Sometimes while I am working I like to throw in my wireless headphones and either listen to music or watch movies on my non-exploding Samsung Note 5 Android. Most of the time, I am content with really just listening while I work, even to movies, if I have seen them before. (I am on my 10th listening of Batman vs. Superman—don’t judge me.) But every now and then a movie or book captures my attention so intently that I have to put down what I am doing and focus on it, or at least think about it all day until I can get back to it. Every now and then, that book or movie (or conversation, quotation, etc.) has made an impact that almost forces me to research it and the history behind it. The “Siege of Jadotville,” just released on Netflix on October 7, is one such work.
In September of 1961, the world was in the midst of rebuilding from World War II, watching as Vietnam crept into the headlines and our social conscience, and practicing “duck and cover,” waiting for the inevitable nuclear first strike that their governments told them was coming. But in a small, dusty-but-beautiful corner of the African continent, this new “Cold War” had made itself known in a big way. Like many other African nations, the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, had only recently declared its independence from colonial Belgium (1960), and had found that it was on shaky ground when it came to establishing its own government.
In an effort to help ease the transition, the United Nations under Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold agreed to set up and run the U.N. operation in the Congo. During the run up to the operation, civil war erupted between the central government and the province of Katanga, known for its natural resources and led by ultra-Christian and staunch anti-communist Moise Tshombe. As the fighting erupted, the U.N. peacekeepers found themselves caught off guard and in the middle.