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Toasts of the President and President Mobutu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

August 04, 1970

Mr. President, Mrs. Mobutu, our distinguished guests:

We welcome all of you to this room tonight to honor the President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But we particularly want to honor and respect tonight two of our guests who are with us: Mrs. Dwight Eisenhower, whose husband was President of the United States when the Congo was born--she came from Gettysburg and wanted to be here for this dinner tonight--and Justice Thurgood Marshall, who has had a very difficult time over these last few months in the hospital, but who has fully recovered and who attends his first White House dinner since that time. We are very happy to have him here.

Mr. President, since I came into office over 18 months ago, you are the youngest head of state to be honored in this room, and you represent the youngest nation. But though you are a young man and you come from a young nation, there are things we can learn from you.

Tomorrow I have a meeting scheduled with my Cabinet on the budget. I find in studying your administration that you not only have a balanced budget but a favorable balance of trade, and I'd like to know your secret before our meeting with the Cabinet.

This morning when I welcomed you on the South Lawn, I told our Americans listening on television that the Congo was a good investment. I would like to tell this very special group in this room why I consider the Democratic Republic of the Congo a good investment.

I could say it was a good investment because it is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. But it has far more than that. It has, also, people who are able to develop that wealth if given the chance to do so.

In my visit to your country in 1967, I was impressed, of course, by my meeting with you and other government leaders. But I was impressed, too, when I visited a shipyard and the university and a factory and walked over the streets of Kinshasa, and I saw the people, working hard, strong, vigorous, vital and very proud-proud of their country, and with great dignity.

And when we combine rich natural resources with a strong, vigorous people, and a leader who is able to provide the stability and the vision for progress for that country, then that country is a good investment, a good investment for its own people or for others who may desire to participate in its growth.

I am sure that as we look back over the 10 years of the history of this country, we think of how time has capsuled in this century. We think of the fact, as we sit in this room with the great picture of Abraham Lincoln, the portrait, overlooking the room, that a war between our States occurred 100 years ago, and 100 years, virtually, after we were founded.

In 10 years the Congo was born, survived a civil war, and now is a strong, effective, and progressive leader in the exciting new continent, the new Continent of Africa.

An enormous amount of the credit for that development goes to its leaders and particularly to our honored guest tonight. I know that all Americans, as they think of the Congo, know that the President has often referred to his country as being the heart of Africa. I think all of us at this table tonight would speak from our hearts to the heart of Africa when we raise our glasses to the health of the President of the Congo and Mrs. Mobutu.

Note: The President spoke at 9:55 p.m. in the State Dining Room at the White House.

President Mobutu responded in French. A translation of his remarks follows:

Mr. President, Mrs. Nixon, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests:

I followed very closely your brilliant presentation, Mr. President. And now I should like to express on behalf of my wife and my delegation and in the name of my people-what I should like to say here tonight, Mr. President, publicly, is, first of all, all our thanks to your country for everything that you have done for my country for more than the last 10 years.

This morning in response to your kind words of welcome, and at the State Department in response to Secretary Rogers' toast, I said this very forcefully, that in coming here I was bringing the message of gratitude and friendship to the American people, and I said to Secretary Rogers that we have a saying in the Congo that it is in adversity that you know your friends.

My country, beset with problems and difficulties from 1960 to 1965, my country had added a word to the international vocabulary. That word was Congollzation. To "Congolize" was to spread chaos, was to spread anarchy, was to set a bad example, the bad example of a developing country, giving it to the entire world.

But fortunately, the American people, with all its succeeding Presidents since President Kennedy, President Johnson, and yourself, Mr. President, was never discouraged and continued to follow the same consistent line of confidence in my country and today we witness the crowning moment of this task of confidence.

The Congo, thanks to your Government and to the people of the United States, stands up and is an object, if not of envy, of pride for all its friends and particularly for the United States.

I should like to say that my official visit here has as its central purpose to say thank you with all our hearts for all you have done and for all you will be doing to assist us in our economic and financial recovery in the heart of Africa.

Since I have had the opportunity to speak here tonight, I must express publicly that we are setting an excellent example of cooperation between an industrialized country and a developing country. We are the living demonstration in concrete terms--the relations between the United States and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a demonstration of what has happened because you have helped us, and we are showing proof that this aid was not wasted, that we have used diligently the aid given to us for our recovery, for our march towards progress.

I am sure, Mr. President, that your voice will be heard by the Americans to whom you have said that the Congo is a good investment. You are right. This means for American investors, particularly of the private sector, that our recovery has been effective; that we have political stability, order, peace, and calm in the Congo; that the Congolese people is cured from its growing pains; that a people without a leader has become a people with discipline, work, and creative energy.

You have helped us launch the Zaire operation 1 which has succeeded. Our country, which was the sick child of Africa, now sets an example for all the countries of the developing world of what can happen with will, with determination, and this is a marvelous example we can show to the whole world.

Mr. President, you were speaking of what the American investors value most. What they want in a young country is the stability, and that we have; resources, and that we have also. But even more than our investment code which guarantees these investments, there is the fact that neither in our philosophical doctrine nor in our economic concept is there room for the concept of nationalization. We respect private ownership and we see great profits to be derived from this policy.

Confusion in the early stages of our history was taken advantage of to make people believe, and to make particularly American investors believe, that we would nationalize, but this is not true. There is no single private owner that can say that it was ever nationalized or that it will be. This will never be.

There is the unfortunate case of Union Miniere, 2 which is often cited. I do not want to go into past history, but Bossuet has said, "The past can set an example for what we should do in the future."

But I believe that the philosophy of the investors should be to pursue a course of honesty and abide by the laws of the country to which they wish, not to take advantage of the lack of cadres or trained personnel and if by chance the powers begin to open their eyes and be vigilant, they should not then say, "We are being nationalized"--this is not good; not a good philosophy to follow.

I believe, Mr. President, that perhaps I went a bit astray tonight. I merely wanted to reply to you, to tell you how much my wife, my delegation, and myself are responsive to your warm welcome, the welcome that you and Mrs. Nixon, to whom I pay particular tribute, have given us the welcome of your government and your people. We are touched by it very, very deeply.

We can truly tell our people that here in America we have a people who have understood us through the good times and the bad times, that demonstration has been made that we are an example of the cooperation between an industrialized country and a developing country in the help we have received from you to our march on progress. This is something to make you proud and to this I should like to raise the glass of friendship between our two peoples.

1 A 1967 monetary reform program.

2 Union Miniere du Haul Katanga, a Belgian-owned copper mining company which was nationalized in 1966 by the Congolese Government. A final settlement between the government and the company was agreed upon in 1969.

Richard Nixon, Toasts of the President and President Mobutu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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