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Tribute to Hammarskjold

B.G. Verghese

By Rajeshwar Dayal
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1976, 312, 60.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 4 October - December 1976

Dag Hammarskjold and the Congo Crisis are both fascinating subjects, joined together by the United Nations connection. Either would merit a book in itself by Rajeshwar Dayal who had an inti­mate knowledge of both. But in choosing to write on his ‘mission for Hammarskjold’, Dayal hardly notices the UN Secretary-General outside his Congo role and does not discuss the Congo crisis in its fullness, limiting himself to the period in which this mission was undertaken. The result is frag­mentary, being neither a portrait of Hammarskjold nor an account of the trauma attending the birth of an independent Congo, today's Zaire, in which the UN played a unique role. Nor again is the book an autobiography of Dayal who, as India’s Permanent Representative at the UN, High Com­missioner to Pakistan, Foreign Secretary and much else, is a very seasoned diplomat with a good deal to say. In the result, what we have is essentially a documentary narrative of Dayal’s stewardship of the UN Operation in the Congo from September 1960 to May 1961, laced with quotations from the telegrams and correspondence that passed between Dag Hammarskjold and his Special Representative in the Congo. ‘I have relied heavily on this source material in presenting the facts as objectively as possible’, Dayal acknowledges. If ‘objectivity’ is established by generous reference to the contempo­rary record, with its nuances of mood and urgency, readability suffers which is a pity since there is a story to tell. Nonetheless, Hammarskjold’s human qualities, philosophic bent and humour come through and this is rewarding. With so much having already been written about the Congo crisis, now fifteen years behind us, Dayal has little new to add by way of fact. He does how­ever reveal Hammarskjold’s attitude and response to the fast-changing scene and, of course, his own reactions and assessments. Strangely enough, he almost altogether omits to say anything about the UN’s role in sustaining and developing a civil ad­ministration for the Congo at a time when the Congolese were neither equipped nor politically able to do so; such was their unpreparedness through Belgian default, external intrigue, civil commotion and a divided leadership. Nor are the antecedents of the Congo crisis fully spelt out while the denoue­ment remains untold. The rupture between President Kasavubu and his Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, had been enacted almost simultaneously with Dayal’s arrival ...

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