12 MAY 1961, Page 4

Black Mischief

HE arrest of Mr. Tshombe and the announced I intention of the Leopoldville Government to place him on trial for offences ranging from treason to 'the massacre of the Baluba people' are one more example of those sudden reversals of fortune which Congolese politicians have to accept as an occupational risk; but the fall of princes in the Congo appears to have more effect on the fate of individuals than it does on the general political situation. Lumumba's dis- appearance left his fief in Stanleyville much where it was; and there is no reason to suppose that the eclipse of the Katangese Prime Minister will mean the end of Katanga. Indeed, Mr. Tshombe was apparently more favourably dis- posed to an arrangement with Leopoldville than are the politicians he has left behind him—Mr. Munongo, the Katanga Minister of the Interior and the most violent and ruthless advocate of Katanga independence, has said bluntly, 'they have arrested the wrong man.'

Geographical circumstance and the present condition of the Congolese army make success- ful military operations against Katanga improb- able—unless, of course, the UN forces in the Congo decide to lend a hand (a possibility which is not altogether to be excluded). An excuse for such intervention would be provided if the Katanga Government nationalised the mining companies within its territory, as they might decide to do, since the new Belgian Government now intends to hand over the Congolese share in these interests to Leopoldville. In that event chaos could follow, and the UN might be justified in intervening to rid itself of a different problem. On the other hand, Katanga could easily keep itself in existence by the exercise of a little political wisdom and by the undeniable strength of its geographical position.

The prospects for Mr. Tshombe are gloomier. He has the blood of Lumumba on his head, and his head may be the price which will have to be paid by President Kasavubu and General Mobutu for a resumption of negotiations with Stanley- ville and the return of the Lumumbists into the fold of Congolese unity. Since Lumumba w as dispatched to his death in Katanga on their orders, it is ironical that Mr. Tshombe is to be charged with his death, but such technical points are not likely to worry anyone involved in Congolese polities, which pursue their Balkan pattern without being noticeably affected by out- side disapproval.