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Volume 639: debated on Wednesday 3 May 1961

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asked the Lord Privy Seal if he will make a statement on recent events in the Congo; how many British officers, serving with the United Nations forces, have been killed or injured; how many Britons are or have been serving with the irregular forces in Katanga and elsewhere; what official advice has been given to them; and what information he has on the detention of Mr. Tshombe.


asked the Lord Privy Seal what information he has received from the United Nations in Leopoldville concerning the death of two British officers serving with the Ghanaian contingent with the United Nations forces in the Congo; and what representations have been made to the Congolese authorities in Leopoldville.

24 and 25.

asked the Lord Privy Seal (1) what information he has received from the United Nations about the detention in Leopoldville of President Moisé Tshombe of Katanga;

(2) whether, in view of its effect on the security of British territories in Central Africa, he will make a statement about the situation in Katanga.

The most important recent events in the Congo have been the agreement on co-operation concluded in Leopoldville and New York between Mr. Kasavubu and United Nations authorities and the present Conference of Congolese leaders at Coquilhatville. Our information is that Mr. Tshombe is being detained at Coquilhatville by Congolese forces during the Conference. Our representative at the United Nations has been instructed to urge the United Nations authorities to use their good offices to secure Mr. Tshombe's release and return to the conference table. Meanwhile in Elisabethville and South Kasai Province the situation remains calm.

I regret to say that two British officers, Captain T. G. Ralph and Lieutenant A. P. G. Brown, serving with the Ghana contingent in the Kasai Province, are reported missing at Port Francqui. Full information about this incident has been sought from the United Nations authorities. May I add how much we regret the casualties which have occurred at Port Francqui to Ghanaian, and perhaps also Swedish, soldiers.

There were about 40 United Kingdom nationals in the armed forces of the Katanga, of whom 12 were detained by the United Nations at Kabalo and are in the course of being repatriated. As far as I know, no British subjects are serving in a similar capacity in other parts of the Congo. Consular officers in the Congo have been instructed to bring to the attention of those concerned the measures which I announced in answer to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Reigate (Sir J. Vaughan-Morgan) on 12th April.

Is the Lord Privy Seal aware that, although our views on the status of Mr. Tshombe may differ, nobody wants him to be subjected to any physical harm as a reprisal for the murder of Mr. Lumumba, but as Mr. Tshombe is, in a sense, what is described in this country as someone whom "the police would like to interview because he may be able to help them with their inquiries", would the right hon. Gentleman seek, if possible, to have him transferred to United Nations custody, so that he may be able to help with the inquiries that are presumably going on, or ought to be going on, into the murder of Mr. Lumumba?

In the United Nations we have supported the motion that there should be an inquiry into the death of Mr. Lumumba, and that is proceeding. We are anxious that Mr. Tshombe should be able to take part in this conference to produce reconciliation between the leaders of the Congo.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen reports suggesting that the two British officers who were, at least, arrested, may well have been shot while in captivity, and if that subsequently proves to be the case, will Her Majesty's Government make the strongest representations in what appears to be another example of cold-blooded murder?

I have seen those reports, and as we have not had confirmation of them, I have stated it very clearly in my Answer in that way.

In view of what The Times in its first leading article describes as the partisanship of certain U.N. officials, will Her Majesty's Government continue to press for the release of Mr. Tshombe and Mr. Kimba and their return to their own people, and not for their release into the hands of the United Nations as suggested by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg)? Further, does not the concentration of U.N. forces on Kamina, in peaceful territory, instead of in North Kasai where there is disorder, constitute a threat to the independence and integrity of Katanga? Will the Government, therefore, cease stopping British subjects from helping the defence of this friendly, African nationalist community?

As to the release of Mr. Tshombe, I have very clearly described in my Answer what the representative of the United Nations is doing. Kamina is a main base suitable for forces, and there is, after all, considerable disturbance in North Katanga owing to tribal warfare, but in any case the disposition of these forces is bound to be a matter for the U.N. commander. As to the last part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, we are carrying out our obligations under the United Nations resolution of 21st February.

Can the Lord Privy Seal say whether any of the 40 British nationals were recruited in this country?