The Congo and Hammarskjöld

The Price of Uranium: the Congo and Hammarsköld

By Paul Kelly

There is a common theme in Congolese history: the same exploitative impulse which defined King Léopold’s Congo, carried on in spite of independence, and has continued unbroken to this day. The biggest losers throughout have been the Congolese people; the biggest winners, the multinational mining companies.

A review of Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, The Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa, by Susan Williams (Columbia University Press, 2012)


Although unable to give a definitive answer to the question posed in the book’s title, Williams does explicate the relationship between foreign powers, mining companies, and the region. The United States wanted to ensure continued access to the Katanga uranium being mined by Union Minière and also to deny this uranium to the Soviet Union. In Britain a group of Tory Members of Parliament who had a financial interest in the region through links to Union Minière, were opposed to Prime Minister Macmillan’s decolonization policy. South Africa was desperate to halt decolonization north of its borders and was linked to the region through the diamond trade. Members of the extreme right French Organisation de l’armée secrète (O.A.S.) were mercenaries in Katanga and had a pathological hatred of the UN and decolonization. Finally, Belgium, the former colonial power, had both a political and economic stake in the region. All of these powers had economic and political reasons to oppose the establishment of a truly independent Congo, which was Hammarskjöld’s goal—a Congo whose resources would be exploited for the benefit of the Congolese themselves.

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