Sub-Saharan Africa 1961: Discord over the Congo

The deposing and later assassination of Congolese PM Lumumba divided the United Nations. The Eastern Bloc countries and many of the recently independent states, especially in Africa, continued to support Lumumba and his successor, Gizenga, as the legitimate leaders of the Congo. This strained the UN Operation in the Congo as African nations considered withdrawing their forces.


The Two Republic of Congos 1960-64

During this period, Congo (Brazzaville) was called the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Leopoldville/Kinshasa) was called the 'Republic of the Congo'. For both the sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion, we always refer to Congo (Brazzaville) as the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Kinshasa) - the center of attention in Africa during this period - as simply 'the Congo'.

UN presence in the Congo

From mid-August 1960 to late 1961 the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) was based in all major cities and airfields of the Congo and was conducting patrols along the railroads and major roads of that country. However the general refusal of ONUC to involve itself in the Congolese Civil War meant that its influence was strongest in areas under control of the Congolese government and restricted in the rebelling regions. Thus, in the map, only major ONUC bases are depicted under UN influence in areas outside government control, even though ONUC patrols and presence often extended beyond these bases.

Main Events

25 Dec 1960–24 Feb 1961 Gizenga’s expansion

In early January 1961 troops of Antoine Gizenga’s Free Republic of the Congo defeated an attempt by the Léopoldville government to retake Bukavu from Belgian-ruled Ruanda. At the same time Gizenga’s forces overran the rest of Kivu province and pushed into northern Katanga as far as Manono. To the west they advanced across Kasai province, seizing control of the vital town of Luluabourg despite protests by the UN troops based wikipedia

3–7 Jan 1961 Casablanca Group

A meeting of neutralist and anti-Western nations was called in Casablanca, Morocco, in reaction to the Congo crisis, in particular the overthrow of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. As India and Indonesia failed to attend, the resulting conference became an African-only affair between the heads of state of Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, the United Arab Republic, and the Algerian Provisional Government (in rebellion against France). Among other resolutions, the represented countries pushed for an African-only force in the Congo, supported Algerian independence, denounced Apartheid in South Africa, and issued an “African Charter” to push for African wikipedia

17 Jan 1961 Assassination of Lumumba

On 3 December 1960 the Congolese government transferred deposed Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba to Camp Hardy in Thysville, where he stayed for a month. Under Belgian pressure and government fears that his supporters might still free him, Lumumba was sent to the State of Katanga, arriving on 17 January 1961. Later that same day, he was tortured and then driven to a remote location outside Elisabethville where he was executed by firing squad in the presence of both Belgian authorities and Katangan premier Moïse wikipedia

3 Feb–28 Apr 1961 UN discord over the Congo

Following the overthrow of PM Lumumba of the Congo, Yugoslavia, Ceylon, the UAR, Indonesia, Morocco, and Guinea withdrew their contingents from the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC) in December 1960. From February to April 1961 repeated clashes broke out between UN forces and both the central Congolese government in Léopoldville and the rival pro-Lumumba government of the Free Republic of the Congo in Stanleyville. After three such fights between Sudanese troops and the central government in March, Sudan also withdrew from the ONUC, accusing the UN Command of wikipedia

4 Feb 1961 Outbreak of Angolan War

In December 1960 and January 1961 discontented laborers revolted in parts of Portuguese Angola, most notably in the Baixa do Cassanje to the east of Luanda. This was followed on 4 and 10 February by attacks on police and military units in Luanda by Angolan militants, allegedly ordered by the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). The next month, on 15 March, the Union of Peoples of Angola (UPA) invaded northern Angola from the Congo but, by October, were defeated by the Portuguese in wikipedia