The issue of the Congo continued to dominate international affairs for the year 1961.
Since his capture in December 1960, Patrice Lumumba had been kept prisoner at Thysville. On 17 January, he was transferred to Katanga. The Katanga Minister of the Interior announced his escape on 10 February, and then his death on 13 February.
Patrice Lumumba's murder was condemned throughout the world. The Security Council met briefly on 13 February, and reconvened the meeting for February 15. On 14 February, the Soviet Union issued a statement calling for the dismissal of Dag Hammarskjöld. At the afternoon meeting, 15 February, (S/PV.935) [Chinese| French| Russian| Spanish] Dag Hammarskjöld made a long statement, where he recalled all the facts regarding the involvement of the United Nations in the Congo question, since 1960. He reiterated that he would abide by the decision of the Members of the Organization. A lengthy debate ensued which ended with the adoption, on 21 February, of resolution 161(1961), [Chinese|French| Russian|Spanish] by which the Council authorized ONUC to use force, as a last resort, to prevent civil war in the Congo. It urged that the various Congolese armed units be reorganized and brought under discipline and control, and urged the immediate evacuation of all Belgian and other foreign military and paramilitary personnel and political advisers not under United Nations command, as well as mercenaries. It also urged the convening of Parliament and the taking of necessary protective measures in that connection.
The period immediately after the adoption of this resolution was a critical one for the United Nations Operation in the Congo. The situation was complicated by the continuing constitutional crisis, marked by the existence of several rival authorities in the country. The maintenance of law and order was the heaviest of all the tasks falling upon ONUC.
The Secretary-General undertook intensive diplomatic efforts to bring about the withdrawal of the foreign military and political personnel. His position was that, while ONUC originated from a request by the Congolese Government, the purpose of United Nations intervention, as determined by the Security Council, was not to achieve the domestic aims of the Government but to preserve international peace and security. What the United Nations sought to do was to encourage efforts at reconciliation and to eliminate foreign interference.
In April, the situation began to improve, first because of the increased strength of the Force, and secondly, because, after patient negotiations, ONUC reached an agreement with President Kasa-Vubu on 17 April for the implementation of the Security Council February resolution. The limited use of force, as authorized by the Council, was resorted to by ONUC at the beginning of April to stop the civil war, which was spreading dangerously in northern Katanga.
It was at this point that United Nations troops intervened, stopped the gendarmes and established control of the area between Kabalo and Albertville.
After President Kasa-Vubu announced his intention to reconvene Parliament, on 12 May, ONUC spared no effort to help achieve this purpose.
On 30 May, the Secretary-General delivered a lecture at Oxford University where he demonstrated the importance of an international civil service led by a Secretary-General with exclusively international responsibilities: "The International Civil Servant in Law and in Fact".
|Oscar Schachter, who worked closely with Dag Hammarskjöld
in the preparation of the lecture, later noted:
"That lecture was not
a purely theoretical exercise. It was given at a time when Hammarskjöld
was under severe attack by the Soviet Union for an alleged lack of neutrality
in his handling of the Congo crisis... Hammarskjöld who saw himself
as exclusively guided by the ideals and principles of the United Nations
and who had been almost universally lauded for his dedication and brilliance
in pursuing those ends was then under vehement attack for bias and personal
ambition. There was no doubt that he was deeply affected, and that he perceived
the criticisms as an attack on his personal integrity... The Oxford lecture...
in its defence of personal integrity against the claims of power... carries
a powerful appeal even today. (Schachter in "Dag Hammarskjöld
In the Congo, Parliament reopened on 22 July with more than 200 - out of a total of 221 - members attending.
On 2 August, Prime Minister Cyrille Adoula, at the request of President Kasa-Vubu, constituted a Government of national unity, which was unanimously approved by both Chambers (S/4913) [Chinese| French|Russian|Spanish]. With the act of approval of the national unity Government, the constitutional crisis was ended.
In response to a letter from Prime Minister Adoula, the Secretary-General confirmed that the United Nations would deal with his Government as the Central Government of the Republic and would render to it whatever aid and support the United Nations was in position to give to the Congo (S/4923) [Chinese| French| Russian| Spanish]. The formation of the Adoula Government was of crucial importance in enabling the United Nations to proceed with the elimination of foreign elements.
On 24 August an ordinance was issued calling for the expulsion of all foreign officers and mercenaries standing behind the secessionist policy. Disorder occurred during the repatriation and the United Nations troops were violently attacked in Elisabethville (Katanga) by gendarmes led by non-Congolese personnel.
In the morning of 13 September the Congolese Government requested a cease-fire, but attacks on United Nations troops continued.
In the meantime, the Secretary-General had arrived in Leopoldville at Prime Minister Adoula's invitation to discuss future prospects of the United Nations Operation in what was hoped would be a new setting created by the completion of the principal tasks assigned by the Security Council and the General Assembly. He intended also to bring about a reconciliation between Leopoldville and Elisabethville. Confronted instead with a situation of confused fighting in Elisabethville, the Secretary-General devoted himself to the task of securing a cessation of the hostilities and achieving reconciliation among Congolese factions. In a quest of a cease-fire, he flew to Ndola (Northern Rhodesia) to meet Mr. Tshombé, the provincial president of Katanga. *
On this flight, on the night of 17 September, his aeroplane crashed and he was killed, together with seven other United Nations staff members, and the Swedish crew S/4940/Add.5 [Chinese| French| Russian| Spanish], S/4940/Add.9 [Chinese| French| Russian| Spanish].
Immediately upon receiving the tragic news, the United Nations appointed a Board of Investigation to clarify the conditions and circumstances resulting in the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and members of the party accompanying him. (The Blue Helmets: a Review of United Nations Peace-keeping, pp. 182-192)
On 8 September, before leaving for his trip to Congo, the Secretary-General
had addressed the staff for the last time on the occasion of Staff Day
in the General Assembly Hall:
A Memorial ceremony was held in the General Assembly Hall for Dag Hammarsjöld and those who had died with him. The Philadelphia Orchestra played Beethoven's Ninth Symphony as it had done on United Nations Day 1960. The speech made by Dag Hammarskjöld on 24 October 1960 was played to a silent audience.
* For additional information on the Congo and ONUC for 1961, please see UN Yearbook 1961.
|Unless otherwise noted, the information included in these pages is based on the "Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations: Volumes II-V: Dag Hammarskjöld", selected and edited with commentary by Andrew W.Cordier and Wilder Foote, Columbia University Press, 1974-1975.|