United Nations and Congo

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st December 1960.

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Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham 12:00 am, 21st December 1960

I think that last question exemplifies the difficulties with which we are faced. However, I am very glad that we have this opportunity on the last day before the Christmas Recess of debating this very important topic. I am grateful to those hon. Members who have spoken.

All of us in the House are very anxious about the position in the Congo. There is no difference whatever between us on that. The Congo is still in the state of protracted crisis which has endured ever since it became independent last July. The difficulties under which the United Nations has been working there have been formidable indeed.

The task of the United Nations has not been made easier by destructive and ill-intentioned efforts to impugn the Secretary-General's motives and undermine his authority. The General Assembly has now ended its debate, as hon. Members will have seen from this morning's Press, without agreeing on any resolution. However, I emphasise that the debate at least showed that the majority of the members of the United Nations is firmly behind the Secretary-General in his efforts.

An effective civil administration over the whole of the Congo has yet to be established, though some progress towards this has been made under the authority of Mr. Kasavubu. In Katanga and Kasai the provincial authorities are still functioning independently of the centre. Some hon. Members have referred to the very pressing difficulty of fragmentation.

More recently, a dangerous and disquieting situation has developed in the Orientale Province where followers of Mr. Lumumba have purported to set up a rival centre of Government from that in Leopoldville and have been making brutal and irresponsible gestures of menace against the European population.

The United Nations authorities themselves have found it very difficult to work in proper harmony and co-operation with the Congolese authorities. Finally, certain States have threated to loosen the whole basis of the United Nations effort by withdrawing their contingents from the United Nations force.

This is a most serious matter which needs clearing up. The countries concerned have stated that they will remove their troops from the United Nations force, but so far they have made no move actually to withdraw them from the Congo and there seem to be no arrangements for providing for that to be effected. We very much hope that they will reconsider their attitude and will leave their troops under United Nations command. But the status and functions of these troops in the Congo should, and indeed must, be left beyond doubt.

The scale on which the United Nations has been engaged in the Congo and the problems which it is meeting there are perhaps greater in scope than anything it has done before. The need to ensure that it does not fail in this enterprise is correspondingly great. Failure could be not only of dire consequence to the people of the Congo, and consequently to the whole future development of this important area of Africa, but a grievous blow to the standing and future efficacy of the United Nations Organisation itself.

In confronting these problems in the Congo our general objectives have from the beginning been constant. I will re-emphasise them to the House. They are those which I hope that the majority of the members of the United Nations are also following. First, we want to see conditions achieved in which the Congolese Republic can develop properly in peace and security as a united and independent State within its present frontiers. For this, the first requirement must clearly be to restore law and order and to fill the economic, technical and administrative vacuum which resulted from the disorder and breakdown of Government following the mutiny in the Force Publique last July. It is the very difficult problem of restoring law and order in which we all become involved when we start talking, as we naturally wish to talk, about the need for a proper constitutional authority and a recall of Parliament.

Secondly, we want to keep the Congo free from unwelcome interference from outside powers and prevent it becoming an arena in the cold war. What has been said today re-emphasises that.