Two Congo Rebellions End, 1962

From Katanga 1960-63: Mercenaries, Spies and the African Nation that Waged War on the World, by Christopher Othen (History Press, 2015), Kindle Loc. ~3909:

On 1 March 1961, Albert Kalonji declared himself chief of chiefs for all Baluba in Kasaï. As the new Mulopwe, Kalonji was supposed to sacrifice a family member to ensure invulnerability, take his pick of local virgins and allow villagers to eat dirt from beneath his feet. He disappointed local witchdoctors by agreeing only to the dirt eating.

Kalonji told his friends that traditionalist-minded tribal chiefs had pushed the position of Mulopwe on him. His critics, including South Kasaï prime minister Joseph Ngalula, thought Kalonji had suggested the whole thing as part of a plan to become dictator. Ngalula complained so loudly that he was exiled to Léopoldville, the Mulopwe having bought the co-operation of Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu with profits from his diamond mines. The UN had banned the export of conflict diamonds but Kalonji smuggled the stones across the River Congo to Brazzaville, where Youlou pretended he had dug them up himself.

Rich and worshipped, the Mulopwe underestimated how much Léopoldville hated his secession. By the end of the year, Ngalula had persuaded the Congolese government to revoke the parliamentary immunity that had kept Kalonji safe during earlier visits to the capital. Mobutu’s men arrested the Mulopwe in Léopoldville on 30 December.

The cell doors slammed on Antoine Gizenga a few weeks later. Parliament had stripped the deputy prime minister of his position after Stanleyville ANC troops invaded north Katanga at the end of 1961. On 8 January, Kasa-Vubu ordered him to return to the capital. Gizenga refused. A more charismatic man could have caused trouble but Gizenga spent his time in clammy introversion by the river. Not even his troop of female bodyguards, pearl-handled revolvers on each hip, made him look like a leader. Stanleyville fell apart while he brooded, and his supporters turned on him.

‘We have had enough of the anarchy and terror that reign in our province,’ said one of Gizenga’s soldiers.

International support had also faded away. American money persuaded previously loyal African leaders to abandon Gizenga. The USSR preferred to focus on Germany, where the construction of the Berlin Wall had increased tensions between east and west. Moscow’s interest in exporting the Cold War to Africa faded further when Afro-Asian nations refused to back Khruschev’s post-Ndola plan to replace the post of UN Secretary General with a three-pronged system that would have boosted Soviet influence. The suitcases of cash stopped arriving in Stanleyville.

‘[Gizenga’s] group has become disillusioned with Russian promises which never materialized,’ cabled US ambassador Clare Timberlake to Washington.

In his damp villa, Gizenga issued daily orders that no one followed. The few cars limping along the roads outside were wrecks and the roads themselves not much better. General Victor Lundula declared his allegiance to Kasa-Vubu, carrying most of the Stanleyville ANC with him. Gizenga ordered the general’s arrest but none of the 300 gendarmes still loyal would obey. Lundula moved on the evening of 12 January. A gun battle left eight Gizenga loyalists dead in the streets at the cost of six attackers. Gizenga’s all-female bodyguards never fired a shot. UN troops moved in and disarmed the remaining gendarmes.

Gizenga sent a cable to Adoula: ‘PUT MY OFFICE AND RESIDENCE IN ORDER. INFORM THE COUNCIL, THE PARLIAMENT AND ALL THE PEOPLE.’

When he arrived in Léopoldville, the police arrested him. The only international protests were a few sparsely attended marches in the Soviet bloc. No one seemed to care when Gizenga was imprisoned on Bula Bemba Island off the coast. The South Kasaï and Stanleyville rebellions were over. Tshombe was the last man standing.

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Filed under Congo, military, nationalism, U.N., U.S., USSR, war

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