99. Telegram From the Embassy in Zaire to the Department of State1

4740. Subject: Reported Military Action in Kolwezi. Ref: Lubumbashi 454 (Notal).2

1. American sources at CIS construction camp in Kolwezi report (via radio to CIS Kinshasa) that starting 0500 hours May 13 firing broke out and continued for several hours into morning. Firing believed to include small arms and mortars with airport apparently one of major targets. CIS sources have not rpt not confirmed info reftel re air attack. As of mid-morning, some sporadic firing still reported but apparently farther away from Kolwezi town.

2. Of total 75 Americans (including dependents) at CIS base Kolwezi all but one accounted for. One American dependent child slightly injured, apparently by small arms fire which struck pick-up truck. CIS is moving its two helicopters and two DC–3 aircraft to Kamina for possible evacuation. However, no rpt no evacuation orders have yet been issued and CIS Kolwezi reports Americans there are reasonably calm while taking steps to improve their local security situation.

3. FAZ sources report President Mobutu is expected to arrive in Kinshasa today. Late May 12 I was informed to be ready to go to Gbadolite next day to see Mobutu along with French, British, and Chinese Ambassadors. Upon arrival at Kinshasa airport this morning, [Page 283] May 13, for the flight to Gbadolite we were all informed, without explanation, that flight cancelled because Mobutu returning Kinshasa. Fact that we represented permanent members of Security Council, and that Soviet Chargé had been summoned by Mobutu May 12, may indicate GOZ intention to lodge complaint with SC.

4. At this point facts of Kolwezi situation are unclear. FAZ has told us that “enemy attack” has taken place but has confirmed nothing more. We cannot rule out possibility that military action involves FAZ forces only.

5. Will report further as info becomes available.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780211–0814. Confidential; Niact Immediate. Sent for information Immediate to Brussels, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, USUN, and Paris. Sent for information to Brazzaville.
  2. In telegram 454 from Lubumbashi, May 13, the Consulate informed the Embassy in Kinshasa that missionaries reported a combined land/air attack on Kolwezi. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780203–0559)