Published:  12:50 AM, 13 November 2017

How did Dag Hammarskjoeld die?

Demands have been made that the American and British governments release files on the death of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjoeld in a plane crash in Congo in 1961. At the time of his death, Hammarskjoeld was engaged in a peace mission in the country, which had gained independence from Belgium only months earlier.

To this day, scanty information has been all that people around the world have come by about the plane crash. It was given out that the aircraft crashed as a result of mechanical trouble. But that explanation has not been acceptable to all, and there have been suggestions of foul play involved.

Against such a background, it makes sense that London and Washington release, in the interest of a proper inquiry into Hammarskjoeld's death, all the files that are in their archives on the plane crash. It is necessary to find out whether the plane came down on its own as a result of mechanical problems or was brought down by any of the forces then engaged in the struggle for power in Congo.

There were the Congolese forces, led by Colonel Joseph Mobutu, who was increasingly getting enchanted with an increasingly embattled Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. There were then the mercenary elements from Belgium arrayed against the government. At another end, Moise Tshombe had declared the independence of the province of Katanga, an act that threatened the unity of the country.

In other words, a whole range of elements was involved in a gathering conflict in the new country. On top of that, men like Mobutu had already begun exploring the idea of seizing power in the country. At one point, Lumumba was dismissed by President Joseph Kasavubu.

Subsequently he was arrested and handed over to Tshombe's men, who tortured him to death in a manner that shocked the world.It was an unstable Congo that impelled Hammarskjoeld into launching his peace mission. And then he died. Who or what killed him is what the world now needs to know.

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