The scene was set in the unfinished grand ballroom of what was to have been the Belgian Governor's new official residence. Now it was the debating hall of the Congo's first Parliament. A grey wastebasket was pressed into service as the voting urn. Amid the happy hubbub, a black soldier loped down the aisle, crying, "Mr. President of the Provisional Assembly, he has arrived!" As the President strode briskly to his seat, his Belgian adviser whispered, "Have you got your hammer?"

It was the showdown for the deter mined rivals for power, lean,...

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