Seminar: The death of a UN Secretary-General: Dag Hammarskjöld and the Congo


Video duration: 
1 h 21 min.

Hammarskjöld in the Congo

Dag Hammarskjöld became the second Secretary-General of the United Nations in 1953. His period in office was marked by the challenges of the Cold War and the decolonization of Africa. The conflict in the Republic of the Congo was a culmination of both and resulted in the secession of Katanga and the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

Hammarskjöld was killed in September 1961 when, travelling to negotiate with the secessionist leader Moise Tshombe, his plane crashed on approach to Ndola airport in what was then Northern Rhodesia. Initial investigations into the crash could not clarify the reasons for the catastrophe. Speculation about the causes of the crash continued, and more than 50 years later further evidence emerged, prompting a new investigation by the UN.

This seminar summarizes Hammarskjöld’s approach to the conflict in the Congo and offers an overview of the efforts to establish the circumstances of the plane crash.

Henning Melber

Henning Melber is Director emeritus and Senior Advisor of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala; Senior Advisor to the Nordic Africa Institute; Extraordinary Professor at the Department of Political Sciences/University of Pretoria and the Centre for Africa Studies at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein; and  Senior Research Fellow with the Institute for Commonwealth Studies at the University of London.

His publications include: (with Carsten Stahn): Peace Diplomacy, Global Justice and International Agency. Rethinking Human Security and Ethics in the Spirit of Dag Hammarskjöld (Cambridge 2014); Understanding Namibia. The trials of Independence (London and Johannesburg 2014 and New York 2015); and Examining the African Middle Classes (forthcoming).


Date, time and location

17 March 2016
15.30 - 17.00
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room 1A27 (1st floor)