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Friday, July 29, 2005

Zambia Safari & 100 Birthday Memorial

Today July 29, 2005 is the 100th birthday of Dr Dag Hammarskjoed, the late Secretary General of the United Nations who died in a plane crash on September 18, 1961 near Ndola in Zambia. He was on a peace mission to resolve a civil conflict that had just broken out in a newly independent (1961) African country, the Belgium Congo, now D R Congo.

A 67 year old Margaret Ngulube of Twapia Township, a suburb of Ndola and near the crash site recalled recently, “It was a terrible experience. I saw a ball of fire in the sky and later heard a loud bang.” She was 23 years old in September 1961. She said no one was allowed to go to the site of the crash until the following morning.

“We found bodies mutilated. Only the body of Dag Hammrskjoeld and that of another colleague were intact. The rest were in peaces,” she said while remembering the tragic accident. Records show that Hammarskjoeld body was found in a sitting position on a small anthill. To day a small monument marks that spot on the anthill.

The Dag Hammarskjoeld Crash Site now hosts a museum and a community school. The site is located in a pine forest. The area is supplied with electricity and every year in September annual commemorations of his death are held. Officials of the United Nation Systems and the Zambian government hold speeches on world peace and the purpose of the United Nations.

In 1986 the Zambian government demolished the Dag Hammarskjoeld Stadium. It was to be replaced by a modern one for the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations tournament that was to be held in Zambia in 1988. The former site was in the suburb of Itawa. Now plans are afoot to rebuild a new and modern stadium with a shopping mall at the crash site where there is ample space. This will support Zambia safari.

Hammarskjoeld was born 100 years ago of Hjalmar Hammarskjoeld, Prime Minister of Sweden during the World-War-I years and his wife Agnes. He was born in Jenkoping south-central Sweden. Hammarskjoeld was awarded a degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1930. And in 1933 he gained his ph D degree from the University of Stockholm the university that later made him an assistant professor. 100 years celebration is also part of the “Visit Zambia 2005” campaign.

Dr Hammarskjoeld was elected United Nations Secretary General on April 7, 1953 and unanimously re-elected for a further five years in September 1857. He died in that fateful plane crash in September 1961 one year shy of the end of his second term as secretary general. Had he lived he would have been 100 years old today!


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