86. Information Cable Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency1


  • Zaire


  • Comments by Ex-Katangan Gendarme soldiers on the planning and execution of the invasion of Zaire


  • [1 line not declassified]


  • [3 lines not declassified]

Summary: The invasion of Zaire was planned and carried out in close coordination with Angolan Army and Cuban military personnel in Angola.2 The invaders were promised full Angolan support. They assumed that many African countries would support the invasion, that Mobutu would be quickly overthrown and that no outside military assistance would be available to Zaire. Zaire Air Force operations greatly demoralized the Katangan troops as did the failure of their SAM–7 anti-aircraft weapons. The arrival of the Moroccans caused panic among the invaders and caused Angola to suspend its promised support. No contingency plans were made for insurgent operations in Zaire and it is estimated that one-half of the invading soldiers have fled and no longer want to fight.

1. The invasion of Zaire by ex-Katangan gendarmes from Angola was planned and prepared in close coordination with the Angolan Army (FAPLA) personnel and Cuban military advisors assigned to FAPLA in Angola.3 The invasion plan was built around three basic assumptions: (A) that the Zaire Army (FAZ) would not fight and that most of its soldiers would defect to the invaders, (B) that Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko was sufficiently unpopular in Africa that he would receive no support from other African states and that many African states would publically support the invasion whose goal was to over[Page 258]throw Mobutu, and (C) that Mobutu would not be able to obtain effective outside military assistance to fight the invasion.

2. The invasion was carried out by a force of about 1,000 men who were armed primarily with light weapons including rifles, AK–47 automatic weapons, light machine guns, grenade launchers, 61 mm mortars, grenades and mines. The invaders were trained in Angola by FAPLA and Cuban personnel and the weapons were provided from FAPLA stocks.4 The invaders were promised that as the invasion progressed and showed signs of succeeding, heavier weapons would be provided, including 81 mm mortars, 75 mm recoilless artillery, SAM–7 anti-aircraft weapons, and “Stalin organ” 122-mm rocket launchers. As the invasion expanded, and if heavy fighting developed to capture Kolwezi or Lubumbashi, Angola promised that armored vehicles, tanks and heavy artillery would be sent to support them. Large numbers of such equipment were stockpiled at Henrique da Carvalho by FAPLA and the Cubans and these were shown to most of the Katangan invaders before the invasion to boost their morale. The tanks and armored vehicles were to be crewed by FAPLA personnel since none of the Katangans were trained in their use.

3. The initial objectives of the invasion were the capture of Mutshasa and Kolwezi. Mutshasa was to be made the prime military base because it is located in terrain which is easily defensible, and Kolwezi was to be made the administrative center. By the time Mutshasa and Kolwezi had fallen it was assumed that Mobutu’s position would be shaky, that the population of Shaba and the FAZ would be rallying to the invaders, and that the push onward to Lubumbashi would be relatively easy.

4. When the invasion began, the Katangans found that the majority of the population welcomed their arrival and that most FAZ units were giving up without a fight. The invaders were also helped by several high-level “traitors” (unidentified) in the FAZ command structure who were secretly providing information on FAZ plans and order of battle. The move to Mutshasa was done with relative ease and against no significant FAZ opposition. However, many of the Katangans had become nervous by the time of their arrival at Mutshasha because some FAZ units were resisting their advance, and because there was no widespread defection by FAZ troops from other parts of Shaba.

5. During the first two weeks of the invasion a number of FAPLA and Cuban advisors visited Dilolo and areas east of Dilolo but they took no part in the fighting. The Cubans were mostly light-skinned Cubans dressed in unmarked uniforms.5 There were rumors among the [Page 259] Katangans fighting towards Mutshasa that some Cubans and FAPLA troops were participating in the fighting in the north near Sandoa and Kapanga, but these rumors could not be confirmed.6

6. The appearance of Zaire Air Force planes in the battle caused the first serious signs of demoralization among the Katangan troops. Hurried calls for SAM–7 anti-aircraft weapons were sent to Angola and SAM–7 weapons were sent to forward units. However, the Katangan troops quickly found that the SAM–7’s misfired, jammed, or went wild, and were generally ineffective. Heavy machine guns were then sent from Angola, and these also proved to be ineffective against the aircraft. Though the Zaire aircraft did little damage and caused few casualties, their operations and the failure of the SAM–7’s caused serious demoralization among the Katangans and caused the troops to refuse to proceed beyond Mutshasa without heavier weapons.

7. Another reason the troops refused to advance from Mutshasa was that it was also becoming apparent to the Katangans that expected African support for the invasion had not materialized and that Mobutu was still entrenched in power. Furthermore Angola’s support for the invasion was beginning to waver and those few FAPLA officers who had been with the Katangans were ordered to return to Angola in mid-April. There was a general feeling among the troops in mid-April that they were being abandoned because they had not won a quick victory.

8. When the Moroccan intervention was announced, the Katangan leadership was caught by surprise and many of the troops wanted to flee. They refused to press forward against the Moroccans without the armored vehicles, tanks and the Angolan intervention which had been promised. Katangan leader General Nathaniel Mbumba went to Luanda to plead for support from Angolan President Agostinho Neto but was told that the Moroccan intervention had created a new set of circumstances and that Angola could no longer provide the promised support. When this became known at the front, plans were formulated to prepare for insurgent operations, but large numbers of Katangan troops began fleeing to Zambia or Angola. Those who fled said that they had fought against the colonialists, in the Angola civil war, and against Mobutu, and had no real hope of success against the Moroccans. They were afraid and tired of more fighting. Those who stayed were ordered to resist the Moroccans where possible, to make plans for insurgent operations, and to retreat as necessary back to Angola to [Page 260] reorganize. It is estimated that about half of the Katangan invaders followed these orders and that the others fled or disappeared into the bush.

9. Those Katangan gendarmes now in refugee camps in Zambia are tired of fighting and are considering means to go back to Zaire, make their peace with the Mobutu government, and live a normal life.

10. [6 lines not declassified]

  1. Source: Carter Library, Donated Material, Mondale Papers, Box 42, Countries—Africa 1–6/77 [1]. Secret; Priority; [handling restriction not declassified]. Sent to State/INR, JCS/MC (DIA), CIA/NMCC, SWS, NSA, Treasury, NSC/S, WH/SITRM, SDO, NIO, OCR.
  2. An unknown hand underlined this sentence.
  3. An unknown hand underlined this sentence.
  4. An unknown hand underlined this and the previous sentence.
  5. An unknown hand underlined this and the previous sentence.
  6. At a news conference on April 22, President Carter was asked if Cubans were present in Zaire supporting Katangan separatists. Carter responded, “Our best information is that the Katangans have been trained within Angola by the Cubans. We have no direct evidence at all that there are Cubans within Zaire.” (Public Papers of the Presidents: Jimmy Carter, 1977, Book I, p. 703)