Likasi, East Congo (1961 AD)
The Battle of Jadotville was, depending on how you look at it, one of the last battles of the Colonial era in Sub-Saharan Africa, or one of the first and most disastrous United Nations peace keeping missions in the area. Fought in the southeastern province of Katanga, one of the most isolated regions on the continent, it represented a briefly successful, last-ditch effort by resident Belgians to remain in control of their nearly century-old colony. Jadotville was possibly the last major engagement to take place in Sub-Saharan Africa that was fought primarily by Europeans on both sides. It also featured some of the most unusual combatants in history, pitting troops from Ireland and Sweden against irregulars and mercanaries from Belgium.
In the history of colonial Africa, no region was more famous or bloody as the Belgian Congo. Located in the heart of the continent, the wealthy, isolated area was one of the last to be colonized. Between 1884 and 1960, the Congo was brutally controlled and exploited, leading to ever-increasing demands of independence from European control, a sentiment reflected by former colonies all over the African continent.
In the late 1950s, Belgiam considered a gradual program of independence for the Congo, and even implemented a number of initial reforms. But by 1960, circumstances cut short the timeline, and in June independence was granted. Chaos ensued as black enlisted troops turned against the white officers of the army, then against the European civilian population. Most Belgians were evacuated back to Europe, though a large number fled to Katanga.
Katanga, one of the wealthiest regions of the Congo, threatened to secede from the rest of the country. This made Katanga a rallying point for the Belgians remaining in the region. Katanga was subsequently wracked by brutal fighting. In 1961, the United Nations intervened, sending a peacekeeping force to end the secession and restore security to the area. The largest and most famous clash to occur between the peacekeepers and the secessionists took place at the key city of Jadotville, which was secured by a small company of Irish troops.
The Belgians, supported by mercanaries and local troops, laid siege to the town in September. Despite a valiant effort to hold the town and protect the local population, and despite desparate efforts of additional Irish and Swedish troops to relieve the siege, Jadotville eventually fell. The Belgian victory was only a temporary one, however, and Katanga was ultimately restored to Congo control.
Fighting at the siege took place at several points around the city, which despite the relatively recent time of the battle are not particularly well known or marked. The most popular site related to the battle is cemetery where most of those killed fighting for the secessionists are buried.
The Battle of Jadotville took place at what is now the town of Likasi, approximately 35 miles northwest of the city of Lubumbashi and 350 miles southeast of the capital of Kinshasa. Due to the ongoing violence in the region, no visitor information was available as of this writing. Web: N/A.
Paul Deans says
The Siege of Jadotville (film)
Howard Kramer says
Sorry, I don’t allow links in the comments. However I will look up this film. Thanks for the heads up!