Sub-Saharan Africa 1960: Congo Crisis
Belgium reluctantly granted its Congo colony independence in June 1960 but delayed ceding control of the armed forces to the new government. As a result, Congolese troops mutinied against their Belgian officers and the country broke down into disorder. In response, Belgium sent in paratroopers to protect white civilians and backed a secessionist movement in mineral-rich Katanga province. Prime Minister Lumumba of the Congo protested to the United Nations, which called on the Belgians to withdraw.
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'.
30 Jun 1960 Independence of the Congo▲
Increasing nationalist unrest in the Belgian Congo—most notably in the Léopoldville riots of 4 January 1959—pushed the Belgian authorities to hurriedly implement reforms in the colony. From January to May 1960 the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference was held in Brussels, eventually setting the date for Congolese independence as 30 June 1960. In May Patrice Lumumba’s Mouvement National Congolais won the parliamentary elections, leading to Lumumba’s appointment as prime minister and fellow nationalist Joseph Kasa-Vubu becoming president. The following month the Belgian Congo became independent as the Republic of the Congo; the new state was often designated as “Congo-Léopoldville” after its capital to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of Congo (called “Congo-Brazzaville”).
1 Jul 1960 Independence of Somalia▲
On 1 July 1960 Italian administration came to an end in the Trust Territory of Somaliland, which simultaneously united with its northern neighbor, the State of Somaliland, to form the Somali Republic. On the same day Aden Abdullah Osman Daar—a prominent Somali nationlist from the former trust territory—became president and Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal—the prime minister of the former State of Somaliland—became prime minister of the new republic.
5 Jul 1960 Force Publique mutiny▲
Under the Congo’s independence agreement with Belgium, the Force Publique—the Congo’s armed forces—retained its colonial structure after the Republic of the Congo gained independence on 30 June 1960. On 4 July Émile Janssens, Commander of the Force Publique and one of 600 Belgian officers, emphasized that his Congolese troops were still subordinate to Belgium by writing on a blackboard “After Independence = Before Independence”. The next day Congolese soldiers mutinied against their Belgian officers near Thysville and then across the country; general riots and looting in the Congo followed.
9–13 Jul 1960 Belgian intervention in the Congo▲
Ostensibly to protect Belgian civilians from the upheaval in its former colony, Belgium sent troops into the Republic of the Congo without waiting for a request from the Congolese government and therefore in violation of the pre-independence Treaty of Friendship between the two countries. Belgian forces , primarily paratroopers, occupied Luluabourg, Matadi, and Banningville. On 13 July paratroopers landed in Léopoldville, seizing key points in the Congo’s capital, including the airport.
11 Jul 1960 Katanga secession▲
Moise Tshombe, buoyed by the arrival of Belgian forces a few days earlier, declared the independent State of Katanga in Elizabethville, in the south of the Congo. Besides the 6,000 Belgian troops, Tshombe was supported by Belgian business interests, which operated rich cobalt, copper, gold, and uranium mines in Katanga. Despite this, Belgium did not officially recognize the new state.
14 Jul 1960 UNSC Resolution 143▲
On 12 July 1960 Prime Minister Lumumba and President Kasa-Vubu of the Congo cabled the United Nations for assistance against the Belgian intervention in their country. The UN Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, responded by calling an urgent meeting of the Security Council to discuss the crisis the following day. Early on 14 July, despite abstentions from the Republic of China, France, and the United Kingdom, the council passed Resolution 143, demanding that Belgium withdraw its troops from the Congo and that UN military assistance be provided to the Congolese government.