces. The Belgians would move their training operations to Kamina Base in Shaba and the French would be physically present in Kolwezi and elsewhere in Shaba. The replacement of the IAF would begin about the end of June, continuing through the end of September. At about mid-point, perhaps at the end of August, the French would join the Zairians in joint maneuvers in Shaba for psychological reasons, to reassure the expatriate community that it was safe to remain or return.

The Secretary noted that we had carefully followed the repatriation of Shabans from Angola and were encouraged. This had led to greater stability along the border with Angola and reinforced the congratulations which had been given to President Mobutu on his reconciliation with that country.

Nguza noted that Zaire had been talking to King Hassan about the withdrawal of the Moroccans and other components of the IAF, hopefully with United States assistance.

The Secretary responded that we will help. We are still considering problems of finance and legal constraints but we are working out the necessary ways to resolve these problems.

Mr. Moose noted that we are consulting with the French and Belgians about some kind of joint effort in the replacement process.

Commissioner Nguza referred to the economic situation in Zaire which he characterized as being “terrible and dangerous”. He said that without substantial assistance from Zaire’s friends Zaire will never reach “take off”. The Mobutu Plan had as a fundamental objective the fight against corruption in Zaire. It looked to reinforce the management of the financial institutions in Zaire such as the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance. In public enterprises it looked to the reduction of managerial abuses. A fundamental component of the Mobutu Plan is the presence in Zaire of outside experts such as those provided by the International Monetary Fund.

The Secretary asked what plans were being made to retain the services of the IMF’s Erwin Blumenthal. Nguza responded that Zaire has asked the IMF to keep Blumenthal as long as he might be needed.

The Secretary said it was clear that a key problem for Zaire is regaining the confidence of lenders and donors. To this end it was extremely important to conclude the agreement with the IMF and then to work out the problem of the debt renegotiations.

Nguza said that the government of Zaire was in full agreement. The problem with the IMF had become more difficult, however, since the government of Zaire had found it necessary to increase salaries in the public sector following on the steep prices resulting from three currency devaluations. The skyrocketing prices had created severe social and political problems for the government of Zaire.

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The Secretary responded that he was familiar with the problem having seen it in other countries. He added that he wished to be helpful in getting the (IBRD) Consultative Group mechanism working.

The Secretary said he was following with considerable interest the problem of barter deals in Zaire. Mr. Moose commented that he and the Commissioner had covered the barter deal problem in great detail in the morning meeting. It was possible to sympathize with the occasional, one-time, barter deal to cope with a specific difficult situation. However, it is necessary whenever possible to avoid them since they tend to syphon off foreign exchange which would otherwise be available to meet priority needs in the developmental and social needs of the country.

The Secretary told Commissioner Nguza that the United States government was appreciative of Zairian support for the Egypt/Israel treaty and added that he was worried about the possible outcome of the Islamic conference. It looked as though Egypt might be suspended from the conference.3 He felt that it was totally unfair to punish a country such as Egypt for entering into an agreement which would enable it to get back its own lands and which would for the first time deal with the Palestinian problem.

The meeting ended at 3:30 p.m.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Box 118, Zaire: 1–10/79. Secret. Drafted by Junior on May 17; cleared by Moose; approved by Wisner on June 6. The meeting took place in Vance’s office.
  2. See Documents 90 and 93. In telegram 7367 from Kinshasa, July 15, 1978, the Embassy reported that Nguza had been released from prison on July 14, 1978. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780290–1108)
  3. In telegram 3164 from Rabat, May 9, the Embassy reported that the Islamic Foreign Ministers’ Conference had voted to suspend Egypt’s membership in the Islamic Conference and associated bodies. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D790170–0117)