24 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 4

Chapter of Errors

MIIE Congo situation has gone from bad to I worse in the last week. The shocking massacre of Italian airmen at Kindu has afforded one more proof,' f proof were needed, that the Congolese central government cannot rely on its troops behaving as a disciplined body even when they are not actually in the field. Mr. Tshombe does not appear to be any nearer co-operating with the Leopoldville government, and a new threat to Congolese unity seems to be in the offing from the elusive Mr. Gizenga. And, matters have not been made any better by the publication of the UN jurists' report on the murder -of Patrice Lumumba. No doubt it is right that his murderers should be held up to obloquy, but the assignment of blame to President Kasavubu and General Mobutu is likely to make theM feel that if the Katanga regime is destroyed or reunited with the Congo, their turn will come; they will be held respon- sible. The report will therefore increase the difficulties at present being experienced by UN officials on the spot, and its publication must rank as a political blunder.

The fundamental difficulty in the Congo lies, in the disparity between the unitary conception of. government held by Leopoldville politicians and the means at their disposal for enforcing it. The Katanga secession ought clearly to be ended, but it can only be ended by the UN forces, and their strength seems at present to be insufficient for the task. Mr. Tshombe, with his mercenaries and his Rhodesian border, remains in a strong position; the UN will probably have to cajole rather than threaten him. But this can only be done at the risk of destroying good relations pith,, the central Congolese government, whose view of the future relationship of katanga to the Congo is less than realistic. And even Were the UN able to enforce the reunion of .Katanga with the Congo, the Kindu Incidents show that they would probably then have: to govern the prOvince themselves.

In short, the UN is being forced into the same dilemma which originally created direct coloni;ti rule in Africa. By preventing one side or the other from winning the Congolese power 'struggle UN intervention has created a dissolution. of political life which prevents its officials from finding sufficiently strong candidates to govern the country under their aegis, and forces them into direct rule. And it looks as 'if the UN will have to take over more and more sectors of Congolese administrative and political life-- a process which will delay indefinitely the estab- lishment of a viable and reasonably efficient Congolese government.