U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
95/01/13 Foreign Relations, 1961-63, Vol. XX, Congo Crisis
OFFICE OF THE HISTORIAN
Office of the Historian
Bureau of Public Affairs
United States Department of State
January 13, 1995
During the Congo crisis of 1960-1961, both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations were deeply concerned with the threat of Soviet domination of the Republic of the Congo (now Zaire) and with Soviet influence on the charismatic Patrice Lumumba and his followers. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume XX, Congo Crisis, the latest volume in the Department of State's Foreign Relations series, documents U.S. policy with respect to the recurrent crisis in the Congo during the Kennedy administration and offers insight into U.S. policy toward the newly- independent countries of Africa during the Cold War.
As John F. Kennedy prepared to take power in January 1961, the Congo seemed to be disintegrating. The Congolese Government controlled only two of six provinces, while two were controlled by Lumumba's supporters. The province of Katanga had announced its secession months earlier, and another province was attempting to follow its example. Just before Kennedy's inauguration, Lumumba was killed in Katanga. His death eased American fears that the crisis would open an avenue for Soviet power into the heart of Africa.
When a coalition government was formed in August 1961 under Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, it seemed that the crisis was ending, but it entered a new phase with the outbreak of hostilities in Katanga a month later. For the next 16 months, the Kennedy administration sought to bring an end to the Katanga secession. U.S. policymakers feared that loss of Katanga's mineral wealth would undermine the Congo's economic viability, bring about the collapse of the moderate Adoula government, and open the door to the extension of Soviet influence.
The volume provides a case study of a major U.N. intervention of the 1960s. It also reveals the foreign policy problems that confronted the United States as a result of the multilateral operation. Although American forces were not directly involved in the Congo, the United States played an essential role by providing financial and logistic support.
While this volume focuses on U.S. policy rather than on U.N. operations, it includes much documentation on U.S. discussions with Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, his successor U Thant, and other world leaders about U.N. goals and methods.
This volume, prepared by the Department of State's Office of the Historian, is one of 25 print volumes and 6 microfiche supplements documenting the foreign policy of the Kennedy administration. The Office of the Historian has prepared a summary of the volume. For further information, contact Harriet Dashiell Schwar at (202) 663-1130 (fax: (202) 663-1289).
Copies of volume XX (Department of State Publication No. 10173; GPO Stock No. 044-000-02383-1; ISBN 0-16-041905-0) may be purchased (postpaid) for $40.00 ($50.00 for foreign orders) from the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Order from: Superintendent of Documents P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954 Phone: (202) 512-1800 Fax: (202) 512-2250
Foreign Relations of the United States 1961-1963, Volume XX Congo Crisis
(This is not an official statement of policy by the Department of State; it is intended only as a guide to the contents of this volume.)
Since 1861, the Department of State's documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States has constituted the official record of the foreign policy and diplomacy of the United States. Historians in the Office of the Historian collect, arrange, and annotate the principal documents comprising the record of American foreign policy. The standards for the preparation of the series and the general deadlines for its publication are established by the Foreign Relations of the United States statute of October 28, 1991 (22 USC 4351, et seq.). U.S. policies during the administration of President John F. Kennedy are the subject of 25 print volumes and 6 microfiche supplements. Volumes in the Foreign Relations series are published when all necessary editing, declassification, and printing steps have been completed.
The documents in this volume are drawn from the centralized indexed files of the Department of State, the decentralized lot files of the Department's Executive Secretariat, and Bureau, Office, and Division lot files. In addition, the editors made extensive use of the Presidential and other papers at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts. Most of the documents were originally classified. The Historical Documents Review Division of the Department of State in concert with the appropriate offices in other agencies and foreign governments carried out their declassification.
The following is a summary of the important issues covered in the volume. Parenthetical citations are to numbered documents in the text. For additional copies of this summary or more information on the volume, contact Harriet Dashiell Schwar at (202) 663-1130 (fax: (202) 663- 1289).
The recurrent crisis in the Republic of the Congo (now Zaire) was one of the key problems of U.S. foreign policy in the first 2 years of the Presidency of John F. Kennedy, as it had been in the last 6 months of the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower. For 14 months after the outbreak of the crisis in July 1960, the threat of Soviet domination of the Congo through Soviet influence on the charismatic Patrice Lumumba and on his followers was a major concern of both the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations. The formation of a moderate coalition government in August 1961 seemed to bring an end to the crisis, but the outbreak of hostilities in Katanga in September 1961 initiated a new phase. In the second phase, U.S. policymakers were primarily concerned with the Katanga secession, which threatened the Congo's economic viability. In some respects, the Katanga problem offered a preview of the foreign policy problems that Rhodesia and South Africa were to pose in later years. The volume, together with the documentation on the first 6 months of the crisis in Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, volume XIV, Africa, provides the official record of U.S. policy with respect to the international efforts to deal with the Congo crisis. Although U.S. forces were not directly involved in the Congo, the United States played an essential role by providing financial and logistic support. While this volume focuses on U.S. policy rather than on U.N. operations, it includes much documentation on U.S. discussions with Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, his successor U Thant, and other world leaders about U.N. goals and methods.
First Stage of the Crisis
The Congo's troubles began almost immediately after the former Belgian colony achieved its independence in July 1960, when mutiny in the Congolese army was followed by Belgian intervention. As violence grew, the Congolese Government requested U.N. assistance. On July 14, 1960, the Security Council called on Belgium to withdraw its troops from the Congo and authorized Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold to provide the Congolese Government with military assistance.
Hammarskjold quickly put together a U.N. force drawn from African, Asian, and European countries, but not including the major powers. Meanwhile, Katangan provincial president Moise Tshombe declared the independence of Katanga, the province that contained most of the Congo's mineral wealth and was the stronghold of Belgian mining interests. Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, frustrated by his inability to bring Katanga under control and convinced that Belgium was seeking to maintain it as a semi-colonial outpost, turned to the Soviet Union for aid.
On September 5, 1960, Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba and named Joseph Ileo to head a new government. This began a constitutional crisis in which Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action illegal and Parliament backed Lumumba. On September 19, Congolese Army Chief of Staff Colonel Joseph Mobutu declared that the army had decided to neutralize both governments and establish a College of Commissioners to administer the country on an interim basis. Mobutu sought to arrest Lumumba, who became a de facto prisoner in the Prime Minister's residence guarded by U.N. forces who were in turn surrounded by Congolese Army troops. He escaped on November 27 but was soon captured and imprisoned by Mobutu's forces. Soon afterward, pro-Lumumba forces established a rival government in Stanleyville headed by Antoine Gizenga.
The Kennedy Administration's Program for the Congo
As John F. Kennedy prepared to assume office in January 1961, the Congo seemed to be disintegrating. The Congolese Government in Leopoldville controlled only two of six provinces. The Gizenga regime controlled two provinces, Tshombe was consolidating his power in Elisabethville by creating a European mercenary force, and there was still another regime with separatist pretensions in Kasai. U.S. predictions of the outlook for the Congo were uniformly bleak. A Special National Intelligence Estimate on January 10 declared that "political instability on a grand scale" was the most likely prospect. (2)
Ambassador Clare Timberlake in Leopoldville cabled in alarm that the UAR was supporting Gizenga and that "we may now be very close to a takeover by Lumumba." (3) Ambassador William Burden in Brussels warned that unless the United States could develop a clear and effective policy for the Congo, those elements in Belgium that were supporting Katanga would "continue to supply their own para-military ad hoc solutions." (9)
The Kennedy administration wanted a new approach to the Congo as part of a general reorientation of U.S. policy toward Africa. They wanted to improve U.S. relations with the newly-independent countries of black Africa and thought the Eisenhower administration had been too oriented toward the colonial or former colonial powers. Secretary of State Dean Rusk asked his senior advisers on January 25 to rethink Congo policy, declaring that it was necessary to "take the ceiling off of our thinking as to solutions." (10)
When Representative at the United Nations Adlai Stevenson and other new appointees met the next day, they agreed that U.S. policy should remain within the U.N. framework and that it would be desirable to have a stable, legal Congolese government that did not include Lumumba or Gizenga. (11) Within the next few days, the Department of State prepared out a policy proposal and obtained Defense and CIA clearance. Rusk sent it to Kennedy on February 1 and outlined it at an NSC meeting that day. The NSC did not discuss the proposal, but Kennedy approved it that day. (16-18)
The new program was threefold. First, it called for a new mandate for the United Nations giving it the authority to bring under control all the principal military elements in the Congo, thereby neutralizing the role of the military in Congo politics, to increase U.N. efforts to prevent outside assistance from entering the Congo, and to establish a training program for the Congolese Army. Second, it stated that if a meeting of Congolese political leaders then in progress failed to establish a moderate cabinet government, the United States would support the establishment of a broadly-based government, including Lumumba supporters but not Lumumba himself. Only after the effective neutralization of Congolese military forces was underway, and a new government established, would all political prisoners, including Lumumba, be released. Third, it called for seeking a greater U.N. role in providing administrative and technical assistance to the Congo, as an additional safeguard against a Lumumba takeover. African and Asian countries were to be encouraged to take the lead in implementing the new program, which it was hoped would result in broader African and Asian support. (17)
As part of the effort to mobilize diplomatic support behind the new policy, President Kennedy sent messages to Indian Prime Minister Nehru, Nigerian Prime Minister Balewa, French President de Gaulle, and Ghanaian President Nkrumah outlining the plan and soliciting their support. Discussions were held with the British and Belgian Ambassadors; Timberlake met with Kasavubu.
Reactions were mixed. Hammarskjold, who had been consulted during the formulation of the plan, was in agreement; the British, French, and Belgians, who had not, were skeptical about the feasibility of neutralizing the Congolese Army and feared the plan would enable Lumumba to return to power. Kasavubu reacted strongly against the idea of expanding the U.N. mandate, which he saw as an infringement of Congolese sovereignty and prelude to U.N. trusteeship. Nehru thought the release of political prisoners including Lumumba was the top priority. (19-23)
The new policy was soon overtaken by events. On February 13, the world learned that Patrice Lumumba was dead. He had not been seen since January 17, when Leopoldville authorities had taken him from prison, flown him to Elisabethville, and turned him over to Katangan authorities. A U.N. commission subsequently concluded that he had been killed that evening.
Documentation available to the editors (and to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in 1975) indicates that the CIA played no part in Lumumba's death. CIA representatives in Leopoldville had been aware, however, of Congolese plans to move Lumumba to Bakwanga in Kasai, where he almost certainly would have met a similar fate. Between January 17 and February 13, Lumumba's fate was unknown, although there was widespread speculation in Elisabethville and Leopoldville that he was dead. Available documentation indicates no knowledge of his death by U.S. officials during that time. (6, 8, 44)
An Expanded U.N. Mandate
News of Lumumba's death brought a wave of anti-colonial, anti- Western sentiment to African capitals. At the United Nations, it undermined support for Kasavubu and Mobutu and strengthened support for Gizenga. The Soviet Union proposed a draft resolution calling for sanctions against Belgium, the arrest of Mobutu and Tshombe, and the dismissal of Hammarskjold. Ceylon, Liberia, and the United Arab Republic proposed a draft resolution that called for U.N. action to prevent civil war in the Congo including the use of force if necessary, urged the withdrawal of all foreign military personal and political advisers not under the U.N. Command, and urged the convening of Parliament and reorganization of the Congolese armed forces with a view to ending their political role. (34)
Although the African-Asian draft resolution was in many ways in accord with U.S. policy, the United States objected strongly to its failure to refer specifically to the Secretary-General, to indicate that the United Nations would consult with the Congolese chief of state before using force, and to call for states to prevent shipment of military supplies to the Congo. President Kennedy sent personal messages to Nehru, Balewa, and Liberian President Tubman urging revision of the resolution, but any hope of achieving this was dashed by the revelation of the execution of six Lumumba supporters in Bakwanga, where they had been sent by Leopoldville authorities. Secretary of State Rusk told the French Ambassador that day that the United States was trying to assist Kasavubu, but it was difficult to do so when he sent political prisoners to Kasai where they were murdered. (33)
On February 21, the Security Council adopted the African- Asian draft resolution, with the United States voting in favor. It represented a significant enlargement of the U.N. mandate in the Congo, although for the time being Hammarskjold was cautious about exercising it. Stevenson warned that the U.N. position in the Congo was still precarious and urged energetic action to support the United Nations by bringing pressure to bear on Kasavubu and on Belgium. (35)
The State Department was already taking action along these lines. Timberlake was instructed to urge Kasavubu and Joseph Ileo, recently named by Kasavubu to head a provisional government, to increase their efforts to achieve political reconciliation and cooperate with the United Nations, while an effort was launched to urge Belgian compliance with the U.N. resolution. (36-37)
The immediate problem, however, was that Congolese opposition to the U.N. resolution and antipathy to Hammarskjold's representative in the Congo, Rajeshwar Dayal, had engendered intense hostility between the Congolese Government and the U.N. Command. Timberlake warned that an "explosive atmosphere" was developing which could lead to open conflict. (40) Fighting broke out in early March between Congolese and U.N. troops at the port of Matadi. It ended with the Congolese in control of the port, which remained an issue between Leopoldville and the U.N. Command for several weeks. (43, 52, 60)
U.S. officials shared the Congolese distrust of Dayal, whom they viewed as a Gizenga sympathizer, and they had been trying for some time to persuade Hammarskjold to replace him. At a White House meeting on March 3, Kennedy directed Rusk to continue those efforts. (41) Hammarskjold was reluctant to remove Dayal, perhaps because Indian troops had become an essential component of the U.N. force, and the Dayal problem remained a source of contention for some time. Rusk tried gentle persuasion with Nehru when he visited New Delhi, but to no avail. Relations between the Congolese and the U.N. Command improved when Dayal returned to New York for consultations, but Hammarskjold did not replace him until May, when he was faced with adamant Congolese opposition to his return. (51, 54, 57, 67)
U.S. efforts to persuade Belgium to withdraw its personnel and mercenaries from the Congo began to offer promise after a new government took office in late April with Paul-Henri Spaak as Vice Premier and Foreign Minister. U.S. officials found Spaak far more cooperative and forthcoming than his predecessor. Spaak thought Belgium could best preserve its legitimate interests in the Congo by making clear that it was willing to cooperate with the Congo on a basis of equality, and he was prepared to carry out the U.N. resolution. Powerful Belgian political and economic interests opposed this view, however, and actual progress was slow. (63, 65, 69)
Formation of the Adoula Government
The Congo political scene remained confused. The period of hostility between the Congolese Government and the U.N. Command led to a brief rapprochement between Leopoldville and Elisabethville, but an April meeting in Coquilhatville of central government and provincial leaders brought an impasse, which culminated with Leopoldville authorities putting Tshombe under house arrest for 2 months. The Congo's problems, Timberlake declared in frustration, "could scarcely be more complex or difficult to state coherently." (62) U.S. officials, still hoping for the establishment of a moderate government with the Gizenga faction excluded or limited to non-sensitive posts, provided both financial and political support to moderate leaders. (41, 70-71)
U.S. influence in Katanga was minimal, although the U.S. Consulate in Elisabethville remained open. It was almost closed on two occasions, first in January when Tshombe demanded the withdrawal of Consul William C. Canup, and again after the announcement of Lumumba's death, when the State Department directed Canup's withdrawal as a mark of U.S. disapproval. Canup argued successfully, however, that the Consulate should be kept in place to maintain a U.S. presence rather than leave the field to the mercenaries. U.S. officials sought to prevent American involvement in the ongoing buildup of Katangan forces. Reports that a U.S. airline was involved in the transportation of European arms to Katanga prompted State Department efforts to ensure against a repetition. (31, 53)
Leopoldville and Stanleyville reached agreement in June to convene Parliament at the University of Lovanium near Leopoldville under U.N. protection. Tshombe, still under house arrest, agreed to send Katangan representatives, but once back in Elisabethville, he reversed himself. Washington, fearing that the parliamentary session might lead to a Gizenga-controlled government, sought to bring Belgian pressure to bear on Tshombe to persuade him to send representatives to Parliament and tried to persuade Kasavubu to act forcefully and name a moderate to form a government before Parliament met. (78, 82)
Neither of these efforts was successful, and as the parliamentarians met in closed session at Lovanium in late July, anxiety in Washington grew. Rusk cabled Charge G. McMurtrie Godley directing him to urge delay on Kasavubu, but Godley replied firmly that this would be counterproductive and that the best course was to "lie low." (87, 88) A few days later, the Congolese Parliament approved a predominantly moderate government which included Gizenga and one of his lieutenants but was headed by Cyrille Adoula, who was regarded by U.S. officials as the strongest and most attractive of the moderate leaders. For the first time in many months the government in Leopoldville rested on a firm basis of legality. Washington was delighted with the outcome. "There is optimism all over town," White House aide Walt W. Rostow told Kennedy, "that the Congo situation is on the way to solution." (93)
The Katanga Problem
In September, fighting between U.N. and Katangan forces began a new phase in the Congo problem. At the end of August, U.N. forces in a successful surprise move, seized key points in Elisabethville and arrested a number of Belgian officers and mercenaries. The United States urged efforts at reconciliation, but on September 13, a new U.N. action encountered heavy resistance from European-led Katangan forces.
The U.N. initiative caused consternation in London and Brussels and dismayed Kennedy and Rusk, who were especially disturbed by the lack of advance consultation. (110-111) Rusk sent a message from himself and Kennedy to Ambassador Edmund Gullion, newly-arrived in the Congo, instructing him to urge Hammarskjold, who was in Leopoldville, to end the fighting and begin negotiations. (112) The Secretary- General argued that U.N. action had been necessary to avert a Congolese civil war, but he was en route to meet Tshombe for talks when his plane crashed, killing all on board. (115, 118)
In the wake of Hammarskjold's death, the United States agreed to a U.N. request for U.S. aircraft for an internal airlift of U.N. troops within the Congo. The United States had airlifted thousands of troops and tons of supplies to the Congo since July 1960, but the internal airlift, with its attendant risks, represented a new level of support. (117) Because a lone Katangan jet fighter was causing an inordinate amount of trouble for the U.N. forces (contributing indirectly to the crash of Hammarskjold's plane), Kennedy also authorized the use of U.S. fighters in the Congo on a contingency basis. The United Nations obtained fighters elsewhere, however, and the question of the use of U.S. fighters did not arise again for over a year. The U.N. Command and Katanga soon agreed on a cease- fire, and fighting in Katanga ended for the time being. (120)
At this point, President Kennedy put Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs George W. Ball in charge of Congo policy, and in December, he succeeded Chester Bowles as Under Secretary. His assumption of responsibility marked a shift in emphasis in U.S. policy from one oriented toward Africa to a more Europe-oriented policy. This did not mean a pro-Katangan policy. On the contrary, Katanga now loomed as the major problem in the Congo. Ball told Kennedy in a September 23 memorandum that ending the Katangan secession was a political and economic necessity; failure to do so would mean the collapse of Adoula's moderate government, probable civil war, and a possible Gizenga takeover. A negotiated settlement was possible. The main obstacle was Tshombe. U.S. policy should therefore be aimed at convincing Tshombe that military resistance was hopeless and at reducing his support from foreign sources, chiefly Belgian mining interests and the white supremacist regime in Rhodesia. Ball recommended building up U.N. fighting power, not in order to use it but to avoid the need to use it, and enlisting Belgian and British help to reduce Tshombe's external support. (122)
From this time until the end of the Katanga secession 16 months later, the goal of U.S. policymakers was to achieve a negotiated settlement and thus avoid any renewal of the Katanga hostilities, which had aroused political controversy in Washington and outrage in Brussels and London. During that time, various methods of achieving the goal were tried and discarded, but the goal remained unchanged. In the following weeks, U.S. officials sought to persuade Adoula and Tshombe to enter negotiations and to bring Belgian and British pressure to bear on Tshombe. (124-125, 132-134, 141) Gullion developed a close relationship with Adoula, and Ambassador at Large W. Averell Harriman met with Tshombe when the latter visited Geneva in early November. (136-137)
The Kitona Agreement
In early December, fighting broke out again in Katanga. The United States supported the U.N. forces, airlifting U.N. troops to Elisabethville but also sought to limit U.N. objectives. (149, 153) The U.N. action again aroused popular opposition in Europe, and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan came under heavy political pressure. When Rusk, who was in Paris for ministerial meetings, told Kennedy that the issue could topple the Macmillan government, Kennedy called Macmillan to assure him that the U.N. aims were limited, while Gullion pressed U.N. Under Secretary-General Ralph Bunche, who was in the Congo, for a quick conclusion to U.N. military operations and increased efforts at a political settlement. (158-161)
On December 14, Tshombe cabled Kennedy offering to negotiate with Adoula and requesting Kennedy's intervention. Seizing on this, Kennedy replied by designating Gullion as his representative to facilitate a meeting of the two leaders. After the application of pressure on both sides, Adoula and Tshombe agreed to meet at Kitona airbase under U.N. protection with Gullion and Bunche present. (162-167, 169-170) After some 36 hours of intense discussions, Tshombe agreed to a declaration in which he recognized the unity of the Congo and the authority of the central government, agreed to Katangan participation in Parliament and in a commission to draft a new constitution, and agreed to place the Katangan gendarmerie under the central government. (171-175) "Such a complete capitulation on Tshombe's part goes far beyond our expectations," the State Department cabled Kennedy, who was in Bermuda, meeting with Macmillan. (176)
The Search for a Peaceful Solution
The Kitona Agreement was only a first step toward the reintegration of Katanga. It was evident that getting Tshombe's cooperation in implementing the agreement would be more difficult than getting his signature on it. Public reaction in Europe and the United States to the December hostilities had again demonstrated the political difficulty of relying on military action. U.S. policymakers' answer to this problem was to try to bring economic pressure to bear on Tshombe. Their primary strategy for doing this was to require companies operating in Katanga to pay taxes to the central government and observe Congolese foreign exchange regulations, thus denying Katanga tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings. (179, 180)
Since U.S. economic leverage with Tshombe was limited, reliance on economic pressure would require Belgian and British cooperation. If the path to Katangan reintegration was to be a peaceful one, it would lead through Brussels and London. As a Special National Intelligence Estimate of December 7 had noted, however, Tshombe enjoyed considerable public support in Europe, and European governments were correspondingly unenthusiastic about putting pressure on him. (152)
U.S. and British perspectives on the Congo differed, as discussions of the Congo at Bermuda had revealed. (177) Further discussions failed to resolve the differences. Both sides agreed on the objective of a unified Congo, but the British were reluctant to exert economic pressure on Tshombe and strongly opposed further use of force by the United Nations, while U.S. officials argued that economic pressures were necessary and that U.N. use of force could not be ruled out. (191)
In Brussels, U.S. efforts to bring economic pressures to bear on Tshombe focused on Union Miniere Haut Katanga (UMHK), the Belgian mining corporation with vast copper mining operations and other interests in Katanga. After Kitona, U.S. officials stepped up efforts to obtain UMHK cooperation. Company officials in Brussels expressed willingness to urge Tshombe to carry out the Kitona accord but argued that they could not on their own initiative take steps such as paying taxes to the central government rather than to Katanga, which would expose the company to retaliation. (183-186, 192)
When Spaak visited Washington at the end of February 1962, he told Ball that UMHK was willing to put tax receipts in escrow until Tshombe and Adoula could agree on a division of tax revenues between the central and provincial governments. When Tshombe objected to the escrow plan, however, UMHK declared that it had no choice but to continue making payments to Katanga. Ambassador to Belgium Douglas MacArthur II warned a UMHK official that unless the company could demonstrate that it was not simply playing Tshombe's game, it would find itself in deep trouble with the Congolese Government. (208, 210)
In the Congo, Gizenga had abandoned his participation in the Leopoldville government and returned to Stanleyville, where he renewed his separatist challenge. In mid-January, the Congolese central government reasserted control in Stanleyville and arrested Gizenga. Adoula, with an unwelcome prisoner on his hands, sought Gullion's advice. When Gullion cabled Washington, the Department of State replied that the decision should be left to Adoula but added that great importance was attached to Gizenga's safety; his death by violence would have "most unfortunate repercussions." (193) Gizenga was put under house arrest in Leopoldville and subsequently removed to an island in the Congo River where he could be kept in isolation from political maneuvering. In February, with the Gizengist challenge under control, Adoula visited the United States, where he addressed the U.N. General Assembly and met with President Kennedy. (199-201)
In mid-March, Tshombe finally was persuaded to come to Leopoldville for negotiations directed at a detailed agreement on the reintegration of Katanga. It was clear within a short time, however, that pressures on both Tshombe and Adoula tended to prevent compromise, and prospects for a successful outcome were poor. (216, 218-219) In mid-April, Congolese forces briefly detained Tshombe's plane at the airport when he was preparing to return to Elisabethville for a visit. It was necessary to get the Congolese Government "back on [the] rails," the Department of State cabled Gullion. (220)
Fearing that if Adoula's government could not obtain the reintegration of Katanga with U.S. and U.N. support, it would collapse or turn to the Soviets for support, U.S. officials concluded that a new approach was necessary. (216, 233) In late April, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs Harlan Cleveland met with U.N. officials in New York and urged a more active U.N. role in mediating between Leopoldville and Elisabethville. If Adoula was willing to accept a moderate proposal and Tshombe was not, he proposed stationing Congolese officials in Katanga with U.N. protection to collect taxes on Katangan exports. This step would risk a renewal of hostilities, however, and would be taken only as a last resort. As U.N. representative in the Congo Robert Gardiner observed, such a step would be "waking the lion." "If we wake him up," he added, "I would hope the gun will be ready." (221; also 222)
When Macmillan was in Washington a few days later, Kennedy urged renewed efforts to find a solution for the Congo. (224) The British and the Belgians were unwilling to accept the risk of further U.N. use of force, however, despite U.S. efforts to persuade them. (224, 232, 234- 236, 241, 244)
On June 26, the Leopoldville talks between Adoula and Tshombe finally collapsed. A day earlier, Acting U.N. Secretary-General U Thant told Stevenson that because of the U.N. financial situation, the Congo problem had to be resolved by the end of the year. If the current U.N. mediation efforts failed, it would be necessary to adopt economic sanctions which might lead to hostilities. At a White House meeting on June 26, however, Kennedy made clear his view that the United States should move in concert with the British and the Belgians and should make no commitment to use force in the Congo without further White House discussion. (248-249) Department of State officials concluded that the best solution was to revive the U.N. mediation effort with a new package of proposals, including constitutional principles for a federal system, a series of practical measures to establish momentum toward Katangan reintegration, and possible economic pressures to be applied to Tshombe. (251, 261, 267)
The U.N. Plan for the Congo
U.S., Belgian, British, and French representatives developed a package consisting of a proposal for national reconciliation and a list of proposed courses of action, including the boycott of Katangan copper (Phase III) and U.N. action to block the export of copper (Phase IV). On August 3, Ball sent the package to Kennedy, who approved but withheld decision on Phases III and IV. At the same time, it was given to Thant and to the Belgian, British, and French Governments.
The Belgians agreed to support the plan through Phase III if the embargo included cobalt (Belgium was a major copper importer, the United States a cobalt importer), and the British agreed to support it through Phase II; the French did not oppose the plan but refused to participate. (268-269, 274) On August 19, Gardiner gave a slightly revised version of the plan to Adoula, who accepted it a few days later. On August 24, he gave the package to Tshombe. (279, 281)
Meanwhile, in the White House and at the upper levels of the Department of State there was a growing sense of dissatisfaction with U.S. policy, fueled by concern that U.N. officials, with Gullion's support, were pursuing a course leading inexorably to a renewal of hostilities. When Tshombe expressed interest in meeting with a U.S. official in Geneva in early August, Kennedy wanted to make a positive response. Arrangements were made for Ball to see Tshombe, but the idea was dropped because of U.N. opposition. (271, 275) In an August 14 telephone conversation with Bundy, Ball called U.S. policy in the Congo a "bankrupt policy." He thought it would be necessary "to do some very careful and adroit disengaging" from it, adopt a course more likely to win Katangan acceptance, and "resume some direct connections with these people." (277)
Ball began by recalling Lewis Hoffacker, who had just completed a year as Consul in Elisabethville, to Washington for consultations. Tshombe had complained to Senator Thomas J. Dodd, the leading congressional critic of Kennedy's Congo policy, when Hoffacker had been transferred to Leopoldville. Hoffacker returned to the Congo in late August carrying a letter from Dodd urging Tshombe to work toward peaceful Katangan reintegration and assuring him of American friendly feelings for his role in a united Congo. Hoffacker, who had met with Kennedy, was authorized to tell Tshombe that the President concurred with the letter. (277, 282, 286)
Gullion was furious at the whole procedure, which he thought undercut the U.N. plan. In exchanges of cables between Rusk and Gullion, the Secretary stressed that the U.S. aim was to achieve the reintegration of Katanga peacefully and that force should be used only as a last resort. Gullion replied that it was essential to be prepared to take that step if necessary. (280, 283-285, 287)
Tshombe accepted the U.N. plan in principle in early September, but both sides were slow to take the specific measures needed to implement the plan. Kennedy and Rusk decided to adopt an earlier suggestion from Dodd and send Deputy Under Secretary of State George McGhee to the Congo, ostensibly on a fact-finding mission but with the expectation that he would assume a mediating role. (292) McGhee was in the Congo from September 28 to October 18, including 3 days of intensive talks with Tshombe, but he made only limited progress in getting implementation of the U.N. plan underway. (298-316) It was essential to keep up the pressure on both Adoula and Tshombe, McGhee reported to Kennedy upon his return.
In general, however, McGhee had come to share Gullion's views: whether Adoula or Tshombe had done more to implement the plan was irrelevant; since the U.S. objective was a unified Congo, the United States had no choice but to support Adoula and to be prepared for the use of stronger measures if necessary. (317, 323)
Kennedy was still anxious to avoid the renewal of hostilities in Katanga. At a White House meeting on October 31, he made it clear that the situation in Cuba, Sino-Indian border clashes, and political difficulties that Spaak was facing precluded any immediate consideration of U.N. military action. (320) U.N. funds were running out, however, and Adoula's political position was becoming increasingly precarious. At another White House meeting on November 7, Kennedy approved new efforts to put pressure on both Adoula and Tshombe, additional support for U.N. forces in order to increase pressure on Tshombe, and renewed talks with the Belgians about economic sanctions. (324-325) Late in November, he authorized the renewal of the U.S. internal airlift for U.N. forces in the Congo, but the United States continued to warn U.N. officials in New York against the use of force. (326-327, 332)
McGhee visited Brussels in mid-November and returned with a proposal aimed at establishing Leopoldville's control over foreign exchange and tax revenues, thus depriving Katanga of the means of continuing its secession. Under this proposal, the Belgian Government would urge UMHK to deposit all foreign exchange proceeds and pay all taxes to the Congolese Government, and the Congolese Government would agree to provide foreign exchange and tax proceeds to UMHK and Katanga in accordance with recommendations by the International Monetary Fund. (331, 333) U.N. officials were skeptical of this scheme, but when Spaak flew to New York in late November, Thant agreed to give the United States and Belgium two weeks to try to carry it out before taking any U.N. action. (334-335, 338) On November 27, Spaak and Kennedy discussed sending a joint delegation to the Congo with the UMHK payments proposal, but they decided instead to propose to Thant that he call a conference in New York between U.S. and Belgian representatives and Adoula, with Tshombe then summoned to participate, at which the UMHK payments plan would be discussed. (340) Thant, although dubious, agreed to have Gardiner broach the idea to Adoula. (342-343)
The conference proposal was doomed from the outset. Adoula's political support was collapsing. On November 28, he barely survived a no-confidence vote, in spite of the Embassy's utmost exertions on his behalf. (345) When Gardiner broached the proposal for a New York meeting, Adoula, in despair, told Gullion it was out of the question for him to go to New York with his government in ruins. He complained bitterly about the delay in U.N. action which he attributed in large part to the United States. Referring to rumors of Soviet aid offers, he declared that if the Soviets made such an offer, he would resign, and his successor would accept Soviet aid. (347-348) Tshombe, meanwhile, was threatening to pursue a scorched earth policy if the United Nations took military action: "Everything will be destroyed, everything." (346)
Proposal To Send a U.S. Air Squadron
The reports of Soviet aid offers to the Congo revived U.S. concern about Soviet military intervention. Kennedy requested a new examination of alternative approaches. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul Nitze asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff whether the United States should offer military assistance to the United Nations. They recommended offering an air strike unit and other forces as needed to tip the balance decisively. (352-353)
On December 13, the Department of State sent a paper to the President that recommended building up U.N. forces in the Congo, including the provision of a U.S. fighter unit, convincing Adoula to prorogue the Parliament and govern with the backing of a pro-Western group, and continuing to pursue the most feasible elements of the Thant plan. (359)
At a White House meeting on December 14, Ball told the President that efforts to reach a negotiated settlement had failed and a solution would have to be imposed by the United Nations. This required a more impressive show of force, which could best be accomplished by adding U.S. military power in the form of an air squadron to the U.N. forces. The expectation was that the squadron would not be used, but it was necessary to be prepared to use it. Kennedy, concerned with public reaction to such a step, agreed to offer the squadron if it were sent at Adoula's request in cooperation with the United Nations rather than under U.N. command. (360)
Stevenson and Cleveland discussed the proposal with Secretary- General U Thant on December 15 and 16. Thant was apprehensive that accepting a U.S. combat unit in the U.N. forces would lessen his ability to fend off Soviet offers. He agreed that it might be possible if it were done at Adoula's request, but he suggested that the United States instead expand its support role by supplying various items of equipment, including 10 fighter aircraft, along with the ground crews to service them. (361)
The NSC Executive Committee discussed the Congo problem, especially the proposal for an air squadron, on the morning of December 17 and again in the afternoon. Rusk asked what would happen if the proposed actions did not have any effect on Tshombe: "Would we go in further with whatever force is necessary? Or how do we get out?" (363) He recommended giving Thant support but urged consultations with Spaak and Macmillan before sending a squadron. Kennedy responded that this would not make much impact; he did not want to get into a fight unless it could be won. He decided to give Thant the items he had requested but delay action on the squadron, talk to Spaak and Macmillan, have a military appraisal made, and talk to Adoula. If the military appraisal and consultations were favorable, he was prepared to send the squadron and use it. If the consultations and military estimate were unfavorable, it would be necessary to "think how we get out." (366)
The air squadron was never sent. Kennedy flew to Nassau the next day for meetings with Macmillan. At his direction, Ball and Nitze gave a background press briefing announcing that the United States was sending a military mission to the Congo to assess the situation and emphasizing the danger of Soviet involvement. (369) The press reports from Nassau and their Cold War slant increased Thant's uneasiness at the idea of direct U.S. military involvement in the Congo and aroused charges in Brussels that the United States was sabotaging Belgium's efforts to gain agreement on the UMHK payments proposal. In discussions with Kennedy at Nassau, Macmillan opposed any military intervention. (369, 370-372, 374, 378)
Rusk recommended that Kennedy provide the help requested by Thant but defer decision on the air squadron, and Kennedy approved. (376) The military mission to the Congo reported on December 28 that the U.N. forces could fulfill their mission without additional forces if they received the military equipment Thant had requested. (386)
Renewed Fighting in Katanga
In the end, the crisis was resolved in Katanga. On December 28, fighting broke out in Elisabethville. Rusk, concerned that Tshombe would "pull the walls down around him," wanted the fighting ended as soon as possible. (388) Stevenson stressed to Thant U.S. concern that he should clarify U.N. political objectives and ensure that U.N. military objectives were limited. (390-391) Within 2 days, U.N. forces were in control of the Elisabethville area, and Tshombe had fled the city. U.S. policymakers in Washington wanted prompt U.N. efforts to contact Tshombe and obtain his cooperation. (392) Gullion and U.N. officials in Leopoldville, however, strongly opposed any move to return Tshombe to power in Elisabethville. (392)
On January 1, 1963, Washington was shocked to discover that U.N. troops were moving north from Elisabethville to Jadotville, apparently without authorization from U.N. headquarters in New York. During the confusion of the next few days, U.S. officials, alarmed that Tshombe might carry out his threats to destroy Katanga's mining facilities and infrastructure, pressed hard for a cease-fire and a political settlement.
Rusk stressed his own and Kennedy's concern in telephone conversations with Thant and Bunche and in a cable to Gullion. (399, 401, 407) Katangan resistance quickly collapsed, however, and the threats were not carried out. Tshombe, back in Elisabethville, announced the end of Katanga's secession on January 14. Three days later, a cease-fire agreement provided for free movement of U.N. forces throughout Katanga. (405-412)
After the Crisis
The Congo crisis was over, but the Congo's problems were still immense. Cleveland reported to Kennedy in February after a visit to the Congo that the central problems from the U.S. standpoint were the need for retraining the Congolese Army (ANC) and the need for technical and economic aid as part of a program of economic and financial stabilization. The military and economic aid burden would require support from a number of Western countries, especially Belgium, preferably with U.N. coordination. (415) Thant refused to allow U.N. participation in an ANC retraining program, however, and efforts to get a multinational program underway encountered a variety of obstacles. (418, 424, 429-430) Economic and financial stabilization also proved elusive. (425, 430, 432)
With no effective ANC retraining program underway, U.S. officials became increasingly concerned about Thant's plans to complete the withdrawal of U.N. troops by the end of 1963. Both Thant and Adoula agreed that the Congolese Army was not ready to assume responsibility for maintaining internal security in the Congo, especially in Katanga, but Thant insisted that sheer financial necessity required the withdrawal of the U.N. force. Kennedy's personal intercession with him at the General Assembly session in September, together with increasing willingness by other countries to provide financial support, persuaded him to request funds from the General Assembly to keep troops in the Congo until mid-1964. (417, 426, 428)
Political turbulence, in abeyance after Kasavubu prorogued Parliament on January 1, revived when Parliament met again in the spring. Adoula, with U.S. encouragement, resisted renewed pressure to release Gizenga. In April, he named a new cabinet representing a wide variety of moderates, including the Katangan Conakat Party. U.S. policymakers continued to believe that Adoula was the best leader available for the Congo. (417, 420, 429) One of his key supporters, General Mobutu, visited the United States in May and was given a warm welcome at the White House by President Kennedy. (423) In October, Adoula made another visit, addressing the General Assembly in New York and meeting with Kennedy and other officials in Washington. (430) While Adoula was away from Leopoldville, unrest grew, and when he returned, he found that a cabal of his supporters had assumed effective control, but Gullion made it clear that the United States still supported Adoula, who continued to serve as Prime Minister. (431-433)
Office of the Historian Bureau of Public Affairs December 1994