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

249678. Subject: Moose’s Meeting With Umba: Pierre Hotel.

1. Following is memcon of October 5 meeting in New York between Assistant Secretary Moose and AF/C Director Walker and Umba.

2. Mr. Moose had been unable to attend Foreign Minister Umba’s meeting with Secretary Vance on October 32 and had therefore arranged to follow up on certain points with Umba. After initial courtesies, Mr. Moose led off the discussion by making the following points:

—You and other Zairian representatives have told us recently that President Mobutu was pleased that we had directed our interventions [Page 271] on Nguza’s behalf through normal diplomatic channels,3 as opposed to other governments who had gone public, and that the President’s decision to commute Nguza’s sentence reflected our intervention.4

—We will always try to handle problems quietly, but at times issues such as the Nguza affair can get out of control. For example, Belgian human rights lawyer Wolf came to Washington last week with the intention of making the Nguza affair a public issue.

—This, in our view, would have been unfortunate, and we were able to persuade Wolf that such an action would be unhelpful. But we also told him that we too were concerned over Nguza’s ultimate fate, especially in the light of reports that his health was bad.5

—I recount all of this to show you how we are trying to keep the Nguza affair from becoming a public issue between our two countries.

—But I also want to emphasize that there is considerable concern over the Nguza affair in the Congress, the American press and among human rights advocates in general. And thus, the Nguza affair remains an important element in our relations.

—We have confidence in President Mobutu’s political acumen and in his humanitarian virtues. We believe that the decisions he will ultimately take in this case—sovereign decisions—will take into account the various factors at play.

—Umba took all this in and clearly got the message that while we were pleased with Mobutu’s decision to commute Nguza’s death sentence, we expected that President Mobutu would make additional, humane decisions in the ex-Foreign Minister’s regard. Umba went back over the accusations against Nguza, pointed out that Mobutu was the one who had been most personally touched by the treason of a close collaborator and tried to pin Moose down as to just what more the U.S. expected Mobutu to do.

Moose did not bite, but rather reiterated our confidence in Mobutu’s judgment—sovereign judgment.

[Page 272]

On the nature of US-Zairian friendship

—Mr. Moose then addressed a major preoccupation of Zaire, that concerning the changing nature of the relationship.

—You said to the Secretary that it seemed the US was ashamed of its friendship with Zaire. The Secretary responded that such was not the case and the next day President Carter told you that we were proud of our relationship with Zaire, and I want to reiterate these sentiments.6

—At the same time, you should understand that our friendship can be put in an embarrassing situation. For example, during the Shaba war when congressional and US opinion feared too deep an American involvement certain very real constraints were placed upon our ability to respond to the requests of an old friend.7

—These are political facts with which we both have to deal and as long as we are both aware of the constraints, we can indeed work together.

—In this regard, and as the Secretary pointed out, progress on political, economic and military reforms in Zaire is the surest base from which the USG can continue to marshal support for your country. I cannot overemphasize this point.

—Umba thanked Moose for his frankness and said that it was this kind of open discussion which cleared the air and allowed both sides to proceed with a better understanding of the factors at play. Umba was especially appreciative of Moose’s analysis of both congressional and executive concerns over Zaire, the image problem from which Zaire suffered and the very real need to improve that image through concrete reforms.

On the military side

Moose also made following points relative to our recent positive decisions on FMS:

—As the Secretary pointed out, we consider our recent decisions on military supply to be a gauge of our desire for good relations.

But there is one point I have made to Ambassador Kasongo and which I would like to reiterate with you: There is profound congressional concern that US military equipment supplied to Zaire might be transferred to UNITA or other Angolan opposition groups.8

[Page 273]

—We do not believe this to be Zaire’s intention, but given congressional attitudes, we must make the point concerning third country transfers.

—I might also point out that we consider the approval of M–16 ammunition to be a one-time transaction. In other words, the 10 million rounds should last you indefinitely or through any forseeable contingency. We do not expect to receive future requests for M–16 ammo.

—Umba said he understood perfectly and pointed out that Ambassador Kasongo had already transmitted Moose’s previous demarche on this subject to President Mobutu. He reassured us that we need have no fear concerning unauthorized third country transfers.

—Mr. Walker said that during his briefings of Congress concerning our M–16 ammo decisions, he had found great concern over reports that Zaire was on the verge of reinstituting its assistance to UNITA. These congressional contacts had pointed out that if such were to prove to be the case, all bilateral programs with Zaire could be in jeopardy. Umba said he got the point and would relay it to Mobutu.

Zairian demarche on ILO

—At the end of the conversation, Umba said that President Mobutu had instructed him to intervene with the USG to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the ILO.9 Umba implied that Belgium and African states had asked Mobutu to undertake this demarche since they all believed it important that the US remain within the organization and “not allow the Communists to take over.” Umba offered to call on George Meany while he was in the US—if that would be helpful.

—Mr. Moose said he greatly appreciated Zaire’s intervention in this matter. He also emphasized the history leading up to the US position and pointed out that America’s friends needed to effect changes within the ILO if they wished us to remain. Moose said he would pass on the gist of Umba’s intervention.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770383–1025. Confidential. Drafted by Kates; cleared by Walker; approved by Moose.
  2. See Document 92.
  3. See footnote 5, Document 92.
  4. In telegram 8881 from Kinshasa, September 15, the Embassy reported the September 15 news broadcast that gave an account of Mobutu’s commutation of Nguza’s death sentence to life imprisonment. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770335–0492)
  5. In telegram 244207 to Kinshasa, October 12, the Department reported on the meeting between Walker and Wolf, in which Walker assured Wolf that the U.S. Government was “deeply concerned about the well-being of Nguza” but stressed “the need to avoid public pressure on Mobutu” that “risks making matters worse for Nguza.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770371–0372)
  6. In telegram 247715 to the OAU Collective, October 15, the Department reported on Carter’s luncheon with representatives of the Africa Group at the UN, including Umba. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770380–0410)
  7. See footnote 3, Document 79.
  8. In telegram 243083 to Kinshasa, October 9, the Department reported that Congress was concerned that Mobutu might transfer arms to UNITA. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770369–0464)
  9. In telegram 264665 to the UN Mission in Geneva, November 4, the Department transmitted the text of the formal notification letter on U.S. withdrawal from the ILO, effective November 6. The letter noted that “the US does not want to leave the ILO and would not do so if conditions had changed to make our effective participation possible.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770407–0908)