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

1. The Situation in Zaire. I have been concerned over reports pointing toward a possible resurgence of the Shaba conflict. My talk with Leo Tindemans heightened my worries over the state of the Zairian economy and the possible political repercussions if it continues to deteriorate.2

Five weeks ago we approved a Zairian request for 10 million rounds of M–16 ammunition (1,000 rounds per weapon) on the grounds, among others, that if the Shaba conflict were to erupt again it would be better to have already shipped the only lethal items we are likely to be asked for. The Zairians understand that this is a one-time transaction. We are now asking Defense to move the ammunition by regular MAC shipments promptly.3

On the economic and related issues of reform in Zaire, I have asked for a study which will address:

—what additional contribution, if any, we might be prepared to make to Belgium’s effort to fill Zaire’s urgent balance of payments gap.

—the prospect of military, economic and political reforms now underway in Zaire and the degree to which we want to support these efforts.

I will be in touch with you when I have reviewed my staff’s recommendations.

Last, I have asked our Ambassador in Kinshasa to remind Mobutu that his renewing assistance to Savimbi will complicate the already difficult situation on the Shaba frontier.4

[Omitted here are items unrelated to Central Africa.]

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Subject File, Box 19, Evening Reports (State) 10/77. Secret. Carter wrote “Cy, J” in the upper right corner.
  2. In telegram 256442 to Brussels, October 26, the Department reported on Belgian Foreign Minister Tindemans’ October 19–20 visit to the United States, during which he met with Carter, Vance, and other U.S. officials. In his meeting with Vance, he insisted that Belgium would not give Zaire any money, and “economic changes must be done within the framework of multilateral institutions.” Tindemans and Vance “agreed that there was no alternative to Mobutu and we would have to deal with him.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770393–1071)
  3. Carter wrote “ok” in the left margin.
  4. Carter wrote “The only concern about helping UNITA is that it might precipitate an attack on Zaire by Katangans” in the left margin.