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- Author: Alanna O’Malley x
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In 1962, Congo was catapulted into the international consciousness as the scene of conflict and confusion when a civil and constitutional crisis erupted just a week after the independence ceremony. The breakdown of law and order began when the Congolese army, the Force Publique, mutinied against their Belgian officers, leading to violence and chaos in the capital Leopoldville. This book reinterprets the role of the United Nations (UN) Organization in this conflict by presenting a multidimensional view of how the UN operated in response to the crisis. The United States (US) and Britain were directly involved with formulating UN Congo policy, through an examination of the Anglo-American relationship. The book analyses how the crisis became positioned as a lightning rod in the interaction of decolonisation with the Cold War, and wider relations between North and South. It establishes why, in 1960, the outbreak of the Congo crisis and its successive internationalisation through UN intervention was an important question for Anglo-American relations. The book highlights the changing nature of the UN from 1960 to 1961. It focuses on the emergence of a new US policy in New York. Discussing the role of United Nations activities in the Congo (Operation des Nations Unies au Congo), it explains why military incursions into Katanga in September, and again in December of 1961, proved damaging to the Anglo-American relationship. The invigoration of the Secretariat, demands of the Afro-Asian bloc, Operation UNOKAT, and efforts to construct a Western friendly regime in the Congo are also discussed.
The formal condemnation of American, British and Belgian actions during the Stanleyville intervention represented the zenith of the influence of the Afro-Asian bloc at the UN. By instrumentalising the organisation and enhancing its agency and potential in a variety of ways, the Afro-Asian bloc enhanced the role of the UN in accelerating decolonisation across Africa. In the General Assembly and its associated committees, not only did the Afro-Asians have a vehicle for their objectives but they also had an opportunity to maximise the benefits of their numerically dominant position. The Congo crisis had served to subtly shift the dynamic of Anglo-American relations on colonial issues, as reflected in the State Department's report of 1965. The Afro-Asian bloc had consistently used the Congo crisis as a way to demonstrate a wider critique of British colonial policies, which increased the oversight role of the UN in managing the decolonisation process in Africa.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explains why, in 1960, the outbreak of the Congo crisis and its successive internationalisation through UN intervention was an important question for Anglo-American relations. By framing the Congo crisis as a key turning point in the process of decolonisation, it highlights the agency of the UN and the Afro-Asian bloc in accelerating the anti-colonial campaign and attempting to reshape the relationship between North and South. The chapter sketches the broader context of Anglo-American relations, as well as establishing the nature of the partnership, as it existed between President Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, and afterwards with President John F. Kennedy. The book highlights the changing nature of the UN from 1960 to 1961.
Campaigning for human rights, Edmund Dene Morel created the Congo Reform Association in 1904 following a British House of Commons Resolution condemning Leopold's actions. The British diplomat Roger Casement was dispatched to verify Morel's claims, which he did in a 1904 report that compounded Morel's story with accounts of similar humanitarian abuses. In the case of the Congo, the discourse was led by Morel's Congo Reform Association with the aim of activating a sense of international consciousness and responsibility to end Leopold's destructive regime. The Congo became one of the first cases in which human rights and native rights were articulated in the context of colonial governance. The impression of the architecture of US Congo policy gives an important insight into the role and influence of private interests in shaping approaches towards the execution of modernisation strategies.
Decades before the rhetoric of the 'responsibility to protect' entered into international discourse during the 1990s, Dag Hammarskjöld responded to the Congolese request by immediately declaring that the UN had an obligation to protect the sovereignty of the Congo from Belgian incursion. Hammarskjöld's main objective was to contain the crisis by ensuring that all aid and support for the Congo came through the UN, thereby preventing the superpowers from drawing the conflict into the Cold War. The troika proposal, which arose in the context of the Congo debate, raised the dimensions of the problem such as the ongoing broader discussions about the nature of the UN environment and the anti-colonial crusade. In parallel to the controversy surrounding the credentials debate, the position of Britain and the US was further complicated by two other issues; the Soviet troika proposal and the campaign to declare a formal end to colonialism.
The six months between September 1960 and February 1961 fully transformed the Congo crisis from a regional Cold War conflict into a lightning rod for wider anti-colonial critiques. On 27 July 1961, while the diplomatic manoeuvres between America and Britain were ongoing at the UN over the reorganisation of the Secretariat, in the Congo, relations between Katanga and the Central Government had reached deadlock. In response to the implementation of the February Resolution, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics had revised its position on the Congo, backing down from its earlier calls for the removal of the UN and replacing Dag Hammarskjöld with a troika power structure. Operation Morthor revealed that the extent of British opposition to the use of force to end the secession was a willingness to break with the US and the UN on the question. The relative success of Operation Rumpunch was overshadowed by Operation Morthor.
The Afro-Asian bloc responded in a largely positive manner to Operation Morthor as it represented a significant step towards restoring territorial integrity to the Congo. Through 1961 the events in the Congo had displayed the inability of Britain to influence substantially either US or UN policy on the Congo or on decolonisation. Following Dag Hammarskjöld's death the State Department revised US Congo policy with the aim of strengthening Adoula's Central Government, by advancing the campaign against Katanga. British intransigence over the Congo, and much diminished influence with Afro-Asian countries and within the Commonwealth, closed down avenues of Anglo-American cooperation and increased the determination of the State Department to generate a Congo policy more in line with the Afro-Asians. British feeling that the organisation was a 'damned nuisance' continued to divide Anglo-American opinion even after the Kitona Accords.
Antoine Gizenga renewed the operation of the opposition Government in Stanleyville, with the help of Lumumba's former Minister for Education Pierre Mulele and aid from the Soviet Union and some members of the Casablanca Group, including Ghana, Guinea and Mali. The insurgency in Stanleyville destabilised the Central Government and combined with the unresolved question of Katanga, the Congo crisis remained on the international agenda. For both America and Britain, Thant's mounting determination to implement his Plan for National Reconciliation in the Congo, and the increasing likelihood of military action as part of the process, led to a renewed effort to coordinate policies towards the Congo and Africa generally. In the immediate aftermath of Operation UNOKAT, there was widespread criticism in Britain of the ways in which the UN handled the operation and particularly the question of responsibility for occupation of Jadotville and Kolwezi.
Following the dismantling of Antoine Gizenga's opposition regime in Stanleyville in 1962, the exiled Lumumbists had found refuge in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville. The re-emergence of Tshombe and the re-invigoration of the British network of relations with other African states produced a storm of protest against British and American Congo policy when the Stanleyville hostage crisis came to a head in November 1964. Godley followed his tirade against the rebels on 21 November with an urgent message that Stanleyville had deteriorated into a situation of panic. This sense of panic was convenient to Godley's objective of forcing Washington's hand to order the deployment of Dragon Rouge, a rescue plan which had been under negotiation with Belgium since early November. At the root of the Foreign Office's reflections on the Congo crisis, their visions of the role and utility of the UN in managing the decolonisation and ordering the world remained fundamentally different.