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Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa by Susan S. Williams
  

Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa

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Synopsis

Who Killed Hammarskjold? The UN, the Cold War and White Supremacy in Africa by Susan S. Williams

One of the outstanding mysteries of the twentieth century, and one with huge political resonance, is the death of Dag Hammarskjold and his UN team in a plane crash in central Africa in 1961. Just minutes after midnight, his aircraft plunged into thick forest in the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (Zambia), abruptly ending his mission to bring peace to the Congo. Across the world, many suspected sabotage, accusing the multi-nationals and the governments of Britain, Belgium, the USA and South Africa of involvement in the disaster. These suspicions have never gone away. British High Commissioner Lord Alport was waiting at the airport when the aircraft crashed nearby. He bizarrely insisted to the airport management that Hammarskjold had flown elsewhere - even though his aircraft was reported overhead. This postponed a search for so long that the wreckage of the plane was not found for fifteen hours. White mercenaries were at the airport that night too, including the South African pilot Jerry Puren, whose bombing of Congolese villages led, in his own words, to 'flaming huts ...destruction and death'. These soldiers of fortune were backed by Sir Roy Welensky, Prime Minister of the Rhodesian Federation, who was ready to stop at nothing to maintain white rule and thought the United Nations was synonymous with the Nazis. The Rhodesian government conducted an official inquiry, which blamed pilot error. But as this book will show, it was a massive cover-up that suppressed and dismissed a mass of crucial evidence, especially that of African eye-witnesses. A subsequent UN inquiry was unable to rule out foul play - but had no access to the evidence to show how and why. Now, for the first time, this story can be told. Who Killed Hammarskjold follows the author on her intriguing and often frightening journey of research to Zambia, South Africa, the USA, Sweden, Norway, Britain, France and Belgium, where she unearthed a mass of new and hitherto secret documentary and photographic evidence. At the heart of this book is Hammarskjold himself - a courageous and complex idealist, who sought to shield the newly-independent nations of the world from the predatory instincts of the Great Powers. It reveals that the conflict in the Congo was driven not so much by internal divisions, as by the Cold War and by the West's determination to keep real power from the hands of the post-colonial governments of Africa. It shows, too, that the British settlers of Rhodesia would maintain white minority rule at all costs.

Reviews

'[Williams] has done a fine job of marshalling new evidence and painting a vivid picture of a past era of Rhodesian colonists in long socks and white shorts, and of cold war politics played out through vicious proxy wars in Africa.'


- Sunday Times 'Part detective, part archivist, part journalist, Williams schmoozed spies, befriended diplomats and mercenaries and won the trust of Hammarskjold's still grieving relatives and UN colleagues to get her tale. She unwinds each thread of the narrative with infinite patience, leading us carefully down the tortuous paths of Cold War intrigue.


- The Spectator 'Susan Williams
fascinating book explores the unresolved issues surrounding his death in a plane crash in central Africa. With the help of her engaging and no

-nonsense style - part Miss Marple, part No. 1 Ladies
Detective Agency

- we are led through the messy, ugly and secretive dark arts of decolonisation in a world of white supremacists and Cold War lunatics. Kids: don't try this at home.


- Times Higher Education 'This welcome, and highly readable, historical detective story sheds yet more mystery on the sad fate of Dag Hammarskjold, arguably the most significant and influential UN secretary general. ... What the book does very well, through extremely thorough research of an international nature, is to highlight the controversies surrounding the crash and the numerous investigations into it. ... this is an important piece of research. It should be read by all those concerned with the activities of right-wing politicians and businessmen and their links to mercenaries, intelligence operations and European economic dominance in the post-independence Congo; and by those concerned with whoever may have been responsible for Hammarskjold's death and the weakening of the UN.


- International Affairs 'Her [Susan Williams'] impressive probing draws together previously secret archived material and witness statements never before aired. The book is rigorously academic, with intensive referencing and quotes from expert informants, but it is also an intriguing whodunnit, albeit one with particularly sombre connotations,


- The Canberra Times 'The death of Dag Hammarskjold is a major historical puzzle: in this meticulously researched and gripping account Susan Williams has left very few stones unturned in her attempt to unravel it. After reviewing both old and much new evidence she makes a compelling case for a fresh enquiry with full disclosure.


- James Mayall, Sir Patrick Sheehy Professor of International Relations, University of Cambridge 'If you want to read a work of serious, well-researched history as exciting as a James Bond novel, this important book, which vividly conveys the tumultuous decolonisation of the Congo, is the one for you.


- - Gerard Prunier, author of From Genocide to Continental War: The 'Congolese
Conflict and the Crisis of Contemporary Africa

'A short, taut and highly readable account of Hammarskjold's death that suggests strongly that the Secretary-General was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by some supporters of continued white domination in central Africa. ... This is a rivetingly good read and is exceptionally well researched.'


- Stephen Ellis, Professor of African Studies, Free University of Amsterdam, and author, Season of Rains: Africa and the World 'The book reads like a thriller, as the author pursues archives, interviews and thousands of documents to find clues to the murder of a man who, according to the British and Belgians, died in an aircraft accident.


- Jamaica Observer


About the Author

Susan Williams has published widely on Africa, decolonisation and the global power shifts of the 20thc. receiving widespread acclaim for Colour Bar (Penguin, 2006), her book on the founding President of Botswana. Other recent books include The People's King (Penguin, 2003) and Ladies of Influence (Penguin, 2000), as well as edited volumes including The Iconography of Independence: 'Freedoms at Midnight' (2010). She is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London.

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Book Info

Publication date

1st September 2011

Author

Susan S. Williams

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    recommendations

Publisher

C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd

Format

Hardback
256 pages

Categories

The Cold War
African history

ISBN

9781849041584

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