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The Congo crisis, the United Nations, and Zimbabwean nationalism, 1960–1963

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Abstract:

The United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission in the Congo in 1960–63 is a major chapter in African and Cold War history. The political consequences of the peacekeeping mission, particularly the use of UN troops against Moise Tshombe’s secessionist Katanga Province, reverberated in neighbouring African States as well. The contours of the UN’s role in the Congo crisis are well known, but this article will consider how UN intervention created a framework for the conflict between white minority rule and African nationalists in Southern Rhodesia. This article suggests that the intersection of Cold War politics and Southern African racial politics helped to create a situation in Southern Rhodesia in which white politicians felt threatened by the UN’s intervention, while Zimbabwean nationalists viewed cautiously the role of the UN as pan-African nationalism in the Congo became consumed by Cold War imperatives. The Katanga secession also demonstrated to both white politicians and Zimbabwean nationalists how intransigence and a small fighting force could challenge much more powerful nations in Cold War Africa.

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