In the first chapter of Half of a Yellow Sun, one of the topics that Odenigbo’s colleagues reference in one of their debates is why Tshombe was still in Katanga. I was curious as to who Tshombe is, so I read an article on him. Moise Tshombe was born in the Congo in 1919 and educated by American missionaries. He took over a chain of stores in 1951 in Katanga. Odenigbo probably resented Tshombe for supporting white mercenaries. I am assuming the scandal that the Odenibo’s refers to is the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjold who was killed in a plane crash, and the subsequent evidence that suggested Katanga had been behind the attack (which Tshombe denied). To escape tension Tshombe fled to Europe and lived there for a while before returning to become Prime Minister of the Congo Republic in 1964. The corruption behind this election, however, resulted in Tshombe needing to abandon his position. A year later he was tried for and convicted of treason for absenting his post and was sentenced to death. He died of a heart attack in prison in June 1969.
After learning this background, I believe that though this information is not discussed in the novel, simply referencing Tshombe at the beginning of the novel foreshadows the destruction that later occurs in the story.
Below is the website where I obtained this information.