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I am working on a book about the Congo wars of the 1960s that will cover the Katanga secession in 1960, the Simba rebellion of '64, and Jean Schramme's mercenary revolt in '67. Soldiers of fortune, witch doctors, guns, and Belgian colonialism. 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).



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Mercenaries, Guns, and Witch Doctors


The Congo Independence Wars (1960-67)



Q. What's Going On?

A. I am working on my second book and need your help.

The first, ‘FRANCO'S INTERNATIONAL BRIGADES’, was about foreign adventurers who fought for the Nationalists in the war that nearly destroyed Spain in the 1930s.

Now I'm writing about Africa.

Q. What Part of Africa?

A. The former Belgian Congo. My book will tell the story of the wars that ripped apart the Congo in the 1960s and pitched CIA agents against Che Guevara, mercenaries against Congolese nationalists, multinational companies against the United Nations, and, ultimately, Black against White.

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 began on 30 June 1960 when Belgium reluctantly gave the Congo its independence. The mineral rich nation 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 but within two weeks the province of Katanga, main source of the world’s copper and uranium (the vital component of atomic weapons) declared its own independence. The secession, masterminded by Katangese leader Moise Tshombe and Belgian mining companies, began a bloody civil war that pulled in foreign adventurers, CIA agents, and the United Nations.

Six months after Katanga’s secession the Congo’s first Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, a popular figure across Africa, was murdered. His overtures to the Soviet Union had brought the Cold War to Africa, enraging both his tribal enemies and the West. Lumumba’s body was dismembered and burned with acid, his front teeth souvenirs in the pocket of a Belgian police agent.

Q. Where is Katanga on the Map?

A. You won't find it. Katanga went toe to toe with the United Nations and lost. The underdog African province conscripted its young men into an army and hired mercenaries from Belgium, France, South Africa, and many other places, to lead them.

The Katangese fought well, especially when they captured Irish UN troops at Jadotville in September 1961 and held off an all out assault on the Katangese captial in December 1961. But it wasn't enough. They could not stop the military might of the UN and in January 1963 Tshombe admitted defeat. Katanga was absorbed back into the Congo.

Q. Then What Happened?

A. Within a year Marxist rebels known as Simbas, who practiced cannibalism and believed holy water made them bullet-proof, launched an uprising in memory of Lumumba. Communist nations, like China, sent weapons to the Simbas. The Cuban revolutionary hero Che Guevara joined their struggle. White mercenaries from across the world, including Briton Mike Hoare and Frenchman Bob Denard, flooded into the Congo to stop them.

The mercenaries won but not before thousands of Congolese civilians died. Some at the hands of the Simbas, others victims of their opponents. After their victory the surviving mercenaries, under Belgian settler Jean Schramme, turned on the Congolese government. The fighting climaxed in a siege at Bukavu, a resort town on the shores of Lake Tanganyika. When the mercenaries were finally stopped in 1967 by the iron fist of CIA-backed dictator General Joseph Mobutu, the Congo was a land ravaged by seven years of bloodshed.

Q. Sounds Enough for Two Books.

A. It might come to that. The Katanga secession already seems a big enough subject to demand its own volume. [UPDATE: It was. I am now writing a book about Katanga].

Q. How Can I Help?

A. Where you in the Congo at this period? Before or after? If so I want to hear from you. Whether you were a mercenary, a rebel, a UN soldier, a journalist, or an observer of events, your memories are important in providing a true picture of what happened.

E-mail me at brightreview@aol.com or look up my name on Skype. My profile mentions the Congo. If you would like anonymity that's fine.

From the Katanga period (1960-63) I'm especially interested in talking to Les Affreux or anyone who remembers them; members of the Katangese gendarmes; any former Tshombe advisors; French mercenaries in Katanga, particularly those with personal knowledge of Faulques; members of the Compagnie Internationale; anyone who knew Jerry Puren; veterans of Mike Hoare's 4 Commando; anyone with direct knowledge of South Kasai; any UN veterans of the period; anyone who was present at the September '61, December '61, and December '62 fighting; seconded Belgian officers; former ANC soldiers (Leopoldville or Stanleyville); anyone who remembers Jason Sendwe.

From the Simba period (1964-65) I want to talk with anyone who knew Tshombe in his Spanish exile; former mercenaries of 5 Commando; former mercenaries of what became Denard's 6 Commando; any Spaniards or Poles who served; anyone who knew Christian Tavernier; Cubans from either side but especially pilots; anyone from the eastern Congo; former Simbas; former ANC soldiers of this period; anyone who knew John Peters.

From the Peters/Denard/Schramme period (1966-67) I would particularly like to talk with anyone who can shine a light on the murky politics of the time; on Peters' motivations; veterans of 5 Commando from this time; anyone who fought at Bukavu or under Denard in the Angolan invasion; anyone with knowledge of CIA actions at this time; anyone who knows about Israeli connections to Mobutu.

Q. What if I Wasn't There?

A. You can still help. Memories and information about friends, family, or others who were in the Congo are also very important. Previously unseen photographs of the period would be useful. Got some information you think I should know? Send an email.

Q. When Will the Book Be Published?

A. I have done a lot of research and writing but there is much more still to do. Keep an eye on Bright Review for more details.



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