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The neo-colonialism of decolonisation: Katangan secession and the bringing of the Cold War to the Congo

Kent, John (2017) The neo-colonialism of decolonisation: Katangan secession and the bringing of the Cold War to the Congo. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 45 (1). pp. 93-130. ISSN 0308-6534

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Identification Number: 10.1080/03086534.2016.1262644


The link between the Cold War and decolonisation is tackled by using the uniqueness of the complex Congo crisis and its neo-colonial elements, with a focus on agents and specific policies rather than theories and general themes. The ‘real’ Cold War is essentially defined as that followed by Kennedy, with its priority in the early 1960s, among the Cold War’s many different constituent elements, taken to be the winning of newly independent African nations to the socio-economic values and hoped-for developmental benefits of Western capitalism. The importance of using soft power to defeat the ideology of communism, as opposed to containing the allegedly expansionist Soviet aims in Africa, is highlighted. Clear distinctions are made between the Kennedy administration and those of Eisenhower and Johnson. Interpretations of decolonisation using the Congo’s particular neo-colonial circumstances have been rare, and interpretations of decolonisation in the Congo also require some qualification. In particular the role of the colonial state and its ‘partnership’ with private European enterprises, established under King Leopold, had economic consequences for the Belgian decolonisation process. The importance of the role of financial capital, as opposed to business interests simply represented through trade and industry, is emphasised. The role of the UN and its secretary general is also highlighted but not by using inaccurate perceptions of Hammarskjöld’s neutral Cold War stance. The different positions taken by the Belgians, the British and the Americans, embodying conflict and cooperation in different forms, are analysed at different times with the important consequences of the Belgian refusal to comply with UN Security Council Resolutions highlighted. The need to limit the damage from that and from the neo-colonialism of secession is analysed. Exaggerating the causal consequences of Soviet actions and accusing Lumumba, despite evidence to the contrary, of being a communist or vehicle for Soviet influence was what brought the Cold War to the Congo. The British refusal to do more than decline to support openly the neo-colonialism in Katanga, particularly by supporting action likely to end secession, threatened to damage relations with the US. Such action, which could have led to more military action, would have contributed to the success of US policy in the ‘real’ Cold War but at the expense of those British investors who were the main financial backers of the Conservative party.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2017 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: International Relations
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2016 14:45
Last Modified: 15 Apr 2024 05:57

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