A robust advocate of decolonization, Mr. Hammarskjold definitely had adversaries who felt threatened by his diplomacy. He died whereas on a go to to assist finish a secessionist warfare in newly unbiased Congo, a former Belgian colony wealthy with strategically very important minerals, including uranium, coveted by the world’s massive powers.
It was a mission regarded with suspicion by highly effective mining pursuits in Belgium and South Africa, in addition to everlasting members of the Safety Council, together with america and Britain. Mr. Hammarskjold’s work later earned him a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize.
The narrative of his ultimate hours has been one in every of enduring fascination, laced with cryptic references to shadowy mercenaries, huge-energy machinations, airplanes parked on darkened runways and distant screens monitoring radio communications because the DC-6 made its deadly, ultimate strategy.
The crash got here at a pivot in Africa’s fortunes between colonialism and independence, heralding an period when the Chilly Conflict cut up the continent, fueling guerrilla wars and uprisings — from Mozambique and Zimbabwe to Angola and Namibia — that reached their conclusions greater than three many years later with the top of apartheid in South Africa.
Annoyed that a definitive reply to what precisely occurred to Mr. Hammarskjold’s aircraft had by no means been established, his two most up-to-date successors within the prime position on the United Nations — Ban Ki-moon and António Guterres — have revitalized the inquiry.
A panel appointed by Mr. Ban present in 2015 that enough new tidbits of information had surfaced to warrant a new investigation. A Common Meeting resolution last December approved the appointment of an “eminent individual” to evaluate the knowledge to find out the scope of any new inquiry.
That individual, Mohamed Chande Othman, a former chief justice of Tanzania, who additionally was the chief of Mr. Ban’s panel, is because of submit his findings in a report back to Mr. Guterres this month.
Mr. Othman declined to discuss the findings forward of submitting the report. However senior United Nations officers and different associates of Mr. Othman stated he had compiled detailed new questions on intercepted radio communications and different plane within the space as Mr. Hammarskjold’s aircraft went down eight miles from Ndola’s airfield — and that the solutions could also be discovered within the intelligence archives of the USA, Britain and Belgium.
“We all know from out there info that they know far more than what they’re saying,” stated one of many senior United Nations officers, referring to the federal government keepers of these archives. The official spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate a confidential United Nations report.
One concept is that the DC-6 might have been attacked or harassed by a French-constructed Fouga Magister fighter jet operated by secessionist forces within the southern Congolese province of Katanga, who have been resisting Mr. Hammarskjold’s efforts to finish their rebel.
Seven months earlier than the crash, three Fouga Magisters had been delivered to the secessionists aboard an American-owned cargo plane that was supposed to be delivering food. President John F. Kennedy was deeply embarrassed by the supply, which was later reported to have been a C.I.A. operation.
Whether or not a Fouga was within the Ndola space on the night time of the crash stays unknown, regardless of earlier assurances to Mr. Othman from the C.I.A. that it had no data of a fighter jet’s presence there, a senior United Nations official stated.
Mr. Othman has additionally put new inquiries to Britain and Belgium concerning the findings of their very own intelligence providers. Primarily, the senior United Nations official stated, Mr. Othman had requested Western governments to hold out “extra exhaustive searches and complete searches” by way of their archives.
His inquiries additionally embrace questions on two American army intelligence officers at totally different listening posts on the night time of the crash, certainly one of whom has since died. Each claimed years later to have overheard radio intercepts that steered the DC-6 had been shot down. Mr. Othman has additionally inquired about whether or not an official American DC-three plane had been parked on the Ndola airfield that night time.
Because the deadline approached for Mr. Othman to submit his report, it was unclear what sort of info, if any, the intelligence providers of those nations had launched in response to his requests.
Officers of the Nationwide Safety Company in america referred inquiries about Mr. Othman to the State Division, which had no quick remark.
Britain’s Overseas Workplace stated in a press release that “we carried out one other search and are offering him with additional materials,” referring to Mr. Othman. It didn’t specify the substance of the fabric however stated “we consider all info of direct worth to the inquiry has been launched.”
There had been some hope that Belgium’s intelligence providers would assist Mr. Othman after a member of the nation’s Parliament, Benoit Hellings, publicly raised the difficulty with the Justice Ministry final yr.
However Mr. Hellings stated in an interview that a few of Belgium’s archives — notably from its colonial secret service — stay categorized. He has referred to as for all the archives to be made public as a part of Belgium’s reckoning with its colonial previous and stated he meant to press the matter additional.
The Belgium connection is probably essential due to unverified info that Belgian mercenaries had been working within the Ndola space — together with a Belgian pilot who might have been working the secessionists’ Fouga Magister.
“I simply need to know the reality, and when you’ve some archives, it’s regular to offer entry to individuals from the science world, and particularly from the U.N.,” Mr. Hellings stated. “We’re speaking concerning the demise of a secretary basic, so it’s a reasonably essential matter.”
Mr. Othman additionally reached out to Goran Bjorkdahl, a Swedish assist employee and improvement professional based mostly in Africa, who had conducted his own investigation from 2008 to 2011 after studying that his father, who was in Zambia within the Nineteen Seventies, had been given a fraction of Mr. Hammarskjold’s wrecked plane by native villagers.
The investigation by Mr. Bjorkdahl advised the aircraft had been shot down because it was approaching Ndola. That conclusion was based mostly on interviews he carried out with residents of the Ndola space, who stated that they had seen a second smaller plane, however had by no means been requested to offer testimony for any official inquiry.
New variations of what occurred that night time and extra allegations within the Hammarskjold thriller, lots of them uncorroborated, have continued to emerge, additional complicating Mr. Othman’s effort to sift reality from fiction.
Tom Miller, an American journalist based mostly in Arizona, stated he had offered Mr. Othman entry to notes he had made after a collection of conferences, the final in 1975, with a British mercenary who described what he referred to as a C.I.A.-backed conspiracy to make sure that Mr. Hammarskjold’s aircraft crashed by falsifying altitudes on the crew’s aviation charts, inflicting the pilot to fly a lot too low.
The 2 official inquiries by the Rhodesian civil aviation authorities instantly after the crash discovered that the aircraft had descended too low. The United Nations Fee of Inquiry report discovered the aircraft crashed in an space simply 200 ft greater than the Ndola airfield’s altitude.
Any plane eight miles from its vacation spot ought to have been on a last descent trajectory at a a lot larger altitude than 200 ft.
To skeptics of the official accounts, the obvious reluctance by the large powers to share all they know with Mr. Othman is inexplicable, suggesting they’re hoping for curiosity within the case to fade away.
David Wardrop, the chairman of the United Nations Affiliation Westminster Department, a gaggle in London that has supported additional inquiry into Mr. Hammarskjold’s dying, stated the responses by Britain and the USA appeared to point out that they had determined that “slothfulness is the easiest way to exhaust the U.N.’s course of.”
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