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I am writing a book on the Katanga secession in July 1960. Mercenaries, global politics, and the United Nations' first shooting war. Can you help? I am interested in hearing from anyone with first hand experience, previously unseen photographs, or in depth knowledge of the Congo or Katanga at that time. E-mail me at brightreview@aol.com or look up my name on Skype. My profile mentions the Congo. Discretion is guaranteed - CHRISTOPHER OTHEN, author of 'KATANGA 1960-63: MERCENARIES, SPIES AND THE AFRICAN NATION THAT WAGED WAR ON THE WORLD' and 'FRANCO'S INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES: ADVENTURERS, FASCISTS, AND CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS IN THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR' (amazon.co.uk or amazon.com).



After you've read this check out my new blog for all kinds of cultural and military weirdness.

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Katanga Wants You


Do You Have Information on the Congo 1960-63?



If you've been following this website you'll know my next book is about the Katanga secession, a fascinating slice of modern history that began in 1960 when Belgium gave the Congo its independence. This mineral rich colony sprawled across central Africa had been governed from Brussels since the nineteenth century. Hopes were high its natural resources would buy a peaceful and prosperous future. Within a week the country was in chaos after the army mutinied.

Down in the south, the province of Katanga, a rich mining territory, declared its own independence. The Congo had no intention of allowing the renegade region to secede, and neither did the CIA, the KGB, or the United Nations.

The secession, masterminded by Katangese leader Moise Tshombe and a Belgian mining company, began a bloody civil war. It was a fantastically uneven battle. The United Nations fielded soldiers from twenty nations, America paid the bills, and the Soviets intrigued behind the scenes. Yet to everyone’s surprise the new nation’s rag-tag army of local gendarmes, superstitious jungle tribesmen, and, controversially, European mercenaries refused to give in.

For two and a half years Katanga, the scrawniest underdog to ever fight a war, held off the might of the United Nations with guerrilla warfare, two-faced diplomacy, and some very shadowy financial backing. It even looked as if the Katangese might win. Then in December 1962 Africa’s newest nation came toppling down.

What happened to the former Belgian colony (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) is still important today. It is the ground zero of conflict diamonds, private military contractors, CIA-sponsored African dictatorships, and global corporations picking clean the bones of third world countries.

It is an incredible, forgotten piece of contemporary history, full of larger than life characters like the African secessionist leader with a weakness for blondes, the Irish academic determined to be a UN warrior, the megalomaniac Belgian settler with a resemblance to Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz in ‘Heart of Darkness’, and the adventurers from Belgium, France, Britain, and South Africa who would fight anyone, anywhere, for the right price.

It's a long way from 'Franco's International Brigades' but shares many of its themes: adventurers, civil war, and how one small corner of the world can become the battleground for global ideologies.

How You Can Help

First hand accounts and previously unknown information are the backbone of any good non-fiction book. Can you help?

I'm looking for anyone who witnessed or knows someone who witnessed:


Elisabethville before the secession

The Belgian Congo before independence

The army mutinies of July 1960, anywhere in the Congo

The arrival of Belgian refugees in Brussels or other African nations

Any aspect of the Katanga secession 1960-63

The recruiting, training, and operations of the gendarmes or the paracommandos

United Nations debates and discusssions on Katanga

Operations Rumpunch (August 1961), Morthor (September 1961), Unokat (December 1961), or Grand Slam (December 1962)


I'm also looking for anyone who knew:

Moise Tshombe

Godefroid Munongo

Kibwe, Yav, and other Katangese politicians

Adoula, Kasa-Vubu, and other Congolese politicians

Sendwe and anyone involved in Balubakat

Gizenga, Muele, and other Stanleyville politicans

Albert Kalonji and anyone involved in the South Kasai secession

Anyone involved in United Nations operations in Katanga or the Congo

Anyone from the Mistebel mission or the Belgian army in Katanga

Jerry Puren of the Katangese Air Force

Jean Zumbach of the Katangese Air Force

Mike Hoare and anyone in 4 Commando

Richard Browne and the Compagnie Internationale

Christian Tavernier and other Belgian mercenaries, including the original Les Affreux

Bob Denard, Trinquier, Faulques, and other French mercenaries

Jean Schramme and anyone in the Leopard Battalion

Anyone - Congolese, Katangese, American or European - who played a role in the Katangese secession


Can you help? If you witnessed these events, knew these people, or know someone who did please email me at brightreview@aol.com. Or contact me via Skype. My profile mentions Katanga. Also, if you have information or photographs you think I am unlikely to have seen, please get in touch.

I look forward to hearing from you. I am also interested in hearing about the Congo 1963-67 (the Simba revolt, 5 Commando, John Peters, 6 Commando, the Denard and Schramme failed coup, the Bukavu siege) or later.

I will be posting more information about my Katanga book in the future.



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