92. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Zaire1

247577. Subject: Secretary’s Meeting With Umba: 32nd UNGA.

1. Following is memorandum of conversation of subject meeting which took place Oct. 3 in the Secretary’s suite, UN Plaza Hotel.

2. Participants:

Zaire: Foreign Minister Umba-di-Lutete, Ambassador (to US) Kasongo Mutuale, Cit. Ngwanza, Counselor to Foreign Minister.

U.S.: Secretary Vance, Lannon Walker, Director, AF/C, Alec Toumayan, Interpreter.

3. Text as follows:

Secretary Vance opened the conversation by asking Umba to convey his best wishes to President Mobutu. Umba reciprocated the courtesy points, emphasizing how important it was for him to be able to meet the Secretary.

—Then Umba said that he had an oral message from President Mobutu for the Secretary, the President, indeed for the entire Carter administration:

—First of all, a message of thanks for all that the US has done in the past for Zaire; a reaffirmation of the true friendship which exists between Zaire and the United States. For over 17 years that friendship has been constant. Please reassure President Carter that, from the Zairian side, this friendship will never lag.

—Secondly, President Mobutu wants the Secretary to know how much he appreciated the way in which General Babia was recently received at various levels of the USG.2

—Then Umba launched into the Nguza affair.3 Clearly, Mobutu wants to make the point that our relations are based on institutions and not on individuals, like Nguza—and the point that he, Mobutu, hopes that the Nguza affair will not negatively impact upon those relations. Umba related Mobutu’s points and concerns as follows:

—Thank you for the welcome you offered to my predecessor, Nguza.4 That welcome, we know was to a man who was a special envoy of President Mobutu.

[Page 267]

—President Mobutu asked me to dispel any ambiguity which might surround the fact that Nguza was accused of treason just after his visit to the U.S.

Mobutu was not aware of Nguza’s treason when he sent him to the U.S. and it was only after he left that the full facts were known. Mobutu did not feel he could recall him and thus allowed him to terminate his mission to America; indeed he allowed him then to go on to Holland for medical treatment. And only after Nguza was feeling better did the President instruct him to return to Zaire.

—Thus, the USG should in no way believe that the Nguza affair has anything to do with the United States. Our relations are based upon institutions, not personalities. In example, it is not now I who speak to you, but rather President Mobutu who has asked me to relay this message.

—President Mobutu has also asked me to relay his profound thanks for the ways in which you made known the American concern for Nguza’s fate. Certain other countries (he refers to Belgium) overstated their case and did so in a public and unhelpful manner. The U.S. interventions on behalf of Nguza, on the other hand, were handled through normal diplomatic channels.5

—Then Umba went to the question of Nguza’s guilt, pointing out that whatever we might believe on this subject—Nguza confessed his treason in the letter he wrote to President Mobutu asking for clemency.

—Umba also showed the Secretary a regular Zairian passport delivered to Nguza by the Zairian Embassy in The Hague on 3 July 1977, whereas Nguza carried and had the right to carry a diplomatic passport. Umba speculated that Nguza knew he was guilty and wanted to anticipate trouble.

—Without missing a beat, Umba then turned to “bilateral relations.” He allowed that the Secretary almost certainly knew what he was going to say concerning certain problems in the Zairian economy, but Mobutu thought it important to reiterate the points through his Foreign Minister.

—In spite of the very considerable efforts Zaire has made to live up to the economic stabilization program—and the IMF can attest to our success in this regard—this austerity has been imposed at enormous sacrifice and to little evident economic effect.

[Page 268]

—The economic situation remains extremely difficult; copper prices are down, inflation up. There are strikes. The balance of payments gap means a further reduction of imports and then the prospect of more inflation and labor troubles.

—Zaire is talking with a number of friendly countries, asking them for additional assistance. But US influence is such that these governments will not move unless they see a real American interest in Zairian economic recovery.

—However, if the economic picture is bad, the political scene is in very good shape. During the Shaba war many commentators said that it was an “internal” matter. Umba asked rhetorically if, since the invaders were repulsed, one now heard of continued conflict in Shaba.

—But beyond the basic political stability is the important fact that the political reforms announced by President Mobutu are being applied. The electoral campaign, for example, is in full swing.

Secretary Vance interjected to say that he was very pleased to hear of the program of political reform, and interested to see that it goes forward and becomes a reality as soon as possible.

—Umba said that the electoral campaigns were under way now, but emphasized President Mobutu’s prediction that the ex-Katangan Gendarmes would probably try to cause trouble in order to sabotage political reforms. Umba said that the Katangans’ commando training continued and that they continue to infiltrate anti-regime groups.

—The Secretary asked if the GOZ expected such attacks only in the Shaba, or in other parts of Zaire as well? Umba believes that the initial attacks will come in the Shaba, but that they may be followed by forays into neighboring provinces.

—Umba went on to say that the leading Zairian oppositionists are now in Algiers and that their plans included infiltration through Zambia. The Secretary asked if Neto was aware and approved of the Katangan plans? Umba said that given the numbers of Katangans on Angolan soil, we must assume that Neto is aware of this and their plans. Then Umba offered a personal opinion to the effect the Katangans had begun to bother Neto—they were stealing his diamonds—and thus he simply wanted them out of Angola. Umba finished off this part of the conversation by saying that he and Ambassador Kasango had just seen the Zambian Foreign Minister who assured them that Zambian territory would never be used to allow Katangan infiltration into the Shaba.

—Umba finally terminated his near monologue by complaining that in spite of the 17 year old friendship between the US and Zaire—in spite of the fact that Zaire would not be independent today, within its present borders if the US had not intervened in the early sixties—[Page 269]in spite of all this “we have the impression that you are ashamed of being Zaire’s friends.”

—Your enemies are better treated than your friends, like Zaire, Umba continued. You continue to make clear your commitments to Israel and to South Korea. “Are we not friends on the same plane as they?”, the Foreign Minister asked.

—Secretary Vance then responded to Umba’s points:

—We share President Mobutu’s desire to strengthen and to improve our relations. Indeed, we have worked closely together for the last 17 years and we hope and expect that this close cooperation will continue in the future.

—We appreciate President Mobutu’s message. Please convey to him our thanks for his prompt support for the US–UK initiative on Zimbabwe.6

—I would also like to express our appreciation for President Mobutu’s various interventions with Idi Amin on humanitarian issues.7 We realize that these interventions on our behalf cause President Mobutu problems.

—I do believe it important that the political reforms you mentioned be undertaken. They are necessary, desirable and will strengthen Zaire’s image in the eyes of the world community.

—I am also convinced of the necessity of economic reforms under IMF leadership. These are very important and we want to continue to work with you in implementing these reforms.

—On the military side, we have recently approved the use of FY 1977 FMS funds for the purchase of a stock of M–16 ammunition as well as for tents, medicines, C–rations and other basic supplies.8 In FY 1978, as you know we are working together to come up with the right equipment to fit into your military reform plans. And in this regard we have discussed further military needs with the Belgians and the French. We seem to be in agreement on your needs and on the question of the relative supply role of each of us. We have eliminated, as you [Page 270] know, certain items such as tanks, but these do not seem to us to be the kind of equipment you need in a Shaba-type situation. Other elements of our initial package will be continued, however and our two governments are working out the details.

—We are certainly not embarrassed over the good relations our two countries have enjoyed over the years.

—Our relations have been forged from mutual respect and mutual confidence—and these are the bases from which our relations will proceed in the future.

—Umba thanked the Secretary and in his closing minutes tried to point out that while Zaire’s critics always emphasized corruption, it was fair to say that no country was free from corruption. So too for the criticism aimed at Zaire’s inefficient administration. Zaire is a young and developing country. President Mobutu is determined to push through his political and economic reforms—but “we need encouragement.”

—The Secretary did not respond directly to this last point and the meeting which had run well over the allotted time terminated amid expression of courtesy from both participants.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770379–1108. Confidential. Drafted by Kates; cleared by Wisner and Harrop; approved by Walker.
  2. Not found.
  3. See Document 90.
  4. See Document 89.
  5. In telegram 194775 to Kinshasa, August 16, the Department summarized Moose’s August 15 meeting with the departing Zairian Ambassador. Moose pointed out that a “speedy and fair trial of Nguza would be best indication that Mobutu intends to fully implement reforms, especially in the area of human rights.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770296–0060)
  6. In telegram 8574 from Kinshasa, September 8, the Embassy reported that Mobutu and Obasanjo had signed a joint communiqué that endorsed the Anglo-American plan for Rhodesia. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770325–0324)
  7. In telegram 1745 from Kinshasa, March 1, the Embassy reported on Cutler’s telephone conversation with Mobutu, which described Zaire’s démarche to Amin on behalf of Americans in Uganda, and Amin’s response to Mobutu. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770069–1149)
  8. In telegram 223964 to Kinshasa, September 17, the Department transmitted a message from Vance to Mobutu informing Mobutu of approval of the Zairian request to use FY 1977 FMS credits to purchase M–16 ammunition and other supplies, “recognizing your special needs at this time.” (National Archives, RG 29, Central Foreign Policy File, D770338–1240)