UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo this week reminds me of the death of the second UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold. Both traveled to the region to seek peace between UN, government, and breakaway groups in eastern Congo.
It was 52 years ago, on 18 September 1961, that the plane carrying UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold crashed while traveling in eastern Congo. Hammarskjold had come to the region to facilitate peace talks between UN peacekeepers and Congolese fighting for the independence of the breakaway Katanga province. Some reports suggested the Secretary’s plane was shot down by mercenaries paid by Katangan separatists.
Now Secretary Ban Ki-Moon is traveling to the Kivus to try arrange a peace deal with M23, an rebel group reinforced with deserters from the Congolese military. The UN has agreed to send in more UN troops as an “Intervention Brigade” to try to force a peace in the region. On this trip the Secretary General was welcomed with rocket attacks and intensified fighting between the military and M23. Hopefully he will make it out of the country alive.