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Crisis 2: Congo Crisis, 1960-65


Crisis Brief: The Congo Crisis, 1960-65


Immediately after independence in 1960, the Belgian Congo's decolonization celebrations turned into tragedy, with a series of civil wars in the massive territory. This was a classic Cold War crisis, as the Soviet Union and the United States supported opposing sides, and the United Nations struggled to bring peace. Around 100,000 people died as the dream of peaceful transition collapsed.

The civil war drew in Belgium, Ireland, the Soviet Union, Sweden, the United States, the successionist regions of Katanga and South Kasai, the United Nations, and others. The Congo itself went through name and border changes, finally emerging as today's Democratic Republic of Congo. It was the greatest test of the young UN, as Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld struggled with the Security Council, the waring Congo factions, and difficult circumstances.

This crisis centers on the office of the UN Secretary-General as it struggles to bring peace. The real peacekeeping mission suffered great tragedies and frustrations, souring the international community for decades. Will history repeat itself? Or will the UN manage the Congo Crisis better this time, with implications for all elements of the future of the Congo, the UN, and international peacekeeping?

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