Born in 1929, Belgian national Jean Schramme had little need to travel to the Congo Republic. As manager of a vast estate in the Belgian Congo, Schramme was already a Congo national during the Congo Crisis (1960 – 1965). The setting to his contribution was the scene of the unrest following the breakaway of mineral-rich Katanga and Kasai Provinces.
Jean Schramme became better known to the world after the suspicious death of deposed Katanga President Moise Tshombe in 1967 in an Algiers prison.
The planter turned soldier of fortune then led an uprising against pretender and incumbent the UN backed Mobutu. On July 5, 1967, 10 Commando African National Council (ANC) under the command of Major Jean Black Jack Schramme launched spectacular lightning strikes on the Congo cities of Stanleyville, Kindu and Bukavu.
The Belgian mercenary designated himself to taking Stanleyville. His unit succeeded in taking Bukavu by August 10. The town was held for seven weeks during which time his troop strength was added to considerably.
All efforts to retake Bukavu from Schramme’s militias failed. The exhausted ANC forces later regrouped and Bukavu, in the end, was wrested from the luckless Jean Schramme. His contingent or rather those who survived the debacle fled to neighbouring Ruanda, which was another former Belgian colony.
In the spring of 1968, Colonel Schramme and other pan-European soldiers-of-fortune returned to their homelands. Schramme was to receive a 20-year prison sentence after his being charged with murder.
The former plantation owner was in exile at the time of the trial and sentence. Black Jack Schramme never again appeared as a public figure after the Congo Crisis. Rumours about his whereabouts continued to make the pages of media. A presumption was that the legend had exiled himself to Latin America. This was proven to be true for at the time of his death in 1988 the mercenary was a resident of Brazil.
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