Kindu atrocity

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A Fairchild C-119G of the Italian 46ª Aerobrigata

The Kindu massacre, or Kindu atrocity, took place on 11 or 12 November 1961 in Kindu Port-Émpain, in the Congo-Léopoldville (the former Belgian Congo), where thirteen Italian airmen, members of the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC), sent to pacify the country ravaged by civil war, were murdered. The Italian aviators manned two C-119s, twin-engined transport aircraft known as Flying Boxcars, of the 46ª Aerobrigata based at Pisa Airfield.

The fact[edit]

Historical context[edit]

When independence was proclaimed, Belgium left Congo-Léopoldville (modern-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in political and administrative chaos; major international and financial interests played a part in making the situation even more serious by favoring the secession of two regions, South Kasai and Katanga.[1] Katanga was the richest province in the country with important mining activity.

Three factions were involved: Joseph Kasa-Vubu's, with troops led by General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, the pro-Lumumba faction led by Antoine Gizenga with troops under the command of General Victor Lundula holding the eastern province; and Moise Tshombe's Katangan faction, with gendarmes supported by foreign mercenaries.

War had suddenly broken out the previous month, following the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the former nationalist Prime Minister who had tried to free the country from outside influences. The instigator of the murder was Moise Tshombe, leader of the breakaway State of Katanga, supported by president of the Republic Joseph Kasavubu and by the head of the Armed Forces Mobutu Sese Seko, who would later govern the country for four decades.

The massacre[edit]

The two Italian aircrews had been operating for a year and a half in the Congo and their return to Italy was scheduled for 23 November 1961. In the morning of Saturday 11 November 1961, the two aircraft took off from the capital city Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) to supply the small Malaysian United Nations garrison controlling the airfield not far from Kindu, on the edge of the equatorial forest.

Europeans stayed in the area very unwillingly, because of the upheaval caused by the passing of Gizenga troops coming from Stanleyville and bound for Katanga.

However the Italian aircrew did not have to stay, save for the unloading of the aircraft and to have a brief lunch. Then they planned to fly back to base within the day.

The two C-119s appeared in the sky above Kindu shortly after 2 PM, circled over the village a couple of times, then they landed. Turmoil had been bigger than usual in the last few days. Among the two thousand Congolese soldiers in Kindu spread the rumors that an airdrop by Tshombe's parachutists was imminent; Gizenga's troops, operating 500 kilometers due south in northern Katanga, had been bombed by Katangese aircraft for months.

When, Saturday, the Congolese saw the two aircraft in the sky, their fear increased. Suspicion that the paras were coming became certainty. Possessed by terror and fury, the soldier jumped onto trucks bound for the airfield and for the UN canteen, a small villa one kilometer away, where Maggiore (Major) Parmeggiani and other Italians were having lunch with Major Maud, leader of the Malaysian garrison. Upon the arrival of the Congolese, more and more numerous and threatening, the unarmed Italians tried to barricade themselves in the building but were taken prisoner. The few Malaysian guards were soon overpowered and manhandled. First to die was Medic Tenente Remotti while trying to escape. The twelve survivors were assaulted; then, bloody and bruised, were loaded on two trucks with Remotti's body, taken into uptown and unloaded at the end of the main street, Avenue Lumumba Liberateur, in front of the prison, a low red-brick building surrounded by a wall.

At dusk the Italian airmen were finished off with two bursts of small arms. Then a crazed crowd got hold of the butchered bodies and cut them up with machetes.

They were falsely accused of supplying weapons to Katangan secessionists.[2] The militiamen spread rumors that the Italian aviators were flying towards Katanga and had been tricked into landing at Kindu by control tower personnel; however, special correspondent Alberto Ronchey (for the Italian newspaper La Stampa) found out a few days later that the control tower had been out of order for months ahead of the killings.[3] It was only in February 1962 that the remains of those Italians, martyrs of a peacekeeping mission were discovered in two long and tight pits in the cemetery at Tokolote, a small village near the Lualaba River, on the edge of the woods.[4]

Another Italian had been killed in Congo some days earlier during an ambush by revolutionary troops: Italian Red Cross Lieutenant Raffaele Soru, also decorated with the Gold Medal of Military Valor.

Commemorations[edit]

In 1994 they were awarded the Gold Medal of Military Valor.
Here are the names of the airforcemen. (USAF ranks are added for comparison).[5]

It was not until 2007 that the victims' relatives obtained a compensation law. A monument to the Kindu victims can be found at the entrance of Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome; another was erected in Pisa.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Denis Mack Smith, L'Italia del XX secolo. vol VI 1961-1970, ed. Rizzoli pag.200
  2. ^ Prima pagina de La Nazione
  3. ^ Luciano Scalettari "Finalmente lo stato si è ricordato di loro"
  4. ^ Denis Mack Smith, L'Italia del XX secolo vol.VI 1961-1970, Rizzoli 1977
  5. ^ A table of comparison between Italian Air Force and USAF ranks can be found in Nicola Malizia's F-47 Thunderbolt, IBN, Rome, 2005.
  6. ^ http://webspace.webring.com/people/wu/um_6610/corradini.html
  7. ^ Elena Mollica, Kindu, missione senza ritorno, He-Herald editore, 2008