The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy, and International Conflict

By Stephen M. Saideman | Go to book overview

3
Understanding the Congo Crisis,
1960–1963 1

Katanga's attempted secession from the Congo needs to be analyzed in any study of the international politics of separatism. As the first secessionist crisis following decolonization in Africa, it influenced future expectations and understandings about the nature of secession and its international consequences. 2 Even more importantly, the United Nations intervened in the crisis with troops, who, after some hesitation, fought and defeated the separatists. The Congo Crisis thus serves as a test case of the influence of international institutions on secessionism, since the armed forces of an international organization defeated a secessionist movement. As the Cold War seriously influenced how states responded to this crisis, a study of the Katangan secession may also reveal whether the domestic political interests of elites influenced behavior more than security concerns. Many states were involved on either side during the Congo Crisis, so there is a significant variation in the dependent variable: policies toward the secessionists. Thus, the Congo Crisis serves as a crucial case. This study finds that while East-West rivalry may have shaped superpower interests, the conflict itself was a tribal dispute that became viewed as a racial one.

The approaches developed in chapter 2 produce varying predictions and explanations for the politics of the Congo Crisis. Vulnerability arguments stressing the effects of international cooperation would expect very few states to support the secessionist movement, Katanga, because of the strong role played by the United Nations, and those states that do support Katanga would be those less vulnerable to secessionism. The United Nations is important

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