The Congo Crisis: Geopolitics and Postcolonialism

Helen Savgu
Nov 21, 2019

     On February 20, 1961, the United Nations Security Council met to debate a second resolution on the Congo Crisis. This historic debate is being simulated at the Berlin Model United Nations (BERMUN) Conference by the Historical Security Council (HSC). The debate touched on many important geopolitical issues of the postcolonial era.

     The call for a second UN resolution followed Congo’s Declaration of Independence from Belgium in February 1961. An elected government led by Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba took charge. However, Congolese businessman Moise Tshombe launched a separatist movement in the country’s south. Tshombe already had close ties to Belgian mining companies before independence, and Belgium backed his movement.

     After an appeal by Lumumba, the UN Security Council adopted a first regulation on July 12, 1960, calling on Belgium to pull out its troops and on the United Nations to come to the aid of the Congolese government. The peacekeeping mission failed and Lumumba appealed to the Soviet Union for assistance. The Congo was drawn into the Cold War. This was just the first proxy confrontation between the two superpowers in postcolonial Africa.

     The United States (US) wanted to counter Soviet influence in Africa and maintain control over the Congo’s mineral resources, especially uranium, which is needed to produce nuclear bombs. The US decided that Lumumba should be removed, believing that the Soviet Union was launching a Communist takeover of the Congo. 

     On the first day of this year’s BERMUN conference, the delegates spent several hours lobbying. Their goal was to collect signatures of delegates for the clauses proposed by the countries they represent. The delegates representing the US state their most significant clause, which entails providing support for those affected by the Congo Crisis and improving “stability in the area in order to reduce violence and maintain peace within the Republic Congo.” 

     Four months after the US attempt to combat Soviet influence, Lumumba was assassinated. Jawaharlal Nehru called this an international crime of the first magnitude and asked the UN Security Council to pass a second resolution on the crisis.

     During the debate on the second resolution, the permanent members each argued in favor of their own interests. The US wanted the Congo to form a pro-Western government and maintain control over its uranium. The Soviet Union wanted to bring the Congo under its sphere of influence in hopes of “alleviating the conflict” (Delegates representing the US). France did not want the UN peacekeeping forces to intervene, while China backed the US. The United Kingdom favored independence, but Tshombe had various financial ties to the UK.

     During their upcoming sessions, the HSC will continue with debates to ultimately form resolutions regarding the discussed clauses.

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