Tag Archives: Conor Cruise O’Brien

From the Archive of Sir Roy Welensky, 1961

Congo political cartoon
“Target shooting at the Congo”

Back in January, I posted one of three letters that were sent to me from the Archive of Sir Roy Welensky, the last Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland; written by High Commissioner of South Africa, H.L.T. Taswell, and marked “TOP SECRET”. Since they don’t appear to be available anywhere else, I decided to publish the other two letters here today, in full (emphasis mine).

12th October, 1961

TOP SECRET

SECRETARY FOR EXTERNAL AFFAIRS.
PRETORIA

The Federation and the Katanga

At Sir Roy’s request, I had an interview with him this morning.

He told me that there were certain things he would like to have brought to the notice of our Prime Minister. One of them was that he had had a talk about ten days ago with Tshombe. The interview took place at Sir Roy’s request and Tshombe was flown to the airport at Salisbury with two Katanga Ministers. They spoke for about five hours in secrecy.

While he did not always think too much of the black man as a statesman, Sir Roy said, he was greatly impressed with Tshombe’s ability and sincerity. Sir Roy told Tshombe he had arranged the meeting because he felt there were certain points he wished to stress and hoped he would take his advice.

Sir Roy told him that it was impossible for him to try to fight the whole Afro-Asian bloc on his own and that it was essential to avoid a further clash with the U.N. which could be disastrous particularly with Nehru, his greatest enemy, doing everything he could to crush the Katanga completely.

The Katanga was the first setback the Afro-Asian bloc had suffered in Africa and it was therefore essential that he, Tshombe, should do all he could to capitalize on it. He must play his cards extremely well. As a start, it was most desirable that he should have talks with Adoula and reach a Congo settlement. He suggested that he should insist that all outsiders, including the United Nations, be excluded from the talks. Furthermore, any agreement reached with Adoula should be on a phased basis. No irrevocable step should be taken and each successive phase of a settlement should only be put into operation when each previous step had been carried out in an entirely satisfactory manner. Sir Roy hoped too that Tshombe would move in the direction of a federation in which a certain degree of autonomy would be retained by the Katanga.

Tshombe accepted this advice with much gratitude and since his return it appears that he has been working in this direction.

In so far as the United Kingdom and the Katanga were concerned, Sir Roy said his tactics all along had been to keep the United Kingdom fully informed on how he viewed developments. He had given them advance warning all along of trouble and had forecast developments with accuracy.

The United Kingdom, however, had preferred to close their eyes to all this and to let the United Nations go ahead unchecked.

When the Indians moved into the Elisabethville Post Office last month and the fighting started, Sir Roy delivered an ultimatum to the United Kingdom. He said that regardless of what the Federation’s legal position might be he was going to aid Tshombe. The Federal Air Force was at the alert and unless the United Kingdom took steps at once to the check the United Nations he was ordering the RRAF into action.

“While Tshombe and I could not have taken on the world we could have cleared up that U.N. bunch in no time. And that, ‘he smiled’ would really have started something.”

This ultimatum infuriated the United Kingdom and Sir Roy’s public statement that the British were going back on assurances they had given regarding the Katanga so incensed Mr. Sandys that he said he would have no further dealings with Sir Roy.

Driven into a corner, however, and fearful of the consequences for themselves of any federal armed intervention, the United Kingdom brought pressure to bear on the United Nations and the United States for a cease fire.

Since then Sir Roy has been pressing a reluctant U.K. to take further action by supplying them with information on the U.N. violations of the ceasefire and their military build up. He has been asking the United Kingdom what justification there is for example for the bringing in of Canberra bombers and jet fighters when the Katanga has only one Fouga jet trainer. The United Kingdom are now finally reacting favourably to all this and their influence on the Americans and U.N. is discernible.

In this connection, he mentioned that a further U.N. attack on Tshombe was expected this past week-end but it had not materialized. The danger of such an attack, incidentally, was the motive behind the issue of Sir Roy’s statement last Saturday. The text was telegraphed to you.

We believe that O’Brien’s recall for consultation is imminent and that he is unlikely to return to the Congo.

While Tshombe and his regime are by no means out of the woods, Sir Roy believes that they now have a reasonable chance of survival.

Touching on the Indians, Sir Roy said that one of the main reasons for their use was that other troops, particularly the Tunisians, had shown themselves to be extremely faint hearted. When the action started in the Katanga, the Tunisians had refused to leave Leopoldville.

Sir Roy, however, does not underestimate Indian motives. Referring to the report of an agreement between Lumumba and [Rajeshwar] Dayal for the settlement of two million Indians in the Congo, he stated that he had heard that documentary proof of this was available but he had not yet been able to lay his hands on it.

Referring to the Indian military build-up, he said he hoped we fully appreciated the grave danger it presented to us as far as S.W.A. was concerned.

His security people had information that a further contingent of Indian troops had arrived at Dar-es Salaam on October 8th on an American transport ship. The name of the vessel was something like “Blatchford”.

Touching on the question of foreign mercenaries, Sir Roy mentioned that the Federation had taken a man by the name of Browne off one of the two Dove aircraft that came up from South Africa recently on their way to the Katanga.

Sir Roy said they have proof that Browne was working for both sides – the U.N. and the Katanga. This is the man Col. Zinn spoke to the Commandant-General about when he visited South Africa recently.

After the interview I asked Federal security what they knew against him specifically. They replied that the white Katanga security people had long suspected Browne of double dealings. Also, when he was taken prisoner of the U.N., along with other mercenaries, earlier this year he was released “almost in a matter of minutes” while the others were detained. As a personality too federal security have no time for him and do not trust him in the least. His British passport was impounded by the United Kingdom High Commissioner here and he has been declared a prohibited immigrant by the Federal Government. He may since have made his way into the Katanga.

On the subject of Dag Hammarskjoeld’s [sic] death, Sir Roy said that he was preparing to have an enquiry take place under the chairmanship of the Chief Justice of the Federation, Sweden and I.C.A.O. would be invited to attend and he hoped to obtain another judge from a neutral country such as Switzerland. He would insist that the enquiry be a public one as there were certain things he felt should come out in the open and not be hushed up.

Hammarskjoeld’s plane left Leopoldville in such secrecy that even the United Nations Commander there did not have details of the flight. The plane had sufficient petrol on board when it started out for 13 hours flight. When it was over Ndola it still had sufficient fuel for another 8 hours. The plane had taken a round about route to avoid Katanga. There were 7 guards on board and a large quantity of ammunition. The general impression gained was that all were greatly afraid of an attack by the Katanga jet. The plane circled Ndola but did not ask for permission to land. There is reason to believe that the pilot may even had made a mistake in the altitude of Ndola and confused it with that of a place with a similar name in Angola.

Hammarskjoeld’s bag of documents was intact and could not be opened as it had a special locking device. Various parties tried their best to gain control of the bag. It was finally handed to the U.N. Representative. The Swedish Minister in South Africa was one of those who made strong endeavours to secure it. The Minister, Sir Roy said, gave the impression here of being an unpleasant character who required watching.

Turning to the Federation’s own present position, Sir Roy seemed very heartened by the removal of McLeod as Colonial Secretary and by the increasing feeling among Conservatives that the British Government should go more slowly in its African policy and that the interests of the white man should be protected.

The situation in Northern Rhodesia was also improving. Kaunda was being more and more discredited and his campaign of violence had backfired on him considerably. The Northern Rhodesia Government was distributing posters showing the damage done to schools and this was having a telling effect on the the Chiefs. The United Federal Party was now actively backing Katilungu of the A.N.C. with funds and helping him in his campaign. He was following closely behind Kaunda on his tour through parts of Northern Rhodesia and meeting with considerable success.

Although Heinriche and the Campbell, Booker Carter group were also backing Katilungu Anglo-American’s position was not very clear. Rhodesia’s Selection Trust, it seemed, did not approve of the idea at all. They had backed Kaunda very strongly, Sir Roy added, and Kaunda was also McLeod’s choice as leader of Northern Rhodesia.

He remarked incidentally that neither Anglo-American nor RST contributed financially to the United Federal Party any longer. (In a recent report I commented that I had heard these companies had recently restored their support. The information was given to me by an opposition M.P.)

Sir Roy did not touch on Dr. Banda directly. He just nodded his head and smiled when I commented that Banda would find himself very isolated if Katilungu were to come to terms with the United Federal Party. Sir Roy just did not seem to worry what happened to Banda.

During my interview I referred to our desire to overfly Federal territory in order to map our border. Sir Roy’s reaction was “Of course you can. Go ahead”. At the request of the Secretary for External Affairs here I have, however, put the request in writing and hope to have a formal reply shortly.

On defence generally Sir Roy did not say anything special but he gave me to understand that he would like to see Mr. Caldicott visit South Africa shortly.

Sir Roy said that he thought our Minister’s statement at the U.N. was a very sound one indeed and that Afro Asian reaction showed that body up in its true light. I gave Sir Roy a full copy of the Minister’s statement.

While one has gained the impression all along here that the Federal Prime Minister has been Tshombe’s main champion, the additional information Sir Roy gave me today shows just what lengths he was prepared to go to help the Katanga. But for the great pressure he brought to bear on the United Kingdom I think Katanga would have collapsed by now – and the U.N. and the Indians would no doubt have had more time to devote to S.W.A.

We can be extremely thankful that our Federal buffer to the north has as capable and resolute a Prime Minister as Sir Roy. We can be glad too that he has as skilled and well informed a Secretary for External Affairs as Mr. F.N.N. Parry. Both, moreover, show an exceptional amount of goodwill towards our country.

H.L.T. Taswell
High Commissioner

——————————————————————————————————-

2nd December, 1961

TOP SECRET

SECRETARY FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
PRETORIA

The Federation and the Dangers Ahead.

“The wind of change speech which Macmillan made in Cape Town was originally to have been made by Butler but it was postponed because of Strijdom’s death.”

That is what Sir Roy told me in the strictest confidence when I had an interview with him this morning. He asked too that the information be passed only to the Prime Minister, our Minister of Foreign Affairs and yourself.

He revealed this piece of information while talking about the great dangers facing Southern Africa.

Sir Roy, as you know, has just recently returned from London and Lisbon. Salazar, he said, is a worried, disillusioned and perturbed man who finds it extremely difficult to understand why his friends have turned against him.

“I am not disillusioned by Britain’s attitude” Sir Roy went on “I have known the British too long. If they tell you one thing now you can be almost certain that they mean exactly the opposite.

“A few weeks before McLeod was switched to another cabinet post I was assured” Sir Roy continued “that no such change was contemplated. Now I am assured that Macmillan will fight the next election. That just about convinces me that he will shortly resign in favour of Butler.”

Macmillan, Sir Roy added, has aged about five years mentally since he last saw him and will accordingly not be able to hold the reins of government much longer.

The present British trend to get out of Africa as quickly as possible is nothing new, he continued, it has been part of a plan for several years. Men like Lennox-Boyd and Home who developed such close and sound personal relations with people in British territories in Africa have been deliberately pushed aside. The British Government do not want people in top positions who have given firm assurances abroad which it would now be embarrassing for them to withdraw. The British want their hands free.

It was at this stage of the conversation that Sir Roy mentioned the wind of change speech in Cape Town.

Shortly before this he had said that “we in this country are on our own. I fully realize that.” He added that there was a tremendous danger of Southern Africa being cut off altogether of arms. The United Kingdom, he said, were selling fighter aircraft to the Federation at top prices. America on the other hand was supplying Yugo Slavia [sic] with aircraft at a nominal price of $10,000 each. Russia was now giving Migs to African states free of charge in order to help them in their struggle for freedom.

In the face of all this he went on, he was disgusted to see that Denmark had just refused to supply any further arms to Portugal. He deplored Israel’s action in voting for sanctions against us and added “I hope your Prime Minister is bending every possible effort to produce an atomic bomb in South Africa.”

Sir Roy stated that during he recent visit to London he had accused the British Government of deliberately going against the white man in Africa and of letting the Federation down at every turn. He told them too that he knew from information he had received in London that they were trying to put obstacles in the way of supplying arms to South Africa and, in turn, to stop the Federation from obtaining anything from the South.

The British Government hotly denied all this.

At present, Sir Roy went on, he could draw all he wanted from Kenya and Aden. Those bases would, however, one day close down and the only British base left in Africa would be the Federation.

It is interesting to speculate at this point whether Sir Roy’s strong remarks in London could not have had some bearing on the favourable negotiations which our Commandant-General and our Secretary for Defence were able to conduct in London recently.

Turning to the Indians in the Katanga, Sir Roy said that he had someone sitting in Dar-es-Salaam and watching troop movements. It was quite clear that more Indians were going into the Katanga than were coming out. Apart from the question of build up of U.N. strength it seemed probable that many Indians were being moved into the Congo as settlers. He confirmed that Indians were making an economic survey and taking an intense interest in mines.

“There is a great deal on the military side which I would like our Minister of Defence to discuss with your people urgently” Sir Roy went on “and I hope he can get down to see you very shortly. I don’t think this matter should be delayed too long.”

Turning to the Federation’s internal affairs Sir Roy remarked that economically the situation was much better than it had been expected to be at this time. Politically too the position looked hopeful.

A month or two ago Sir Roy declared that provided agreement could be reached internally with the constituent territories there would be little need for a review of the Federal Constitution. The British Government would be presented with a fait accompli and have to accept it as such.

I asked Sir Roy what progress he was making in this direction. He replied that Banda had already indicated his willingness to meet him after Maudlin’s present visit was over.

In so far as Northern Rhodesia was concerned Kaunda had already had a talk with Roberts, the leader of the United Federal Party there. Sir Roy has little time for Kaunda personally, however, he has reason to believe that Kaunda was at one time in an asylum and is mentally unstable. He doubts if he has full control of UNIP.

Barotseland, Sir Roy feels, is very much on his side and adamantly opposed to falling under a black nationalist government in Northern Rhodesia. The Federal authorities have provided the territory with a legal adviser to keep it fully informed and advise it on tactics when talking to the British Government.

Expressing confidence that it would eventually be possible to reach an agreement Sir Roy concluded “we will have no Congo here and if Britain tries to force one on us we will defend ourselves at gunpoint.”

This interview was one I had asked for prior to going on leave. As I entered his room, however, Sir Roy remarked that he presumed I had come in response to his request. When I explained that I had not, he said “but I told my people I wanted to see you. How is it these things go wrong?”

Looking back on my talk with him, I would say that Sir Roy is much more worried about the current dangers to the Federation than he cared to admit.

If the Katanga collapses, the Federation will be on its own. If attacked from outside it is very doubtful how long the Federation will be able to hold out on its own. Every effort will no doubt be made to hold the line of rail Northern Rhodesia and the Copperbelt and Southern Rhodesia.

With internal unrest fomented by the UNIP in Northern Rhodesia and by the NDP in Southern Rhodesia, to say nothing of trouble from Banda and from the dissident white elements, the position could be extremely difficult. Our buffer in the North could easily disappear leaving the path open for an attack on South West Africa and ourselves.

I should accordingly not be surprised to find that Mr. Caldicott’s proposed visit to South Africa, is to learn what our attitude is likely to be in the event of an attack on the Federation.

The following is the latest information available on the make up of the Federation’s population—

Whites: S.R. 220,610/ N.R. 74,600/ Nys. 8,730/ Total 303,940
Asians: S.R. 6,990/ N.R. 7,740/ Nys. 10,580/ Total 25,310
Others: S.R. 10,540/ N.R. 1,910/ Nys. 1,500/ Total 13,950
Blacks: S.R. 2,920,000/ N.R. 2,410,000/ Nys. 2,880,000/ Total 8,210,000
———————————————————————–
Total: S.R. 3,158,140/ N.R. 2,494,250/ Nys. 2,900,810/ Total 8,553,200

In assessing the problems which face the Federation one must not underestimate the drive, determination and dynamic personality of Sir Roy who stand head and shoulders about all other politicians in this country.

H.L.T. Taswell
High Commissioner

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“A Desperate Personal Demand For Help”

Tara 2013 003
In 1961, even in the midst of the Congo Crisis, Vlado was doing all he could to help his family. Conor Cruise O’Brien’s observations of Vlado, in his book To Katanga and Back – that he did nothing but work and hardly slept – were fairly accurate for the time he knew him, because it seems that he was spending every spare moment attending to the unfinished legal cases of his father, Pavel Fabry, who died December 19, 1960.

From February 2, 1961, here is a letter to United Nations legal counselor Oscar Schachter from Vlado’s Maminka:

Dear Mr. Schachter,

I am sorry to take your valuable time and to disturb you with this letter. It is only the serious situation and the emergency in which I find myself after the death of my beloved husband that urge me to write this letter.

As you may know my husband was working for some years as an international lawyer with the German Government on war reparation. My husband devoted not only his effort, time, money, but finally his life to this cause. Unfortunately it was not permitted to him to finish his affairs as he died so very suddenly in the middle of his unfinished task. Vladko who was always a remarkable son is now sacrifying[sic] all his free time besides his work and his vacations to work until late at night on his father’s affairs. There are many difficulties, many hard problems to be solved, which will need patience, time, travelling and possibilities of good communications.

All these are problems which I cannot face alone, and the only person to solve them and to continue the unfinished work of my husband is my son. If we had to take a lawyer, we would have to do it in many countries of Europe and my husband has indebted himself already too much to afford so many lawyers. It is therefore only my son who is the only person to help me out in this.

My health has been weakened by the sudden loss of my husband. When I learned about the transfer of my son to Congo, it was another shock for my heart illness. I am unfortunately unable to cope alone with the situation I have mentioned as much as I don’t like to ask something, I am driven to it by this emergency. It is furthermore a situation which presents itself during our life, such as accident, illness, death and its consequences, etc. I would like to ask you to help me, Mr. Schachter. You have always been very nice to us all, a real good and understable[sic] friend and I would like to ask you not to let me down now, when I most need it.

I wonder whether it would be possible to arrange a transfer for my son to Europe – Geneva or elsewhere – so that he could easier communicate and work to finish my husband’s most urgent cases. I have never asked you anything before and I would never have, but as you can see it is a very serious situation and I am in an emergency.

It is very difficult for me to write this letter and I am doing so on my own, without my son’s knowledge. Would you please consider it as such, a desperate personal demand for help.

Many thanks for everything you will do for me to help me out. Kindest regards to Molly and to you.

As ever yours,
Olga Fabry Palka

Vlado’s mother also wrote Constantin Stavropoulos for help. Here is a personal telegram she sent to him, dated February 11, 1961:

Maminka Stavropoulos telegram
(click scan to enlarge)

Respect For The Word

Vlado and Hammarskjold full image

Respect for the word is the first commandment in the discipline by which a man can be educated to maturity — intellectual, emotional, and moral.
Respect for the word — to employ it with scrupulous care and in incorruptible heartfelt love of truth — is essential if there is to be any growth in a society or in the human race.
To misuse the word is to show contempt for man. It undermines the bridges and poisons the wells. It causes Man to regress down the long path of his evolution.
“But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak…”

~ Dag Hammarskjold “Markings”

This Christmas, I bought myself a copy of Conor Cruise O’Brien’s TO KATANGA AND BACK, and the first thing I did was look for Vladimir Fabry in the index. This is what I found on pages 70-71:

Another important figure on the 6th floor at this time was Vladimir Fabry, an American citizen of Croat origin and ONUC’s legal adviser (‘Special Councelor’). Fabry was a thin-faced young man with a frequent but unamused smile and a stoop brought on by unremitting work. Even in an organization where all the key people worked excessively hard (surrounded, for no apparent reason, by large numbers of non-key officials who seemed to do no work at all) Fabry’s industry stood out. He slept little, he read nothing for pleasure, he had no vices or other hobbies, he simply worked – fourteen to eighteen hours a day. Dealing with paper he was accurate, penetrating and happy; with people he seemed on edge, as if he found them distressingly large and imprecise; and this was especially true of his relations with M Poujoulat. At this time, on first meeting Fabry, I was taken aback, mistaking his uneasy, abstracted air for personal hostility. Later, I came to respect his clarity of mind and to appreciate, and even admire, his lonely integrity. ‘I am an anti-social person’, he told me once, with melancholy pride. It was not true, but what was social in him – his fierce drive to bring some tidiness and predictability into the activities of man – took the impersonal form of a shy, jealous, exclusive loyalty to the abstract and developing idea of the United Nations. It is not unfitting that he should have met his death as he did, on the flight towards Ndola, working for Hammarskjold.

While I agree with a few things he said about Vlado, so much of this is just O’Brien’s opinion, and he doesn’t bother to fact check. Vlado is not “of Croat origin”, he was born in Liptovský Svätý Mikuláš, in the former Czechoslovakia. There is no doubt Vlado was working hard and sleeping little when O’Brien met him – considering the pressure of the situation in the Congo, Vlado was compelled to sacrifice his social life for a greater cause – but O’Brien really didn’t know Vlado as well as he thought he did.
Here are two photos of Vlado at work:
Vlado at work
Here he is in Egypt, taking in the sights:
Vlado in Egypt

Here are two letters of condolence from September 1961, from friends who knew and loved Vlado:

52 Champs Elysees
Paris

My Dear Friends,
Although it may seem selfish, I think the best way I can express my condolence and my sympathy to you is to tell you what Vlado meant to me.
I won’t tell you how much admiration or respect or affection I felt for him. I will tell you only that I think I can honestly say I considered him my best friend – and I was proud of knowing him: and I can say that all the more validly because I knew his faults as well as his virtues. I am very well acquainted with loneliness – but the thought of losing Vlado makes me feel even lonelier.
Please believe that just as I share your grief and sorrow at losing him, so also, since you can be very proud of him, I feel privileged to be able to share, even a little bit, your pride.
With very deep sorrow,
Peter Kenton

United Nations
New York, NY

Dear Olga,
I want to offer you my help in any way I can give it.
He was loved by so many people; he was kind and honest and strong, very strong.
He told me that memories are good to have. He lived with high standards and he died for them. He worked tirelessly in Gaza and the Congo. No tribute will be adequate to his merits.
I write this from his office here, where he spent many evenings alone. He said he liked thick walls and solitude, music and ideas. Of course he was also, at times, very gay, full of the joy of living.
Please accept my silent condolence to you and your mother.
Cynthia Knuth

And from the UNEF weekly, THE SAND DUNE, September 22, 1961, here is a tribute to Vlado from friends who understood his devotion to the UN:

With the sudden death in Congo of Vladimir Fabry UN has lost a distinguished and devoted son. Until his recently acquired US citizenship he had no country but UN to which he gave that same fierce loyalty with which he had served his own land. He was a sagacious lawyer, a skillful negotiator and a indefatigable worker for whom time did not exist. There were many Fabrys. The scholar and man of affairs who in his twenties had managed a huge industrial combine. The fighter whose activities sent him to exile. The mountaineer, skier, gourmet and music lover who was fluent in nine or ten languages and had knowledge of as many countries. He was an epitome of European culture.
We in the UNEF will remember Vlad not only for the work he did here but for his personal quirks. His hatred of the sea which did not prevent daily voyages on an air mattress. His pull ups on door lintels to tone the Mountaineer’s arm muscles and controlled skidding on sand to remind him of skiing. His undisguised joy in good food, good wine and good conversation, all of which he delighted to provide. No matter how busy, he could always find time to advise and aid anybody, no matter how humble, who had any problem. He was unassuming, courteous, exquisitely polite and we will never forget him.

Sand Dune Sept 1961 2
Sand Dune Sept 1961