Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

 

Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

by Susan Williams

Hurst and Company London (2016)

Book Review

This book details the author’s extensive investigation into a suspicious 1961 air crash that killed the second UN secretary general Dag Hammarskjold. Her first edition, published in 2011, would trigger a new UN investigation, in 2015, into the cause of his death. In 2016, UN investigators concluded that Hammarskjold died as a result of foul play. However owing to US and UK refusal to release classified files, they couldn’t conclusively identify the individuals responsible.

The book begins by setting the stage for what was clearly an assassination. Williams describes in detail the role of foreign mining companies in fighting full independence of the Congo from Belgian rule. Belgian officers loyal to these companies continued to command Congolese troops following “official”  independence in 1960. When these troops mutinied, the UN declined a request for assistance from Congo’s first prime minister Patrice Lumumba.

His appeal to the Soviet Union (and the arrival of Soviet troops) would lead Katanga province (where most of the mines were located) to secede – with the support of Belgian troops and a bevy of white mercenaries from Rhodesia, South Africa, Britain and France.

At this point, the UN Security Council passed resolution 143, ordering Belgian troops to withdraw and installing UN peacekeepers in Katanga to prevent civil war. The CIA’s response was to assassinate Lumumba and Install their protege Mobutu Sese Seko (who would brutally ruled the Congo/Zaire from 1965-1997) as chief of Congo’s military.

Mobutu, in turn, arrested, tortured and executed all the senior members of the Congolese senate. The Security Council responded with Resolution 161, calling for the withdrawal of all foreign advisors and authorizing the UN to take “all necessary measures” to prevent civil war. This included supplying armed UN troops to protect the Congolese government.

When it was became clear the UN troops (who had significantly  inferior weapons) had no chance against the mercenaries’ superior fire power and Belgian air support, Hammerskjold set out for Nolda in Northern Rhodesia to try to negotiate a ceasefire with Katanga’s acting president Moise Tsombe. The secretary general’s jet mysteriously crashed as it approached Nolda airport.

In additions to hundreds of eyewitnesses (including a crash survivor who spent a week in hospital before he died) who saw Hammerskjold’s plane explode before it crashed, the most intriguing evidence comes from radio traffic between a pilot (reporting his attack on Hammerskjold’s jet) picked up by a US NSA operative in Cyprus and an Ethiopiann short wave operator and mysterious telexes* discovered in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation files in 1998. The latter refer to the plot to assassinate the Secretary General as “Operation Celeste,” run by shadowy South African Institute for Maritime Research (SAMIR) mercenaries.

As best as investigators can reconstruct, Operation Celeste planted a bomb on the DC-6 prior to its departure from Leopoldville.** When it failed to explode on take-off, two smaller planes were sent to intercept the jet and prevent it from landing. One pilot fired shots at the DC-6 that triggered the bomb to explode.


* Prior to the advent of the Internet, the telex network was an international system of teleprinters electronically interconnected by telephone lines.

**Leopoldville has since been renamed Kinshasha.

The US Military Occupation of Africa

The Shadow War in the Sahara

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

The Shadow War in the Sahara is a thumbnail history of the US military occupation of Africa. The documentary begins with the 1885 Berlin Conference, at which the major European powers divided up all of Saharan Africa to better exploit its rich resources of gas, oil, copper, uranium, coltan and other rare earth minerals.

France initially came out the winner, controlling three-fourths of Saharan Africa until World War II. Even after all their Saharan colonies won independence (1945-62), France continued to maintain a military presence, as well economic dominance over most of its former colonies.

With the discovery of oil in the Gulf of Guinea in the sixties, this began to change – with the covert US support of armed rebellions in Ethiopia and Angola and its failed invasion of Somalia. Over time, most French troops have been replaced by US troops. While this was done in the name of “fighting terrorism,” the real US agenda has always been to secure oil and mineral resources in the face of Chinese domination over African oil.

Instead of employing military force and direct political intervention via the International Monetary Fund and their “structural adjustment”* policies, China has gained a major foothold in Africa in offering debt-free development loans and a policy of non-interference in domestic policy.

The US is the only major power to divide up the entire world into military command and control regions: USNorthcom (North America), USSouthcom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentcom (Middle East and Central Asia), USPACom (Pacific region and Australia) and USAfricom.

Former Libyan ruler Omar Gaddafi successfully blocked the US from locating the USAfricom headquarters in Africa – so the US built it in Germany instead.

Prior to his assassination by US-backed rebels, Gadaffi was a powerful advocate for African unity. His primary goal in founding and bankrolling (from his massive oil revenues) the African Development Bank and an African Monetary Fund was to assist other African countries to resist western colonialism.

In 2009, he was elected chairman of the African Union, and in 2011 he cancelled major contracts with the powerful (US) Bechtel corporation and with France (for millions of dollars of military hardware). The punishment inflicted by the US and France was swift – a NATO bombing campaign in support of CIA-backed rebels charged with overthrowing his government.


*Structural adjustment describes a process by which the US-controlled IMF forces countries to privatize public utilities, cut public services and open third world economies to western investment as a condition of debt refinancing.

 

 

 

The Lost Civilizations of Africa

Africa

Directed by Basil Davidson (1984)

Film Review

Africa is a 1984 documentary exploring the great civilizations of Africa. In it, late historian Basil Davidson demolishes the myths Europeans concocted about Africa to justify the 400 year slave trade – these myths concerning a continent of subhuman savages persist to the present day. Davidson reviews archeological evidence, ancient African and Europeans artwork and historical records and contemporary tribal traditions that survive from past civilizations.

The documentary is divided into 8 episodes of approximately 25 minutes each.

Episode 1 Different But Equal – studies the depiction of blacks in medieval and renaissance European paintings to show how the concept of race was created in the 16th century to justify the immensely profitable enslavement of human paintings. He starts with an examination of cave paintings that point to a highly advanced Saharan civilization prior to the Sahara’s desertification (around 7,000–8,000 years ago   and the prominence of black-skinned the 3,000-year  civilization Egypt enjoyed under the pharaohs.

Episode 2 Mastering a Continent – focuses on Kushites and the great Nubian civilization to the south of Egypt. The latter converted to Christianity and persisted until the 11th century when it was destroyed (by Saracens) during the Crusades.

Episode 3 Caravans of Gold – discusses the vast commercial trade network (extending as far as India) centered in Timbuktu (Mali) and the Ashanti civilization (in modern day Ghana). In the 14th century, Mali converted to Islam. Under the guidance of Muslim scholars, Timbuktu became a global center of Islamic scholarship in law, literature and science.

Episode 4 The King and the City Within – describes the civilizations of Huaser, Benin and Ethe in modern day Nigeria.

Episode 5 The Bible and the Gun – covers the arrival of the Europeans and the devastating of slavery on long established African civilizations. Over 400 years, the African continent lost approximately 15 million skilled craftsmen and farmers. As the slave trade declined in the 18th and 19th century, Europeans opened up Africa’s interior in order to exploit its rich natural resources. As in Latin American and Asia, Christian missionaries played a fundamental role in this process.

Episode 6 The Magnificent African Cake – gives an overview of the extensive European military campaigns that flattened African resistance to colonization. By 1914, Liberia and Ethiopia were the only two countries not under European military control.

Episode 7 The Rise of Nationalism – relates how forced conscription in World War I and World War II radically changed Africans’ view of Europeans and fueled demands for independence. The Gold Coast (later renamed Ghana by President Dr Kwame Nkrumah) would launch the first independence struggle in 1945. Davidson contrasts this with the more bloody independence struggles in Kenya, Algeria and other countries with substantial(European) settler populations.

Episode  8 Legacy – explores how the adoption of European-style Parliamentary systems proved disastrous for many African countries. Davidson blames this on the fact that Parliamentary government is based on a well established class divisions. It worked poorly in Africa owing to the continent’s historic tendency towards egalitarianism.