Congo Dilemma

February 3, 1965

Report Outline
World Powers and the Congo's Civil War
Political Instability Since Independence
Major Obstacles to a Congo Settlement

World Powers and the Congo's Civil War

Risks of a Cold War Confrontation in Africa

Civil war in the Congo is drawing East and West into a cold war confrontation that easily could escalate into another Viet Nam. Ranged against each other in savage conflict are Communist-backed Congolese rebels and the Western-supported central Congolese government of Premier Moise Tshombe. Stepped-up shipments of weapons to rebel-held areas in the northeastern Congo now threaten to swing the Congolese balance of power against the legitimate government.

Secretary of State Dean Rusk has warned that Africa may become a major front in the cold war unless outside interference in the Congo's affairs is ended. He told a news conference, Dec. 23, that the Congo situation presented one of the two most threatening problems of the day; the other was the situation in South Viet Nam. Testifying on Jan. 21 before a Senate subcommittee, G. Mennen Williams, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, described the Communist threat in Africa as “real” and “dangerous.”

It has been asserted in Washington that President Johnson must soon decide whether to increase American military aid to Tshombe or let matters in that country deteriorate sharply. Certain foreign affairs experts, on the other hand, counsel against further American involvement either in the Congo or in other African nations; they insist that the interests there of Great Britain, France and Belgium are far greater than those of the United States. Chairman Richard B. Russell (D Ga.) of the Senate Armed Services Committee has stated that if there is one place that Americans “haven't any business, it's the Congo.” Walter Lippmann recently described both the Congo and Viet Nam as “unhappy entanglements” which have grossly overextended the United States in “regions where we have no primary vital interest.”

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