Katanga

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Katanga

Katanga is a province in the Democratic Republic of Congo that proclaimed its independence on 11 July 1960, sparking a war with the Congolese government. Although technically an "unrecognized state" the government of Katanga (or the Katanga, as it was colloquially known) had a legitimate leader in president Moise Tshombe, and was initially supported by Belgian business interests and as many as 6,000 Belgian military personnel. Katanga was one of the richest and most developed areas of the Congo, with profits from copper, tin, gold and uranium mining contributing significantly to the nation's coffers, one of the primary reasons for Congolese resistance to the secession. Katanga was also accused, in January 1961, of orchestrating the torture and execution of deposed Congolese president Patrice Lumumba, although interestingly this provided a very convenient additional excuse for military intervention of the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). In February of that year, the United Nations passed a resolution that authorized "all appropriate measures" to prevent civil war. This resolution would, in fact, be utilized simply as justification for a military intervention on the part of UN forces, effectively putting Katangan forces at war on two separate fronts.

In addition to its conflict with the military forces of the Congo, Katanga was faced with a localized rebellion of the Baluba tribe, whose minority party within the Katangese legislature objected to the unilateral declaration of independence. Although poorly armed and improperly trained, the Baluba succeeded in gaining some territory initially, forcing Maurice Tshombe to raise his own army, La Force Terrestriale Katangaise, trained and commanded by officers on loan from the Belgian Army. Additionally, with the assistance of a handful of European emigres and Belgian advisors, the Katangan Gendarmerie was converted into an effective military force, augmented by several hundred mercenaries recruited in Europe and southern Africa. Without the intervention of the United Nations, Katanga might well have been able to resist the poorly trained and largely undisciplined ANC, who had recently lost most of their European officers and NCOs following a mutiny that impelled most Europeans to flee the country. Under intense international pressure, continuous military incursions from a numerically and technologically superior UN coalition, and with little outside support, Katanga eventually capitulated after its capital Élisabethville fell on 15 January 1963.

Camouflage Patterns of Katanga

  • As a former Belgian colony, Katangan forces made considerable use of camouflage uniforms provided by Belgian military advisors who initially remained in country to train the Gendarmerie. The brushstroke designs were most common, although some examples of the Belgian jigsaw pattern have also been documented.

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  • A fair number of the Europeans attached to Katangan forces were of French origin, with military experience in the French paras or Foreign Legion. Others had no trouble procuring the widely available tenue de leópard or lizard camouflage uniforms that proliferated the African scene during the 1960s.

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