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AFRICA: Congo Goes to War

2 minute read

Last week Governor General Pierre Ryckmans of the Belgian Congo announced that “unoccupied Belgium” was at war with Italy. Casus belli: Italy had committed hostile acts against Belgium, including the use of Belgian airdromes by Italian planes bombing Great Britain. The Governor General neglected to declare war against Germany, whose planes have also used Belgian airdromes to bomb Great Britain. Reason: Leopold, King of the Belgians, is a German prisoner of war. Nevertheless, the Governor General made it clear that the Congo would “continue the closest collaboration with Great Britain and her allies.”

This added another 902,082 square miles to the broad belt of Central Africa which has cast its lot with Britain. The Belgian Congo lies squarely between De Gaullist French Equatorial Africa and the British colonies of Kenya and Tanganyika, but is too wild a region to become a corridor for operations between the two. The Belgian Government in London prepared to mobilize all Belgians abroad, between the ages of 18 and 35, to strengthen the Congo’s defenses.

Back to London after his fiasco at Dakar and his coup in Gabon went General Charles de Gaulle last week. Tired but still brisk, he went straight to No. 10 Downing Street to report to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Later he broadcast an appeal to Frenchmen in France to hold out against the Vichy Government. “Free France,” said its leader, “now has 35,000 trained troops under arms, 20 warships in service, 1,000 aviators and 60 merchant ships at sea.” In a phrase reminiscent of Dakar (where De Gaulle forces withdrew rather than fight other Frenchmen) General de Gaulle declared: “If necessary we will employ force to free French people who are prevented from doing their duty by the ghastly ambiguity of subservience to the rulers of betrayal.”

That De Gaulle’s stature is growing in France was indicated by a story out of Paris, where university students have been forbidden to stage any kind of demonstration against the German occupation. One demonstration which the Germans did not understand was put on by 1,000 students marching up the Champs Elysées behind leaders carrying two 14-foot bamboo poles. Every time the leaders raised the poles the students cried “Vive!” The French word for pole is gaule. Two poles is deux gaudes, or De Gaulle.

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