Skip to main content
Make the most out of any wiki by using our free sister product,
Blendspace by TES
, to create interactive lessons and presentations!
Pages and Files
Add "All Pages"
Hailey Taylor, Niall Paxman
A Summary of the Congo Crisis:
The Congo Crisis was a period of turmoil in the First Republic. It had began with national independence from Belgium. This suedo anti-colonial struggle ended with Joseph Mobuto seizing power. Though it had the traits of an anti-colonial struggle it was a secessionist war with the province of Katanga, as well as a United Nations Peace Keeping Orperation and a Cold War proxy battle between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Congo Crisis caused an approximation of 100,000 deaths and was a dramatic setback for the United Nations.
Modern World History, Fourth Edition, Norman Lowe
Authors:Collins, CaroleSource:Africa Today; 1992 3rd Quarter, Vol. 39 Issue 3, p5, 18pDocument Type:ArticleCompany/Entity:UNITED Nations
While the issues that most motivated the actors changed depending on which crisis was uppermost in their minds at any moment, the core issues at stake for several key protagonists were clear. Lumumba, like many other Congolese, was driven by the desire for "true independence." What that meant concretely was not always clear, but he expressed (as did many Congolese) an intense anti-colonialism laced with extreme sensitivity to any slight, real or imagined, by Belgians or other Westeners of himself or other African Congolese. As the crisis developed, so did his adamant opposition to any continuing Belgian presence in the Congo. A second core issue for Lumumba was that of national unity and the preservation of the Congo's territorial integrity at any cost. At no moment did he accept even the idea of making concessions to the secessionists. Indeed, his National Congolese Movement (MNC) placed great ideological emphasis on national identity over ethnic or regional ties as a basis for collective action.
Both of these issues put him increasingly on a collision course with Belgium and other Western powers (e.g. the US, which thought Belgium would be a 'stabilizing' influence in independent Congo), with secessionist leaders, with other Congolese leaders more ready to compromise, and with UN officials who, despite unhappiness with Belgian actions, wanted the Congo government to pursue a more conciliatory stance.
For Hammarskjold and Cordier, however, the core issue was quite different: maintenance of global peace in a world deeply split between East and West. But their understanding of this issue was based on several key assumptions that, I argue, fatally flawed the UN mediation effort:
- They believed that Congolese issues were of subordinate importance to preventing a major clash of East-West interests. This made them blind or insensitive to the fact that their actions would be perceived, by many Congolese and African and non-aligned countries, as so partial as to render suspect the good faith of their actions, and that of ONUC. Even democracy, in contrast to the current emphasis on 'democratization,' was subordinate to the central importance of avoiding East-West conflict and limiting Soviet expansion into Africa.
- They saw no contradiction between being 'international, neutral civil servants' and being anti-communist. While they often criticized the US and other Western powers, especially Belgium, at all times they saw the Soviet Union as the major threat to global peace and unquestionably collaborated with Western powers to limit that threat. Indeed, in a striking comment on the Soviets at the UN, Cordier says that "I know that their fundamental aim is one of the destruction of western civilization." 
- They could not conceive of any valid rationale for a Congolese leader to seek or receive Soviet assistance; such a request made any leader ultimately a communist sympathizer or a dupe, both equally 'illegitimate' in their eyes. And they were willing to undermine any leader, like Lumumba, who they thought served Soviet aims in the Congo. As Cordier wrote:
One of the extraordinary features of their [Soviet] tactics is the feverish support that they give to people like Castro and Lumumba, persons who are themselves destroyers and who therefore not only become the symbols of Russian influence abroad but the outposts of their effort. 
Whether Soviet aid to the Congo was sincerely or opportunistically offered is irrelevant here; the point is that Hammarskjold and Cordier saw this aid as so unacceptable as to render legitimate any actions they took to forestall it, whether it meant the de facto ignoring of the central government when they negotiated with Tshombe, or the de facto use of their powers to take sides in the Congo's leadership crisis. A priori, they saw any solicitation of Soviet aid for any purpose in the Congo as illegitimate.
A final core issue for UN leadership, including Cordier and Hammarskjold, was the personality of Lumumba himself. Of all the complex cast of characters on the Congolese political stage, none so fueled the fears of political opponents, western powers and top UN diplomats alike as did this charismatic, popular and mercurial man. His anti-colonial passion, his grip on the popular imagination, his growing international following, and his advocacy of non-alignment raised--in the Cold War clouded minds of UN, Belgian and especially American policy makers--the spectre of a socialist Congo with strong links to the eastern bloc.
Given his fiery oratorical skills, his efforts to be channing and conciliatory in private with western outsiders, instead of soothing their fears, made him seem all the more unpredictable and duplicitous. Unrelenting Belgian hostility toward Lumumba largely motivated their decision to back secessionist movements that sprang up in July 1960 in the mineral-rich Kasai and Katanga provinces.
Congo's first prime minister, Patrice Lumumba; sits in an army truck the day after his arrest in 1960. He was killed a month later.
- Conor Cruise O'Brien, former representative of the U.N.
Secretary-General to Katanga, in the preface to his 1968 play
The Andrew Wellington Cordier Story:
"The spectacle is of the working of the political fate of human beings: the veiled logic which requires from political men actions which are the function of what they represent -- and to a lesser extent of what they are -- in circumstances which they cannot ever have wholly foreseen.
The movement of this logic, toward the mutual destruction of Dag Hammarskjold and of Patrice Lumumba, is the movement of Murderous Angels. The angels are the great and noble abstractions represented by the protagonists: Peace in the case of HammarskjoId, Freedom in the case of Lumumba. That the idea of Freedom can be murderous is obvious. . . . To connect Peace with murder seems . . . shocking, yet the reality of the connection can be demonstrated.”
Certainly, Congo is a disaster – a huge country the size of Europe, with a corrupt government ruling its 70 million people, with genocidal tribal slaughters, rapacious mining companies scooping up everything in sight, and neighbours trying to bite off chunks of territory and population for their own purposes. The UN first went into Congo in 1960, with Canadian signallers providing its communications, and UN forces fought a war against separatist elements. They have been there again for more than a decade, with 22,500 people on the ground, mainly provided by African nations.
The Globe and Mail
1. According to Source A and B, what was the role of the UN in the Congo Crisis?
a) According to source D, how did the people seem to be reacting to the civil war?
b) State the OPVL for this source.
3. From source C, showing the Congo's first prime minister arrested, what can be derived about the countries governmental stability?
4. From the article in Source E, how was the Congo Crisis depicted in Canada?
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"