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Part 16: Military Mutinies

Central Government 1966-1967


 

By 1966 the Simba rebellion was largely over, even if isolated pockets of resistance remained in remote areas for years to come -- and in some cases decades. By this time General Joseph Mobutu had taken power and the Congo was in effect under military rule. The army, the ANC, was still deployed in eastern and northeastern Congo, and the mercenary units were also still in place, even if there was not much fighting.

Katangese Mutiny 1966

When the Simba rebellion broke out in 1964, and former Katangese President Moïse became Prime Minister of the Congo, many Katangese were recruited into the ANC. Most of them made up a special regiment that was considered more efficient than most other ANC units. They were never trusted by General Mobutu, however, and once the fighting died down they had problems with pay and promotion, and were kept well away from their home province. In July 1966, the Katangese soldiers in Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville; see the Congo map) mutinied with the assistance of a few white mercenaries and took over the city center and airport.

A group of Katangese pose for the photographer near the Kisangani airport during the mutiny. The soldiers sport a great variety of weapons and uniforms and their overall appearance is in marked contrast to the Force Publique at independence (see Part 2). Their vehicle is an M606 Jeep with a .50-caliber machine gun, but without the usual external storage at the rear. (Photo © Jan Hekker)
 

Some other Katangese (two of them apparently wounded) drive along the airport road in a CJ-6 that looks like it has seen better days. The large indicators on the front fenders are the same type as those often seen on CJ-6s of Katanga (see Part 3) and ONUC (see Part 7) a few years earlier, so the Jeep may be a survivor of that period. The two C-47s of the Congolese Air Force in the background happened to be in Kisangani when the mutiny broke out. (Photo © Jan Hekker)
 

Although some mercenaries did side with the Katangese, ultimately 6 Commando under Bob Denard avoided throwing its support behind the mutineers. Here some of Denard's men with a Jeep and two pickup trucks have taken up post outside the hangar at Kisangani: compare with one of the photos in Part 2. The Katangese mutiny was put down after a couple of months and many of the mutineers were dealt with ruthlessly by General Mobutu. The men in the camouflage overalls belonged to the CIA air unit (see Part 15) stationed at the airport. (Photo © Jan Hekker)
 

Mercenary Mutiny

The operations against the Simbas were progressively winding down and by 1967 it became clear that there was little continued need for the mercenaries. 5 Commando was disbanded without incident but when Mobutu tried to do the same with 6 Commando and the smaller 10 Commando, their leaders refused to go quietly. In early July 1967 the remaining mercenaries in Kisangani mutinied together with their Katangese support troops. Shortly afterwards, after some fighting with local ANC troops, they left Kisangani to move south-east.

The two main leaders of the mercenary mutiny -- Jean Schramme of 10 Commando (right), who would have the most prominent role, and Bob Denard of 6 Commando (left) -- confer over the open tailgate of an M606. This military version of the CJ-3B was still the mainstay of 6 Commando in particular. Note that the speedometer goes up to 14 rather than the normal 9, since it is an export model calibrated in km/h.
 

Mercenaries shooting at Congolese troops in the street outside the Hotel des Chutes in Kisangani, near the north bank of the Congo River. The two men on the left have left their M606 and are preparing to fire a bazooka, while those on the right are clustered around their Jeep and its machine guns.
 

After leaving Kisangani the mercenary column wound its way across the countryside of eastern Congo for a few weeks and this photo was likely taken during that period. The word "road" may seem a misnomer but this was actually the state of many thoroughfares at the time. The M606 at the rear is a normal two-gun Jeep of the Stanleyville pattern shown in Part 10 but has had an extra jerry can fitted on the side of the rear storage bin. The vehicle in front of it is an M151 (see Part 17).
 

This CJ-6 belonged to 10 Commando, also known as Leopard Battalion as shown by the illustration behind the front fender. The Jeep is modified in the same way as many M606s, with a .50-cal. and a .30-cal. machine gun. There is a jerry can holder at the front and a bracket for an ammunition box further back, together with a sturdy radio antenna mount. The hilly landscape is typical of the eastern Congo along the Great African Lakes while much of the rest of the Congo was quite flat. (Photo © Herbert Lotz)
 

The mercenary column brought with it enough supplies and equipment for a long campaign. Most of the time they stayed away from major towns to evade any ANC roadblocks, and camped out in the bush. These two M606s are moving out from an encampment for a local patrol in the morning haze. The left Jeep has a name scrawled across the front, possibly "Marcia". A second photo from the rear (210K JPEG) shows them moving down the track, watched by curious locals.
 

Taking Bukavu

After some four weeks on the road -- on August 8, 1967 -- the mercenary column unexpectedly turned up at the town of Bukavu, capital of the Kivu province (see the Congo map), and easily routed the Congolese garrison there. The mercenaries installed themselves and set up a defense against the ANC. There were still some fears from the Congolese government that the mercenaries would continue to Katanga to set up a rival government for the eventual conquest of the whole of the Congo.

The town of Bukavu on Lake Kivu, just across the border from Rwanda in the extreme east of the Congo.

The center of the town is built on a peninsula, seen here, and is surrounded by low hills. Although easily defended, it was the only town in the Congo without an airfield of its own, making it impossible for the mercenaries to bring in supplies and reinforcements. (Photo via J-P Sonck)
 

There was little resistance to the occupation as most of the ANC troops fled without a fight. The inhabitants were used to the situation since Bukavu had changed hands several times during the unrest the previous several years. Here an M606 and two CJ-6s move into the town along its main street, seen in the middle of the previous photo. Note that the middle Jeep has not one but two spare wheels on the left-hand side. (Photo © Jean Ribaud)
 

The mercenaries set up their headquarters at Hotel Riviera out on the main peninsula, and over the next few months a variety of Jeeps would fill up its parking lot. This M606 with double gun mounting and armored glass screens, has its spare wheel fitted to the rear rather than the side. This is quite unusual for an M606 in the Congo, and may indicate that this particular example was originally built for another country. In the background is one of the several brewery trucks the mercenaries "liberated" when leaving Kisangani.

An additional photo shows some details of the double gun mounting (190K JPEG) salvaged from a Minerva TT for use on the M606, but with two Browning guns rather than FN MAGs. The armored glass for the driver appears to have actually stopped a bullet since it is starred. (Photos © Marion Kaplan)
 

Another M606 outside the Riviera, showing the rather makeshift installation of its gunner's seat at the rear. The seat is fastened to several L-beams that have been crudely spot-welded together. One of the bumperettes has also been lost somewhere along the way and the trailer hook has been replaced by a couple of small eyelets. On the left is the thoroughly stripped carcass of an M151 MUTT, up on blocks. (Photo © Marion Kaplan)
 

The force included at least two rare Hotchkiss HWLs, a French-made, stretched version of the CJ-3B. On the side of the body two cuts are clearly visible, with an insert piece between; the extension is straight-sided rather than curved as on the CJ-6. The wheelbase was 35 mm shorter than that of the CJ-6. The HWL is armed in much the same way as some ANC CJ-6s but the green paint wash over a white base shows that it was originally a civilian vehicle. Also note the position of the muffler, and the two spare wheel holders on fold-out frames at the rear, one of them empty. (Photo © Marion Kaplan)
 

The Last Campaign

The mercenary force was beleaguered at Bukavu and it became increasingly clear during the fall of 1967 that it would never be able to achieve much, even if its position was relatively secure. The ANC mounted several attacks on the pocket but did not manage to make much headway at first. In the end, with ammunition running low, the mercenaries withdrew into Rwanda, and were eventually repatriated home. They left their weapons and equipment behind in Bukavu and many of the remaining Jeeps were no doubt thoroughly sabotaged before being abandoned.

The mercenaries continuously patrolled the hinterland around Bukavu to counter any offensive action by the ANC. The armed Jeep was the main tool for this since they lacked any armored vehicles. This M606 is marked "6 BCE EM", i.e. 6 Commando HQ, but by this time the unit had been officially disbanded by General Mobutu and all its members outside Bukavu arrested. The name "Hirondelle" means "Swallow" in French. (Photo © Marion Kaplan)
 

Katangese support troops on foot patrol in the hills around Bukavu, together with two Jeeps carrying mercenary crews. Both Jeeps are Hotchkiss HWLs and on the nearest one the Hotchkiss name plate above the grill is very evident, as are the smaller headlights than on the CJ-3B/M606. On the bumper it carries a civilian yellow and blue license plate rather than a military one. (Photo © Marion Kaplan)
 

There were occasional skirmishes which mainly consisted of firing at suspected enemy positions from a distance. The gunner of "Hirondelle" (see above) is blasting away with the .50-calibre machine gun across a small valley while the rest of the crew is ducking for cover from the noise. Note that the spare wheel is on the wrong side and seems to be bolted directly to the body side; presumably the bracket on the right-hand side had been damaged. (Photo © Marion Kaplan)
 

The unimposing bridge between the Congo and Rwanda at Bukavu, where the last mercenaries crossed on November 5, 1967 and ended the mercenary mutiny -- as well as the whole 1960s mercenary era in the Congo.

That day the roadside was littered with discarded vehicles and equipment on the Congolese side, since the mercenaries were forced to cross on foot. (Photo © Stig Engström)
 

In this film still, Congolese officers inspect a Hotchkiss HWL -- likely the one with the red rear seat shown earlier -- that was literally ditched near the border bridge. It is still heavily loaded with ammunition boxes but the machine guns have been removed. (Photo British Pathé)
 

After 1967

The Jeep did not disappear from Congolese service with the departure of the mercenaries, but survived in military service into the 1970s. But as production of the M606 ceased in 1968, the heyday of the true Jeep in the ANC was over. Maintenance standards also lapsed again and by the mid 1970s even supposed elite formations could not muster more than one or two serviceable Jeeps in an entire brigade.

Proof that at least some Jeeps survived the 1960s. This 1971 photo shows an M606 being airlifted by a French Sud Aviation Puma helicopter, recently received by the Congolese Air Force. That same year the Congo was renamed Zaïre, only to revert to the name Congo in 1997. (Photo Zaïre Magazine)
 


Continue to Part 17: M151s and other 4x4s or return to the Table of Contents.


Thanks to author and researcher Leif Hellström. -- Derek Redmond

The flag seen at the top of this page displays the badge of 10 Commando, which had a central role in the 1967 mutiny.


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Last updated 20 March 2017 by Derek Redmond redmond@cj3b.info
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