81. Memorandum From Secretary of State Vance to President Carter 1


  • U.S. Assistance to Zaire

I have examined the various options available to us in connection with the continuing invasion of Zaire, and their respective implications. Our options range from maximum support to total non-involvement and encouragement of internal reform.

We face a situation where the military prognosis is very poor, and tends to undermine our diplomatic and political actions. The Zairian forces have shown little will to fight, and are only now beginning to get organized in the defense of Zaire’s main copper center. There is no certainty that foreign mercenaries or military cadres can stiffen the Zairians sufficiently to develop some military equilibrium, supportive of diplomatic efforts. Or, that the other side may not try to trump foreign combat aid to Zaire by escalating in its turn.

The military situation is, also, further weakening political support for President Mobutu. But Mobutu is a fighter not inclined to make concessions to his opposition under pressure. And no one can identify an obvious alternative leader capable of preventing a return to the regionalism and factionalism which threatened to disintegrate Zaire after independence. We see little alternative, therefore, to continued support of the legitimate government. Now is not the moment to [Page 245] address the longer-term question of reform in Zaire, or to try dealing with Mobutu’s opposition.

Our influence in this situation is unfortunately limited, and yet our prestige as well as our interests are involved. Given the unfavorable outlook, we should avoid making Zaire appear a test of American interest or will, indeed a major East-West confrontation. At the same time, our failure to support Zaire against an attack widely perceived in Africa as having been engineered by Angola and its communist supporters would also have wider repercussions on our future influence on that continent.2


We will need, of course, to consult first with key members of Congress, explain the rationale and scope of our policy, and hopefully obtain their concurrence, if not enthusiastic support. Because of Congressional concerns, we should consult regularly with Congress, at least once a month, making very clear to key Congressional leaders exactly what we have sent Zaire, what we propose to do further and why. I recommend a supportive but limited policy involving the following courses of action:

Military. We will, in consultation with Congress, make further shipments of non-lethal equipment, including POL. Funds available from the Transitional Quarter and FY 1977 are estimated at $30 million. We would provide the pending Zairian request for non-lethal equipment, valued at $13 million (Tab 1); of that $13 million, over $9 million is for a C–130 on order for delivery in May.3 We would plan to expend the balance of the $30 million, if necessary, with great care.

Mercenaries. We will neither encourage nor discourage our allies from providing mercenaries requested by President Mobutu. However, if pressed, we will have to express our general disapproval of mercenaries, the use of which can be expected to be widely criticized.

Foreign Troops. Reports of whether—and how many—foreign troops, especially Moroccans and Egyptians, might go to Zaire are confusing and will probably not be clarified before tomorrow, April 8, at the earliest. We will be addressing messages to the Moroccans and Egyptians telling them in general what we propose to do, asking what they plan to provide. While the appearance of foreign African officers in Zaire is more acceptable publicly than mercenaries, this course is also not without its complications—particularly if the other side should escalate its involvement. We may also expect requests for [Page 246] assistance in funding or facilitating military aid from moderate African states which we will have to turn down.4

Economic. We can be quickly supportive by authorizing the expenditure of the FY 1977 $16.6 million Security Supporting Assistance commodity import program and the $14.9 million PL–480 program. Both programs could probably be ready for signature within a week but it would take several months for any commodities to reach Zaire, unless items destined for delivery elsewhere were diverted there. If necessary, we will seek to make such diversions and as expeditiously as possible.5

We also plan to encourage the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, international banking community (via Citibank) and other governments to be understanding of Zaire’s present financial difficulties. Specifically, we would propose postponement of the Paris Club debt rescheduling6 and IBRD Consultative Group meetings (scheduled to take place before June) until we have a better appreciation of the economic consequences of the present war. We should try as much as possible to keep these economic actions out of a political context.

Diplomatic. We will support the Nigerian mediation effort as long as possible, publicly and privately. We will also urge states enjoying good relations with Zaire to use their influence to contribute to the success of the Nigerian initiative and the preservation of Zaire’s territorial integrity. If this effort fails, and the conflict continues, we will examine the possibility of getting Nigeria alone or with several other states to ask OAU President Ramgoolam of Mauritius to convene an extraordinary session of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Or we might favor convening the OAU Mediation Commission, chaired by Zambia. Meanwhile, we should stay in close touch with Nigeria and Tanzania—key states in any effort to pressure Angola—but avoid putting the US label on African mediation efforts.7

A complementary strategy we might consider after the OAU met would urge key Africans to request a Security Council meeting to ask for a suspension of hostilities and support of Zaire’s territorial integrity and request the OAU urgently to send an observer team to the area.8

Political Bilateral. Mobutu’s suspicion that we might plan to abandon him has clouded our relations. Our instructions to Ambassador [Page 247] Cutler conveying the essentials of our support should dispel this problem. At the same time, we will encourage Mobutu to withhold any suggestion of support for the Angolan insurgents and to send his best troops to the front to repel the Katangans.9

We will also inform our allies of what we propose to do for Zaire, thereby encouraging them to continue their own efforts.

Declarative Posture

Our policy to support Mobutu will not be popular. In general, we should eschew “cold war” language and avoid making our limited support appear a test of will with Moscow or Cuba. We would propose to emphasize the following points:

—The United States is responding to the request of a friendly nation for continuation of our aid at a time when its border has been crossed by a hostile military force. We believe that such a response is in keeping with our principles and our interests.10

—Our response is carefully limited and appropriate to the situation.

—The shipments of non-lethal military supplies we are sending to Zaire are under terms of an agreement we have with that country to provide it with credits for the sale of military items. These funds have been approved by the Congress. We have no plans to allow lethal items.

—We continue to uphold the principles of territorial integrity and non-interference, both for Africa as a whole and in the specific case of Zaire.

—Many African leaders are concerned by the implications of this attack for their own future security and territorial integrity.

—Whatever their objectives, the Katangan insurgents risk re-igniting the civil war which devastated the old Congo.

—We believe that the current problem in Zaire is one which should be solved by Africans and we fully support diplomatic efforts to this end.

—We will continue to keep the Congress fully informed of our actions.

[Page 248]

Tab 1

Paper Prepared in the Department of State 11

Materiel On Order Under FMS Credits

The following non-lethal military support items are presently on order for delivery under Foreign Military Sales credits. The cost column should generally be treated as including estimates rather than firm figures. The items have been purchased either directly or commercially with FMS credits in some cases dating back to FY 1975. It is estimated that Zaire has used up about $8 million of its $10 million in Transitional Quarter credits, (including, to avoid default, FMS materiel delivered on credit for which Zaire has not paid). The following items will therefore be funded out of the remaining $30 million in TQ and, if necessary, FY 1977 FMS monies.

A. TQ and FY 1977 FMS Funds

[Page 249]
Item Credit (Estimate) Authorization Year
1. 30 Auxiliary power units for AN/PRC–77 radios 12,000 FY 7T
2. 150 AN/PRC–77 radios12 1,059,000 FY 7T
3. 30 Racal 931 radio systems 320,000 FY 7T
4. 15 100 Amp Ignition Kits (jeep) 13,000 FY 7T
5. C–130 spare parts 500,000 FY 7T
6. Petrol 1,000,000 FY 7T
7. Communication spares 33,000 FY 7T
8. Signal Panels (70 sets) 1,000 FY 7T
9. Spares for trucks and jeeps 30,000 FY 7T
10. 2 Collins HF SSB radios 250,000 FY 7T
11. C–130 Nose-gear repair (parts and Lockheed technicians) 210,000 FY 7T
12. Cessna spares 65,000 FY 7T
13. 326 C–130 spare parts repair 350,000 FY 7T
Total 3,843,000

B. Other Fiscal Years

1. Remaining M 1131 spares (APC) 60,000 FY 75
2. One C–130 13 9,100,000 FY 76
Total 9,160,000
  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Material, Mondale Papers, Box 233, [Aaron, David] Vice President Africa, 3/1–4/77. Secret. The date is handwritten. Carter wrote “To Cy, J” in the upper right corner. Dodson noted that a copy was sent to Thornton on April 8.
  2. Carter wrote “I agree” in the left margin.
  3. Carter wrote “OK” in the left margin.
  4. Carter underlined “which we will have to turn down” and wrote “Why?” in the left margin.
  5. Carter wrote “OK” in the left margin.
  6. The Paris Club, first convened in 1956, is an informal and voluntary group of officials of the major creditor countries that develops coordinated policies to help countries having trouble repaying their debts.
  7. Carter wrote “OK” in the left margin.
  8. Carter underlined “after the OAU met” and wrote “OK” in the left margin.
  9. Carter underlined “to withhold any suggestion of support for the Angolan insurgents” and wrote “meaning?” in the right margin.
  10. Carter wrote “OK” in the left margin next to this and the next three points.
  11. No classification marking.
  12. Zaire owes Associated Industries $409,000 for previously delivered AN/PRC–77 radios, as part of a 600-radio contract order. Kinshasa can obtain the balance of 200 AN/PRC–77 radios on order, if it pays their value, $650,000 plus the $409,000 on what it owes under contract, i.e., a total of $1,059,000. [Footnote is in the original.]
  13. The last of several C–130s ordered by Zaire is due for delivery in May. It is included among the items on the Munitions Control Export List being held for Presidential review. The C–130s are the back bone of Zaire’s military transport system to the Shaba. Thus far, we can take some pride in the fact that this US-organized branch of the Zairian forces is operating relatively efficiently. It would be good to be able to authorize release of this plane for delivery as soon as possible. [Footnote is in the original.] Carter wrote “OK” in the left margin.