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    Congo, Democratic Republic of the The Secession of Katanga
    Source: The Library of Congress Country Studies

    Katanga had always been a special case, administered until 1910 by the privately owned Special Committee of Katanga (Comité Spécial du Katanga). In 1910 administration of Katanga was placed in the hands of a vice governor general, still separate from the rest of the Belgian Congo. The administrative reorganization of 1933, which brought Katanga administratively in line with the rest of the provinces under the central colonial authorities in Léopoldville, was strongly resented by Katangan residents both local and foreign. The predominant role Katanga played in the country's economy reinforced this regional pride and sense of separateness. In the months preceding independence, pressure to restore Katangan autonomy grew.

    The breakdown of central authority offered Tshombe an ideal pretext for proclaiming the long-planned independence of Katanga on July 11, 1960. Although Brussels withheld formal recognition, through the legal fiction that any province could receive Belgian technical assistance if it so desired, the Belgian government played a crucial role in providing military, economic, and technical assistance to the secessionist province.

    Under Belgian supervision, immediate steps were taken to convert the Katangan Gendarmerie into an effective security force. Recruitment agencies were set up in Brussels for the enlistment of mercenaries. A variety of Belgian advisers surfaced in various administrative organs of the breakaway state. Professor René Clemens, of the University of Liège, was invited to draft the Katangan constitution.

    That the secession lasted as long as it did (from July 11, 1960, to January 14, 1963) is largely a reflection of the efforts of Belgian civilian and military authorities to prop up their client state. Yet from the very beginning, the operation ran into serious difficulties. A major handicap faced by "authentic Katangese" stemmed from their inability to come to terms with the Balubakat-instigated revolt in the north. Despite the numerous military expeditions against northern "rebels," at no time was the Tshombe regime able to claim effective control of the Luba areas. Further discredit was cast on Tshombe when, in January 1961, Balubakat leaders proclaimed the secession of their own northern province, presumably out of loyalty to the principle of a united Congo. Balubakat seceding from the secessionists for the sake of unity was a painful logic for Conakat to assimilate.

    Diplomatic isolation was another major weakness. In spite of countless demarches, overtures, bribes, and promises, the secessionist state never gained international recognition. Even Belgium never officially recognized Katanga. But perhaps the most serious diplomatic blow against the Tshombe regime came on February 21, 1961, when the UN Security Council passed a resolution urging the UN "to take immediately all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of civil war in the Congo, including arrangements for cease-fire, the halting of all military operations, the prevention of clashes, and the use of force, if necessary, in the last resort."

    The UN Security Council's February resolution was an attempt to check the trend toward total anarchy in the Congo and to bring about international pressure for reintegration of the Congo. The resolution gave the UN forces greater authority to act in order to prevent civil war and called for the removal of foreign advisers and mercenaries attached to the Congo governments, the convening of parliament, and the reorganization of the ANC.

    This entirely new construction of the UN mandate, allowing the use of force as a last resort, was the direct, though largely unanticipated, outcome of Lumumba's death. The worldwide commotion caused by Lumumba's death had an immediate repercussion in the UN General Assembly. The new mandate given to the UN forces in Zaire did little more than articulate in legal terms the sense of shock and anger of most Third World nations in the face of the coldblooded murder of the man who best symbolized the struggle of African nationalism against the forces of neocolonialism.

    Data as of December 1993

    NOTE: The information regarding Congo, Democratic Republic of the on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Congo, Democratic Republic of the The Secession of Katanga information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Congo, Democratic Republic of the The Secession of Katanga should be addressed to the Library of Congress.

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    Revised 04-Jul-02
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