Congo 1960/68

Map of Congo Crisis 1960-1964

Congo Crisis


There were five main protagonists in the Congo crisis that lasted from 1960 to 1964.
Tshombe, president of secessionist Katanga province.
Kasavubu, president of newly independent central government of Congo.
Lumumba, premier of the above (and enemy of Kasavubu).
The Belgian government and Belgian mercenaries
The United Nations (pushed by the US).

Other players in this sad drama of greed, murder and intrigue were the Rwanda 'government', the CIA, multinationals, and anyone else that had a stake in the mineral resource pie.


Image of Moise Tshombe

Image of Joseph Kasavubu

Image of Patrice Lumumba

Moise Tshombe

Joseph Kasavubu

Patrice Lumumba

Agitation for independence forced Belgium to grant this on June 30 1960, although reluctant to give up the vast mineral wealth of the country, especially in the Katanga province.

Less than 2 weeks after independance (July 11) Katanga seceded, closely followed by part of Kasai, another mining province. Under the leadership of Tshombe and with Belgian aid, Katanga fought off repeated attempts by the central government to seize control. Throughout the country disorder was widespread and fragmentation split the country into 5 areas. The central government invoked the help of the UN.

In 1960, Tshombe reluctantly allowed a small UN force to enter Katanga -the proverbial 'Trojan horse'. Later a considerable number of UN troops, committed to a policy of nonintervention, were stationed in Katanga to oversee the withdrawal of foreign troops. Belgian troops were slowly withdrawn, but white mercenary officers continued to command the Katanga army.

There was reoccurring trouble between the UN force and the Katangese, and attempts at reconciliation with the central government proved fruitless. The situation grew steadily worse until early 1961, when strongman Kasavubu staged a successful army coup, and handed over the former premier Lumumba to the Katangese where Lumumba was murdered.

In 1961, under a new stronger UN mandate, the international force took control of Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi) and other volatile areas. An agreement of December 1961 for getting Katanga back in the fold went nowhere.

Rural insurgencies broke out in the provinces in 1963, that raised the serious prospect of the total collapse of the central government, but the rebellion failed to capitalise on it's early military successes to become an effective power apparatus, due mainly to its fragmented support base and poor leadership. The kiss of death for the rebellion was made by the European mercenaries who helped the central government gain control over rebel held areas.

It was not until January 1963, and only after a violent showdown between UN troops and Tshombe's forces was the Katanga secession ended. It would take another year for the last bastion of secession, the pro-Lumumba Stanleyville government, to be crushed.
Ironically, a year and a half after Tshombe's defeat by the UN forces -and the most vocal advocate of Katanga secession, Tshombe suddenly popped up as the providential leader of the besieged central government.

In 1966 the central 'government' nationalised Union Minière du Haut Katanga, the huge Belgian firm that had controlled most of Katanga's mining interests. Throughout the 1970s, further insurrections were put down by the government with help from foreign nations, but in the 1990s there was renewed talk of the secession of Katanga.

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