Dag Hammarskjold plane crash and Justice Chande: UN trying to forgive

01Apr 2018
Guardian On Sunday
Dag Hammarskjold plane crash and Justice Chande: UN trying to forgive

NOT many Tanzanians appear to be thinking about -or remembering - that former Chief Justice Mohamed Chande Othman is at present working for the United Nations Secretary-General in relation to probing a sensitive matter in its past.

Of late, current Secretary General Antonio Guterres has reappointed the former chief justice to continue his work in relation to the Dag Hammarskjold investigation.

On the surface it appears that the UN Secretariat is seeking to find the truth of the matter of the death of the Swedish diplomat then serving as UN Secretary General, in 1961, as part of events as the Congo slid into civil war.

Only this week, specifically on Wednesday March 28, the office of the Secretary General announced that reappointment, even though an interim report on the matter is on the table and it also appears convincing enough, but is timid or guarded in its conclusions, as could be gleaned from the statement.

There seems to be wider pressure to resolve the matter, and it isn't coming from the UN Security Council but the General Assembly, whose tone and manner of pursuance of various strategic issues is mostly at variance with customary intuition in the host nation, the United States. That is why this investigation seems perplexing.

The UN statement said that via resolution 72/252, the secretary general had reappointed Justice Chande so as "to continue his work in relation to the investigation into the tragic death of Dag Hammarskjöld and of the members of the party accompanying him."

They died in an air crash which is now being investigated as to whether it was from natural causes, or it was induced from outside, for instance if the plane was shot.

At that time all that area was controlled by authorities allied to the rebellious state organs in the Congo, while Dag Hammarskjold was travelling to the area to shore up the authority of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

"It is recalled that the Secretary-General had previously appointed Chief Justice Othman as Eminent Person pursuant to General Assembly resolution 71/260, and the Secretary-General transmitted the Eminent Person’s report to the General Assembly in September 2017 (A/71/1042).

That report concluded, among other things, that it remained plausible that an external attack or threat may have been a cause of the crash." Obviously inserting the word 'threat' was diplomacy so that the statement is acceptable to the United States as the current authorities in Washington are eagle eyed when it comes to the UN.

"The Secretary-General urges Member States to actively assist the Eminent Person in the performance of his mandate. In this respect, and as provided for in General Assembly resolution 72/252, the Secretary-General calls on Member States that may hold information relevant to the Dag Hammarskjöld investigation to appoint an independent and high-ranking official to conduct a dedicated internal review of their intelligence, security and defence archives to determine whether relevant information exists."

Is this a hidden appeal to the CIA to produce relevant information it has on the matter, and since it is now more than 50 years from the date of the plane crash?,

But will editing of the record constantly done when bundles of outdated intelligence material are given to archives destroy crucial evidence or indication of admission of guilt?

The record is clear: those who murdered Lumumba and put his body in CIA operator’s car boot ought to know what happened to Dag Hammarskjold.


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