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« on: January 21, 2005, 10:35:17 AM »

“My dear wife,

“I am writing these words not knowing whether they will reach you, when they will reach you, and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

“All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives. But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional, amongst certain high officials of the United Nations, that organisation in which we placed all our trust when we called on its assistance. They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others.

“They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise? Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure. But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say “no!” to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun...

“As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty: for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

“Neither brutality, nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith  unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

“History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations, but the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and to the north and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

“Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country, which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

“Long Live the Congo; Long Live Africa!”


The wife to whom this letter was addressed in mid-January 1961 was Pauline Lumumba. The writer was Patrice Lumumba, Congo's first prime minister, who was only weeks away from death. “Do not weep for me, dear wife ... [for] history will one day have its say,” Lumumba had written. That “one day” is about to dawn.

"On independence day in the Congo, 30 June 1960, the Palais de la Nation in Leopoldville is packed with Congolese and foreign dignitaries..." so starts the book The Assassination of Lumumba by Ludo de Witte, (... originally published in Dutch as De Moord op Lumumba) & translated from the Dutch by Ann Wright & Renée Fenby.

The decision by the Belgian parliament to set up the official inquiry into Lumumba’s assassination followed recommendations made by both the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt and foreign minister Louis Michel. Both men had been shocked to their boots by the revelations in Ludo de Witte's new book, De Moord op Lumumba (written in Dutch, published by Van Halewyrck, Louvain, Belgium).

... The Dutch original has caused so much consternation in the Belgian media that Prime Minister Verhofstadt and his foreign minister Michel could not help but do something.

De Witte, a sociologist, takes no prisoners in his book. He says matter-of-factly that “Belgium bears the greatest responsibility in [Lumumba's] murder. Belgians had the leadership of the whole operation -- from [Lumumba's] transfer to Katanga, to his execution and the disappearance of his body.”

According to De Witte, who had unprecedented access to declassified Belgian national archives, the decision to assassinate Lumumba was taken by Belgian officials a few weeks after Congo's independence on 30 June 1960. By 14 July 1960, Belgium's ambassador to NATO at the time was telling participants in a North Atlantic Council meeting that: “The situation would be better if the Congolese president, prime minister and minister of information all disappeared from the scene”.

Obviously the authorities in Brussels could not forgive Lumumba's hard-hitting independence-day speech delivered in the presence of King Baudouin of Belgium, in which he accused the Belgians of having “brought slavery and oppression to the Congo” and described the people's struggle for independence in terms of “tears, fire and blood”.

To be fair, Lumumba had been sorely provoked by King Baudouin's *insensitive* speech moments earlier. Every Congolese present was angry, and Lumumba only gave vent to his people's feelings.

Brussels again could not forget Lumumba's dismissal of Belgian officers from the Congolese army, and his subsequent demand for the immediate withdrawal of Belgian troops who had bombarded the port of Matadi on 11 July 1960 after some Europeans had been killed in the town.

Belgian feelings were very much shared by the US government, which, itself, was eager to prevent Lumumba from calling on Soviet troops to help him retake the secessionist provinces of Katanga and Southern Kasai, which declared unilateral independence on 11 July and 8 August 1960, respectively.

The American president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had long given the green light for the CIA to plan the elimination of Lumumba, according to Madeleine Kalb in her book, Congo Cables, published by Macmillan in 1982 and based on leaked State Department cables.

Kalb wrote that Robert Johnson, a member of the US National Security Council, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1975, revealed that during a meeting of the NSC on 18 August 1960, “President Eisenhower said something - I can no longer remember his words - that came across to me as an order for the assassination of Lumumba.”

Minutes of the NSC sub-committee on covert operations of August 1960 were more categorical: “It was finally agreed that planning for the Congo would not necessarily rule out 'consideration' of any particular kind of activity which might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba.”

On 26 August 1960, says Kalb, Richard Bissell, the CM special operations chief, asked his special assistant for scientific matters, Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, to prepare biological materials for possible use in the assassination of “an unspecified African leader” ... Gottlieb arrived in Kinshasa on 26 September but the plan eventually failed.

Gottlieb later told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he had dumped the poison in the Congo River on 5 October, because the CIA station chief in Kinshasa had been unable to find a secure enough agent with the right access to Lumumba, and also because there were concerns about the potency of the poison which should have been put into Lumumba’s food or in his toothpaste.

The American author Adam Hochschild revealed in his book King Leopold’s Ghost that President Eisenhower had personally given his approval for the assassination of Lumumba.

According to Hochschild, “Richard Bissell later said: ‘The president would have vastly preferred to have him taken care of some way other than by assassination, but he regarded Lumumba as I did, and a lot of other people did, as a mad dog... and he wanted the problem “dealt with”.’ After being arrested and suffering a series of beatings, Lumumba was secretly shot in Elisabethville in January 1961. A CM agent ended up driving around the city with Lumumba's body in his car’s trunk, trying to find a suitable place to dispose of it.”

Operation ‘Barracuda’

Clearly there were two plans running concurrently to eliminate Lumumba, but either the Belgians did not know about the American plan (which is unlikely), or they preferred to do it all alone.

Lumumba's nationalism was too much for the Belgians and their Western allies who considered him a ‘commie’, (or) a communist. In those Cold War years, Lumumba was seen as a threat to the Belgian, American, French and British companies that controlled Congo's national economy, including the strategic minerals: uranium and cobalt in Katanga; and the copper, diamond and rubber plantation in Southern Kasai.

The Belgian foreign minister at the time, Pierre Wigny, was absolutely unequivocal about his intentions. In a letter dated 10 September 1960, he instructed that “the authorities have the duty to make Lumumba unharmful,” De Witte reveals in his new book.

Three days later, the Belgian military adviser to the then Colonel Mobutu sent the telex to the Belgian African affairs minister Harold d'Aspremont Lynden: “Plan of action is being examined in Leo [for Leopoldville] with Ileo’s government approval.”

The “plan” was not cancelled even after Mobutu, fronting for the CIA, staged a coup on 14 September -- the *very first* coup in independent Africa -- to “neutralise” the Congolese politicians. Somehow, the Belgians were not confident in Mobutu's ability to keep the situation under control, even though they had contributed 20 million Belgian francs to Mobutu to pay the Congolese soldiers who were on strike for the non-payment of their salaries by the out-going Belgian colonial government. The payment was meant to strengthen Mobutu's hand as chief-of-staff.

According to De Witte, Mobutu's Belgian military adviser had prepared an alternative plan called “Operation Barracuda” with another Belgian officer based in Elisabethville, the capital of Katanga, “without the participation of [Mobutu's] government.”

The plan envisaged a direct Belgian hit to eliminate Lumumba, following instructions contained in a telegram sent on 6 October 1960 to the Belgian consulates in Brazzaville and Elisabethville, in which the African affairs minister, d'Aspremont Lynden, had written: “The main objective to be pursued in the interest of Congo, Katanga and Belgium is obviously Lumumba's definitive elimination.”

Until the end of October, says De Witte, Belgian diplomats were still debating the need to organise a direct commando operation on Lumumba's residence, which was protected by Ghanaian UN troops and surrounded by Mobutu's soldiers under instructions to arrest him.

Lumumba was under house arrest at the time and was feeling powerless by the hour. He desperately wanted to end his isolation. To compound his misery, the UN General Assembly under American direction had rejected his delegation, and instead given the Congolese seat to Kasavubu's delegation. It was a bit much for the beleaguered prime minister.

Lumumba under the weather

“On the night of 27 November, while a thunderstorm raged over Leopoldville, Lumumba slipped past the double ring of UN and Mobutu troops guarding his house, and drove away in a dark car with a few friends,” writes De Witte. Lumumba's intention was to go to Stanleyville (now Kisangani), then held by his supporters.

American diplomats were the first to react to Lumumba's escape. They alerted Mobutu, and the hunt was on! Four days later, the suspense was over; Lumumba was re-arrested by Mobutu's soldiers on 2 December at Port Francqui (now Ilebo) on the Kasai River.

According to De Witte, the Ghanaian UN troops based at Port Francqui did not oppose Lumumba's arrest. They were following orders given to them by the Swedish general, Karl von Horn, who himself was obeying instructions from the UN high command in New York not to intervene “to hinder Lumumba's pursuers” or take him into “protective custody.”

Lumumba was beaten by Mobutu's troops, who then transferred him to the Camp Hardy military barracks in Thysville (now Mbanza Ngongo), where he wrote the letter to his wife quoted above.

After his arrest, the plan then shifted from a “direct action” against Lumumba to his “transfer” into the hands of his worst enemies in Southern Kasai or Katanga, as suggested on 24 December by the Belgian consul.

But Vandeen Bloock, the Belgian diplomat in Elisabethville, objected on the grounds that Belgium could easily be accused of complicity if Lumumba was sent to Elisabethville. Bloock also feared that “an embarrassing prisoner” like Lumumba would further damage Katanga's credibility among the Afro-Asian coalition at the UN. Instead, according to De Witte, Bloock suggested that Lumumba be transferred to Bakwanga, capital of Southern Kasai, whose army was headed by the Belgian colonel, Gillet (nicknamed “Big Kangaroo”), but where the Belgian presence was less noticeable.

This idea, says De Witte, was endorsed by Larry Devlin, the CIA chief in Leopoldville, and by Mobutu's government which, though wanting to get rid of Lumumba, yet left the dirty job to be done by others.

From a Belgian perspective, Southern Kasai, led by Albert Kalonji, was a good choice since Kalonji and other Baluba politicians had a grudge to settle with Lumumba over the massacre of more than 1,000 Balubas by Lumumba's troops at Tshibombo, Banzolo and Kasengulu between 24 August and 4 September 1960.

However, there was an inconvenience. The Bakwanga airport was in the hands of Ghanaian troops who could have decided to protect Lumumba, if they had been left free to decide. To solve the problem, the Belgian African affairs minister, d'Aspremont Lynden, sent this telegram to his consul in Elisabethville: ‘Foreign minister Aspremont urges personally President Tshombe that Lumumba should be transferred as soon as possible to Katanga.’

Everybody knew that Lumumba would not survive a transfer to Katanga, says De Witte; but to Katanga he was sent!

On 31 January 1964, three years after Lumumba's death, Tshombe wrote to Lumumba's friend, President Nkrumah of Ghana, denying any involvement in the assassination: “I have the honour to inform you that I always took great care to avoid being in any way responsible for the tragic death of H.E. Patrice Lumumba,” Tshombe lied to Nkrumah. And continued: “I think that the time has come to throw full light on the matter, and I can no longer continue to allow myself to be regarded by Africans and indeed the world at large, as guilty of that crime.”

But Nkrumah did not believe Tshombe; because the Ghanaian president had in his possession a copy of a letter written by Tshombe on 13 January 1961, addressed to Justin Bomboko, Lumumba's foreign minister who had defected to his enemies, in which Tshombe had categorically stated: “Mr President [at the time Bomboko was president of the Commissaires Généraux in Leopoldville], following the message just received, we advise you of our agreement to transfer the communist Lumumba immediately to Elisabethville. This must be done secretly. Can you let me know of his arrival with the minimum of delay?”

Nkrumah published a photocopy of the letter in his book Challenge of the Congo (published in 1967 by Panaf, London).

Bodies doused in acid

Lumumba's transfer into the den of his arch-enemies in Katanga was effected on 17 January 1961. He was sent there with two companions, Maurice Mpolo (a minister in Lumumba's government, elected from Katanga) and Joseph Okito (deputy president of the Senate).

With their hands tied behind their backs and beaten mercilessly, the three men were shot on the same night. In her book Congo Cables, Madeleine Kalb says Washington had known since 14 January about the plan to kill Lumumba and his companions, but did nothing to prevent it. Tshombe's secessionist government took nearly a month to announce Lumumba's death (on 13 February 1961).

De Witte reveals in his book that Belgian officers were not only involved in the preparation of the murder plan, they also took part in the final execution. When Lumumba landed at Elisabethville airport, he was immediately taken into custody by officers from Tshombe's Katanga Gendamerie. Six Swedish UN soldiers were present when Lumumba was taken away from the airport.

But hours before they were shot, Lumumba and his two companions were transferred to Belgian custody, around 10pm, says De Witte. They were driven in a jeep to a place 50km away from Elisabethville. The driver of the jeep was a Belgian police commissioner. He brought Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito, one after another, to the murder squad commanded by a Belgian captain. Then the three men were shot! Lumumba was then 36 years old.

Four days after the killings came the final disposal of the bodies. The dirty job fell to the Belgian police commissioner Gerard Soete and his younger brother. Their superiors wanted the three corpses to disappear. Soete and his brother, therefore, cut up the bodies of Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito into small bits and dissolved them in sulphuric acid to obliterate the evidence. The acid was contained in a tank owned by the mining giant Union Miniere du Haut-Katanga.

In a recent interview on Belgian TV, Gerard Soete confessed that he sawed the bodies of Lumumba and his companions, and dumped them in an acid bath. “I am still haunted by this nightmare,” he said on TV.

But Soete was not finished. He had one more macabre detail to reveal: He told his shocked national audience that he had kept for many years “as a souvenir” two of Lumumba's teeth, which he eventually threw away in the North Sea, between the coasts of Belgium and England, he said.

By the time you read this, the Belgian commission of inquiry may have started its work (hopefully). Prepare to be shocked even more!

Lumumba’s Biography

Patrice Lumurnba was born in 1925 in Stanleyville (now Kisangani) in Congo's Orientale Province. He was from the Batelela tribe, a sub-group of the Mongo tribe. In 1957, he was employed in the Stanleyville Post Office, and later became the sales manager of the Bracongo Brewery in Leopoldville.

In his early years, Lumumba was like any other Congolese evolué: the small African elite ‘groomed’ by Belgium in the hope that they would look after its interests after independence. Lumumba, however, was different in one respect -- he read widely and voraciously, and assimilated new ideas; his main interests being philosophy, economics and law.

Initially, the Belgians were reluctant to leave what was, and still is, potentially the richest country in Africa. By 1958, Congo was producing 50% of the world's uranium (almost all of it bought by America), 75% of the world's cobalt, 70% of the world's industrial diamonds, and it was the world's largest producer of rubber.

More than 80% of the uranium in the American atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 came from Congo's heavily-guarded uranite mine at Shinkolobwe. In terms of Western geo-political interests (at the height of the Cold War), Congo was/is a very important country.

Where else could they get rubber so cheap to manufacture the tyres of their military vehicles than Congo? This is where the Congolese evolué mattered. They had to keep Belgium and its allies watered and fed at all times, even after independence. But Lumumba turned the plan on its head when he returned from the 1958 All-African Peoples Conference in Accra, Ghana, called by President Nkrumah. His radicalism made him Enemy Number One of the Western allies. And they called him a “communist” ... (It was a dangerous nickname to have in those days!) ... But there was no turning back for Lumumba and his Movement National Congolaise (MNC).

Within a year of the Accra conference, Lumumba had transformed the MNC into a national movement with a mass base. It out-shone all the other political movements in the country, including Joseph Kasavubu's ABAKO and Moise Tshombe's CONAKAT. These were more or less tribally-based groups. But the MNC stood out as a national movement. Later, one of the MNC stalwarts, Joseph Ileo, broke away with his followers to form the MNC-Kalonji. But that did not dampen the spirits of Lumumba.

His personal popularity alarmed the Belgians, who then arrested him in January 1959 for “inciting a riot” in Leopoldville. Fifty people died and 200 were injured in the revolt which started over the refusal by the Belgian authorities to grant an MNC request to hold a mass-meeting. On the second day of the revolt, the colonial security forces shot dead 26 Congolese and wounded over 100.

Though there was no evidence that Lumumba had incited the crowds, he was sentenced to six months imprisonment. His trial coincided with a round-table conference in Brussels on 20 January 1960 to discuss the constitutional future of the Congo. It was attended by the four leading movements in the country -- MNC, ABAKO, CONAKAT and BALUKAT. All four, for once, presented a united front and demanded national independence and the release of Lumumba.

The writing was clearly on the wall, and Belgium had to play ball … Lumumba was immediately released and flown to Brussels to join his colleagues at the conference which demanded that 1 June 1960 be fixed as Congo's independence day. Belgium agreed with a little amendment: independence day would be 30 June. The delegations flew home to prepare for the independence elections. It would mark the end of 80 years of King Leopold's/Belgian rule in Congo.

While Belgium was losing its grip over Congo, American capital was surreptitiously creeping in. In fact big business has had a foothold in the Congo since 1908. Two of the companies that shaped the history of Congo were the Union Miniere de Haut-Katanga, founded in 1906 (mining copper, uranium, cobalt etc), and the Societe Internationale Forestiere et Miniere du Congo (Forminiere), which started mining diamonds in the Congo in 1907. By 1929, Congo had become the world's second largest diamond producer, after South Africa. Forminiere also had gold and silver mines in the Congo, in addition to vast cotton, oil-palm, cocoa and rubber plantations, cattle ranches, sawmills and a chain of shops.

Union Miniere was largely controlled by Belgian, French and British interests while Forminiere was controlled by American interests. But in 1950, the Rockefeller Group became a major shareholder of Union Miniere by buying into one of Miniere's subsidiaries, Tanganyika Concessions. This opened the door for American interests in Union Miniere. It was therefore vital that Congo remained in the Western sphere of influence.

The plan was simple: either Belgium got the “right people” to man the country after independence, or Congo's independence would be aborted! Sadly for Belgium, the “right people” did not win the independence elections, despite all attempts by Brussels and its Western allies, including the mining giants Union Miniere and Forminiere, to influence the outcome.

Over 100 parties contested the May 1960 parliamentary elections, but Lumumba's MNC won convincingly, taking 33 of the 137 seats at stake. The MNC's nearest rival, the Parti Solidaire African (PSA), led by Antoine Gizenga and Piere Mulele, won only 12 seats. Kasavubu's ABAKO also won 12 seats and the PNP (Parti National de Progres, led by Paul Bolya, the party formed by the Belgians in 1959 and on which they pinned their hopes to win the elections), won only 8 seats. Brussels was so embarrassed that it could not release the results and kept them secret for three years.

In the meantime, the minister for Congolese affairs, Ganshof van der Meerch, tried to capitalise on the non-announcement of the results to appoint, first Joseph Ileo, then Cyrille Adoula to head the government. But Congolese public pressure finally forced van der Meerch to ask Lumumba to form the government.

On 23 June 1960, The Congo’s first nationally-elected government was thus formed, with Lumumba as its first prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as the ceremonial president. King Baudouin of Belgium flew to Leopoldville to perform the official hand-over. It was here that Lumumba gave his “tears, fire and blood” speech that so angered the Belgians.

Before King Baudouin’s arrival, Lumumba’s cabinet had decided that the country should present a united front at the independence celebrations, and that the titular president, Joseph Kasavubu, should reply to the King’s speech. (Congo's Loi Fundamentale, published by Belgium as the de facto national constitution for the country, had invested supreme power in the prime minister. The president, as in Israel, Germany and elsewhere, only played a ceremonial role, with no executive powers).

The King, the King!

On independence day, 30 June, King Baudouin, then 30 years old, surprisingly -- (or was it?) -- chose to make one of the most undiplomatic speeches ever heard by the world! Standing before millions of ecstatic Congolese in Leopoldville, the King said:

“The independence of the Congo is the crowning of the work conceived by the genius of King Leopold II, undertaken by him with courage and continued by Belgium with perseverance. ... {NOTE: King Leopold -- and/or his agents -- had murdered an estimated 10 million Congolese between 1885 and 1908, including cutting off the hands of tens of thousands of Congolese that had refused to slave on European rubber plantations and spend each day tapping rubber for whites: so they were mutilated! Yet King Baudouin, enthroned in 1951, continued:} ... For 80 years, Belgium has sent to your land the best of its sons -- first to deliver the Congo Basin from the odious slave trade which was decimating the population, later to bring together the different tribes which, though former enemies, are now preparing to form the greatest of the independent states of Africa...

“Belgian pioneers have built railways, cities, industries, schools, medical services and modernised agriculture... lt is your task, gentlemen, to show that we were right in trusting you.

“The dangers before you are the inexperience of people to govern themselves, tribal fights which have done so much harm, and must at all costs be stopped, and the attraction which some of your regions can have for foreign powers which are ready to profit from the least sign of weakness...”

You could well imagine the long faces that greeted the King's speech! Even the moderate Kasavubu, who replied on behalf of the new Congo nation, had to drop the second half of his prepared speech (designed for) praising the young King.

Lumumba, not scheduled officially to speak that day, could not hold himself any longer. And he was not known to be a ‘waffler’… He took the podium and went straight to the point:

“Men and women of the Congo, who have fought for and won the independence we celebrate today, I salute you in the name of the Congolese government!

“I ask you all, friends who have fought relentlessly side by side to make this 30th of June 1960 an illustrious date that remains ineradicably engraved on your hearts, a date whose significance you will be proud to teach to your children, who will, in turn, pass on to their children and grandchildren the glorious story of our struggle for liberty.

“For, while the independence of the Congo has today been proclaimed in agreement with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal on an equal footing, no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that independence has only been won by struggle, a struggle that went on day after day, a struggle of fire and idealism, a struggle in which we have spared neither effort, deprivation, suffering nor even our blood.

“The struggle, involving tears, fire and blood, is something of which we are proud in our deepest hearts, for it was a noble and just struggle, which was needed to bring to an end the humiliating slavery imposed on us by force.

“Such was our lot for 80 years under the colonialist regime; our wounds are still too fresh and painful for us to be able to forget them at will, for we have experienced painful labour demanded of us in return for wages that were not enough to enable us to eat properly, nor to be decently dressed or sheltered, nor to bring up our children as we longed to.

“We have experienced contempt, insults and blows, morning, noon and night, because we were ‘blacks’. We shall never forget that, that a black [man] was addressed “tu”, not because he was a friend, but only because only the whites gave themselves the honour of being addressed “vous”!...

“We have seen our lands despoiled in the name of so-called legal documents which were no more than a recognition of superior force. We have known that the law was never the same for a white man as it was for a black [man]: for the former, it made allowances; for the latter, it was cruel and inhuman!

“We have seen the appalling suffering of those who had their political opinions and religious beliefs dismissed as exiles in their own country! Their lot was truly worse than death. We have seen magnificent houses in the towns for the whites, and crumbling straw huts for the blacks! A black [man] could not go to the cinema, or to a restaurant, or to a shop that was meant for ‘Europeans’! A black [man] would always travel in the lowest part of a ship, or of a train, under the feet of the whites in their luxurious cabins!

“And finally, who can ever forget the shootings in which so many of our brothers died ... or the cells where those who refused to submit any longer to the rule of a ‘justice’ of oppression and exploitation were put away?

“All this, brothers, has meant the most profound suffering. But all this, we can now say, we who have been voted as your elected representatives to govern our beloved country, all this is now ended! The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our land is now in the hands of its own children! Together, brothers and sisters, we shall start on a new struggle, a noble struggle that will bring our country to peace, prosperity and greatness...

“We shall show the world what the black man can do ... when he is allowed to work in freedom, and we shall make the Congo the focal point of Africa!”

The expression on King Baudouin's face, as Lumumba fired those words, could not be described in friendly terms. No wonder Congo was allowed only about two weeks of peace after “independence” under Lumumba's government …


The Assassination of Lumumba by Ludo De Witte, (translated by) Ann Wright & Renée Fenby.

Ludo De Witte is a sociologist and a writer. He is the author of the Dutch work Crisis in Kongo and has researched two broadcast documentaries on Patrice Lumumba.

Book Review: “Whilst the battle for control over the resources of the Congo (now DR Congo) continues today, this important book restores Congolese history and saves it from the official version peddled by those directly implicated in the affair” -- New Internationalist.

Related commentaries:

Lumumba: The implications

New Revelations on the Assassination of Patrice Lumumba

New Data on the Murder of Lumumba

Network War: An Introduction To Congo's Privatised Conflict Economy


“The campaign of abuse and imprisonment against your leaders is but a part of the plan to harass and discourage you on the way towards destiny. But no sober-minded Negro will allow himself to be fooled by the design of the wicked. The wicked we have always had and will ever have. The wicked and unjust have opposed reforms in every age and under all circumstances. They crucified a Christ and drove His apostles from pillar to post. They made, by their wicked acts, martyrs of those who have lived and died for a principle and an idea; so let them go on. They, too, in this age shall drink the bitter dregs of sorrow and remorse, even as succeeding generations of those who crucified Christ and persecuted His disciples have become the cursed creatures of righteousness. Let our traitors sell themselves to the propaganda of the enemy who seeks to destroy the race! They, too, like the character of old, will find no use for the bits of silver.”

-- Marcus Garvey.

Posts: 67

« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2005, 01:20:47 PM »

Lumumba: The UN and American role

Story by Osei Boateng

Two weeks after Congo's independence, the country was plunged into a spiral of crises. It all started when soldiers of the Force Publique, the colonial army trained, and headed, by Belgian officers, mutinied over the refusal of its Belgian chief of staff to consider any improvements in their pay and service conditions. The soldiers had not been paid for months and when the chief of staff, General Janssens, refused to grant their pleas for service improvements, they vented their spleen on Lumumba's two-week-old government.

The soldiers were soon joined by civil servants who had equally not been paid for several months.

Then Moise Tshombe's CONAKAT party, which had won only eight of the 137 seats in the national assembly, demanded two of the most important portfolios in the country -- defence and interior -- as condition for joining Lumumba’s MNC in a coalition government. The MNC refused, and the negotiations broke down.

Tshombe's party had also won 25 of the 60 seats in the Katanga provincial assembly, but technically, according to the letter of the Loi Fundamentale (Congo's constitution), he could not even form a provincial government in Katanga since he did not win an overall majority in the provincial elections. He won only 25 seats but he needed 31 to form the provincial government.

Yet Belgium, under pressure from Tshombe, amended the Loi Fundamentale without consulting the other parties, and thus paved the way for Tshombe to form a provincial government in Katanga. It was this provincial government that declared UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) in Katanga on 11 July 1960, less than two weeks of Congo's independence.

Katanga, later renamed Shaba by Mobutu, was then the richest and most developed region of the country. It was also the home base of the mining giant, Union Miniere de Haut-Katanga. The province was so important to the future of the country that no national leader, and least Lumumba, could let it secede. Katanga was Congo's "Niger Delta" (home of Nigeria's oil wealth).

On the eve of independence, Lumumba's government had signed a "treaty of friendship" with Belgium, stipulating that Belgian troops in the Congo could only intervene militarily in domestic affairs at the request of the Congolese government. But as soon as Tshombe announced Katanga's secession, Belgium (without consulting Lumumba's government) sent its troops into action in Katanga's capital, Elisabethville (now Lumumbashi). They were not to quell Tshombe's rebellion but to give him support.

Thus within two weeks of independence, Lumumba's government was faced with four serious problems: an army mutiny, a workers' strike, a secession in Katanga and a re-occupation of the country by Belgium. Lumumba's enduring mistake was to decide to invite United Nations' troops to help him solve the Katanga problem. He played straight into the hands of those who did not wish him well.

How the UN did it

The UN Security Council passed two resolutions on 14 and 22 July 1960:

  • Calling on Belgium to immediately withdraw its troops from Katanga;
  • Declaring the entry of UN troops into Katanga as necessary for the full implementation of the UN resolutions; and
  • Reaffirming that the UN Force in the Congo would not be a party to, or in any way intervene in, or influence the outcome of, any internal conflict, constitutional or otherwise.

But that was not what happened. By 25 July, the UN had 8,396 troops in the Congo, composed of 2,340 Ghanaians, 2,087 Tunisians, 1,220 Moroccans, 1,160 Ethiopians, 741 Guineans, 623 Swedes and 225 Liberians. Later contingents from Ireland, Mali, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and other countries joined the Force. Though the Force was predominantly African, there was not a single African in the UN Operational Command (UNOC) based in New York.

As President Nkrumah of Ghana wrote later: ”The Secretary General on the civilian side (of the UNOCI) was assisted by Sir Alexander McFarquhar and Brigadier Rokhe. Below them were three Americans. General Karl von Horn [the Swede] headed the military side. In other words, in all the major issues, it was these men from the Western countries who made the decisions, and it was the Africans, who were not even consulted, who received instructions to carry them out. Thus, we see the spectacle of Africans being used to crush fellow Africans. It was all done under the grandiose phrases of the UN charter.”

Was it surprising, therefore, that the UN troops were initially sent all over Congo except Katanga where the problem really was? In other words, the UN occupied the very provinces controlled by Lumumba's government, and left Katanga free for the Belgians and Tshombe's rebels -- an act which was against the very spirit and letter of the UN resolutions of 14 and 22 July. It was not until 14 August that the first UN troops were sent to Katanga. Even then, Tshombe demanded from the UN that no troops from Ghana and Guinea be sent to Katanga. His wish was granted.

This is where America's "national interests" took centre-stage in the running of the UN operations in the Congo. Disguised as the voice of the UN, Washington ran the show from behind the scenes, using the UNOC as the lever to support the secessionists.

By August 1960, the senior posts in the UN Secretariat in New York were held by America and its Western allies. The UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold (from Sweden) was surrounded by American advisers -- notably Ralph Bunche (under-secretary for political affairs), Heinz Wenschoff (Bunche's deputy and personal representative in the Congo) and Andrew Cordier (executive assistant). Hammarskjold himself had personal connections with the Belgian royal family.

Records show that what was supposed to be a UN operation in the Congo was in fact financed largely by America. Between July 1960 and June 1963, American "aid" to Congo totalled $299.7m. Forty per cent of this ($118.5m) went to the UN Force alone. In addition, Congress put a further $10m at the disposal of the US president in case of emergency in the Congo.

Thus, the scene was set where the "African" commanders of the UN troops would not take instructions from their national governments, unless they came via the UNOC.

Some of the most infamous of these "African" commanders were the trio in charge of the Ghanaian contingent, the largest unit in the UN Force. Major-Gen H. T. Alexander (a Briton seconded to Ghana in 1959 and appointed chief of defence staff) led the way. In fact Gen Alexander had no "official" business as such in the Congo: He was neither (technically) the commander of the Ghanaian contingent nor held any official position in the UN team. The Ghanaian contingent was commanded by Brigadier Stephen Otu, assisted by Col. J. A. Ankrah.

Yet Gen Alexander went to the Congo and using the cover of being the chief of defence staff of Ghana, and the pretext of restoring "law and order" in the areas controlled by Lumumba, set out to demobilise the Force Publique (the army controlled by Lumumba) and, in the process, achieved the twin aims of rendering both Lumumba and Nkrumah ineffective. In fact, he reduced Nkrumah to a laughing stock, given the fact that Nkrumah was Lumumba's best friend; yet Ghanaian soldiers were used to block Lumumba’s every move.

Nkrumah finally sacked Alexander in 1961. But it was too late. By then Lumumba had been murdered and his government overthrown.

Enter Kasavubu

Before he died, Lumumba suffered another deadly blow. Joseph Kasavubu, the titular president who had been a staunch Lumumba ally, suddenly turned tail, believed to have fallen for the wiles of the CIA. In a surprise radio broadcast on 5 September 1960, Kasavubu told the Congolese:

"I have most important news to announce. The prime minister (i.e. Patrice Lumumba), who was named by the King of Belgium, has betrayed the mission assigned to him. He has been governing arbitrarily and even now he is in the midst of throwing this country into a civil war. That is why I have decided immediately to dissolve parliament."

Kasavubu went on to appoint a new government under Joseph Ileo, president of the Senate.

Lumumba was stung! That same evening, he made a counter-announcement: "The popular government will remain in power. I proclaim that as from today, Kasavubu, who has betrayed the nation by collaborating with the Belgians and the Flemish, is no longer the head of state."

But more bad news awaited Lumumba. There were further rebellions in Kasai led by Albert Kalonji as well as secessionist moves in Ba-Congo.

Then Lumumba's foreign minister Justin Bomboko went over to the enemy. But when all hopes appeared to be lost, a chink of light appeared at the end of Lumumba's tunnel: Both houses of parliament voted overwhelmingly on 7 September in support of Lumumba's position against Kasavubu. The Senate voted 41 to 6 (with two abstentions), condemning Kasavubu's attempt to outlaw Lumumba's government. But that important decision did not have much value because Kasavubu had already received American support.

It was during this time that the UNOC used the Ghanaian troops to damaging effect against Lumumba. On 6 September, 24 hours after Kasavubu had gone over to the enemy, the Ghanaians were ordered to seize the Ndjili airport and the national radio station in Leopoldville and prevent Lumumba from using them to rally his supporters. Meanwhile the UN was allowing Tshombe and Kasavubu free rein over Radio Elisabethville and Radio Brazzaville, respectively, to broadcast against Lumumba.

On 11 September, an angry Lumumba led a group of soldiers to take the radio station. The Ghanaians threatened to shoot him and his soldiers if they didn't get lost{!}. Lumumba protested vehemently to Nkrumah in Accra who instructed his ambassador in Leopoldville, Kofi Djin, to intercede. The Ghanaian commander, Brigadier Otu, told the ambassador in the face that he only took orders from the UNOC and not from him.

Nkrumah was forced to protest to the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, on 12 September thus:

"Ghana originally went to the Congo to aid the legitimate Lumumba government ... The whole development since has perverted the real objective and seriously undermined Ghana's position, in that at present Ghana's troops are used almost exclusively as a cat's paw against Lumumba, preventing him from using his own radio station. At the same time, Radio Brazzaville which is controlled by France, a permanent member of the Security Council, is allowed to indulge in the most virulent propaganda against the legitimate Lumumba government. Radio Elisabethville, which is in effect under Belgian control, is allowed to indulge in similar propaganda. Thus Ghana is used virtually to tie Lumumba's hands behind him while a permanent member of the Security Council is allowed to whip him."

Nkrumah threatened that if the UN did not take action to right the wrongs, he would withdraw the Ghanaian troops from UN command and place them at the disposal of Lumumba's government.

If only Nkrumah had carried out his threat! It might have had a snowball effect on the other African contingents, and Lumumba might probably have lived longer.

But Nkrumah did not make good his threat -- his reasons being that, as he told Lumumba in a letter on 12 September: "You must not push the UN troops out until you have consolidated your position, [only] then can you ask them to leave ... But if the UN troops move out now, you will not be able to cope with the confusion that will ensue, fomented by the colonial powers, Belgian and other imperialists, working with the reactionaries at home."

It was a fatal miscalculation by Nkrumah. Because the UNOC, dominated by Western interests as it were, was never going to save Lumumba. And the longer the Ghanaian troops stayed under UN command, the longer they were going to be used to stab Lumumba in the back … And the longer they were going to be exposed to the various Western intelligence agencies and their manipulations. It was no surprise, therefore, that six years later, in February 1966, two of the prominent names among the generals who led the now-acknowledged CIA-instigated coup against Nkrumah, were Ankrah and Otu. Ankrah in fact went on to become military head of state in 1967 after Gen Kotoka, leader of the junta, had been killed in a counter-coup.

Mobutu's coup

But back to Congo: The real drama in the crisis was yet to unfold. As the Lumumba-Kasavubu tussle continued, Colonel Mobutu, the chief of staff, staged what was independent Africa's first ever coup on 14 September 1960. The previous day, Lumumba had been given emergency powers by a joint session of the houses of parliament. Twenty-four hours later, Mobutu went to the radio station and announced that the army was taking over, and that parliament and the "two rival governments" in the country had been "neutralised" until 31 December 1960. The government, he said, was to be replaced by a "College of University Students".

Mobutu's action was quite interesting because he had been a man of Lumumba's heart. Mobutu had been a member of Lumumba's MNC and from 1958 had wormed his way into Lumumba's confidence. Lumumba considered him bright, politically honest and a man of the future. He appointed him into the cabinet as a junior minister, and later made him chief of staff of the newly Africanised Congolese army, the Armée Nationale Congolese.

But all unbeknown to Lumumba, the CIA had recruited Mobutu for precisely the job he did on 14 September. The CIA considered Mobutu as one of its "bright discoveries", because he knew Lumumba and the MNC inside out.

Four days before the coup, the CIA and Belgium had given Mobutu millions of Belgian francs to go round the garrisons in Leopoldville to pay the salary arrears of the soldiers. The money which came through the UN system was to help Mobutu ingratiate himself with the soldiers, consolidate his position and make the coup of 14 September easier to execute.

No wonder one of the significant actions of Mobutu after the coup was to close down the Soviet embassy in Leopoldville on 17 September. He followed it up a month later by closing down the Ghanaian and Egyptian embassies. President Abel Nasser of Egypt retaliated by closing down the Belgian embassy in Cairo.

UN in the dock

At the start of the Congo crisis, the personal relations between Lumumba and the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, were not too bad. After their first meeting on 24 July 1960 in New York when Lumumba attended the General Assembly, Hammarskjold was heard to remark: "Now nobody can tell me that man is irrational."

But a few weeks later, when the UNOC started using the Ghanaian troops against him, Lumumba wrote several angry letters to HammarsKjold, especially after Hammarskjold's visit to the rebel capital, Elisabethville, on 12 August 1960. Hammarskjold even went further to grant Tshombe's wish not to include Ghanaian and Guinean troops in the UN force sent to Katanga on 14 August. Lumumba protested: "The government and people of the Congo have lost confidence in the Secretary General."

The relations deteriorated further to the point where Hammarskjold, according to Madeleine Kalb, in her book Congo Cables, told Western diplomats in a private conversation: ”Lumumba must be broken.”

Later, the UN representative in Congo, Mr Dayal (an Indian), appeared to mend fences between the two men when he published, on 2 November 1960, an official report very favourable to Lumumba. Dayal criticised the Belgian role, Mobutu's coup and his foreign supporters, and called for a return of Lumumba's constitutional government. Washington opposed the Dayal report, saying it would accept the return of parliamentary government in the Congo only if the nominee of Kasavubu was made prime minister.

But it was Mobutu, not Kasavubu or his nominee, that grew from strength to strength, supported by America and its European allies. In January 1961, Mobutu was promoted from colonel to general. He remained head of state for the next 37 years, serving eight American presidents (i.e. instead of the Congolese people), being fêted at the White House, making Kinshasa the HQ of CIA operations in Africa; and in the end, after his overthrow by Laurent Kabila's rebels in 1997, being declared "a creature of history" by his American friends.


Lumumba: The implications:

Analysis by Francois Misser

If the Belgian commission of inquiry concludes that the country bears a major responsibility in the assassination of Lumumba, the decision may have a snowball effect on Belgium, Congo itself, America and its allies France and Britain; and finally the United Nations and the African continent.

According to the political scientist, Jean-Claude Willame, author of Patrice Lumumba: La crise congolaise revisite, it is no coincidence that the decision by the Belgian parliament to examine the country's responsibility in the assassination has come now. Willame, based at the African Institute in Brussels, thinks the decision has domestic and political undercurrents. He thinks that Louis Michel, the current Belgian foreign minister, who strongly backed the idea to set up the inquiry, may be out to embarrass the Social-Christian Party (SCP) which ceased to be part of the ruling coalition last June. This is the first time since 1961 that the SCP has been out of government.

In fact, the main Belgian political figures at the time of Lumumba's assassination, namely Harold d'Aspremont Lynden (African affairs minister), Pierre Wigny (foreign minister) and Gaston Eyskens (prime minister) did all belong to the SCP. But none will be able to defend himself before the inquiry because they are all dead.

However, with the exception of the Green Party which did not exist at the time of Lumumba's death, the other main parties in Belgium cannot be said to have a clean record over Lumumba's murder. As pointed out recently by the Belgian daily Le Soir, the socialists, who are part of the current government coalition, did not object whatsoever to the hostile government policy against Lumumba. And Louis Michel's own Liberal Party, in fact, did have many friends in the circle of Belgian officials who supported Lumumba's arch-enemy, Moise Tshombe.

In the end, the inquiry may catch the entire Belgian political apparatus in the net, except for the communists who supported Lumumba. All the main parties, if not actively involved in the policy that led to Lumumba's death, were at least indifferent.

All this, of course, will be interesting for historians, but it is unlikely to lead to criminal charges. Not only because the main Belgian actors suspected of complicity in the murder are all dead, but also because, under Belgian law, criminal offences over 20 years old cannot be brought to trial. As such, the survivors of the Lumumba murder squad could well sleep safely in their beds, knowing that 40 years after the event they are not likely to go to prison for the crime, or be asked to pay large compensations.

However, from the political and moral perspective, if the Belgian state admits its responsibility in the murder, it might be difficult to turn down claims for compensation by Lumumba's family or from the Congolese nation itself.

"If the inquiry confirms what De Witte wrote", says Dr Jean-Baptiste Sondji, a former health minister in Kabila's government, "it will not be enough for the Belgian government to apologise. Belgium will have to pay for what is seen by most Congolese as its responsibility in the creation of 40 years of misery and tragedy in the Congo."

Foreign minister Michel is planning a goodwill visit to Congo in the first quarter of this year, and the Belgian government wants to clear the slate in the interest of rapprochement between Brussels and Kinshasa, before Michel's visit.

But this goodwill gesture, obviously intended to please the Congolese government, may yet become its embarrassment. Which is why Kabila's government did not jump for joy when Belgium announced the establishment of the inquiry in early December (1999). Some Congolese politicians opposed to Kabila, such as George Kimba, are already saying: "Belgium cannot apologise to the government of Kabila which betrayed the independence of Congo by allowing neighbouring states to re-colonise the country".

Kabila himself claims to be a Lumumbist. In fact, in the early 60s, he was a leader of the youth wing of Lumumba's MNC party in Albertville (now Kalemie). Kabila's supporters in Belgium, including Ludo Martens (leader of the Workers Party), say Kabila is a "genuine Lumumbist" who, just like Lumumba himself 40 years ago, has become the victim of a 'Western plot led by the US. According to Martens, the same powers that killed Lumumba are now behind the plot to destabilise Kabila ...

On the whole, the Belgian inquiry may reopen more old wounds than close them. It may even threaten the very cohesion of Kabila’s government. The current cabinet in Kinshasa includes Lumumba's daughter Julienne and Tshombe’s daughter Isabelle. How the two cabinet ministers will take the revelations to come out from the Belgian inquiry is anybody’s guess.

Already Tshombe's other daughter, Marie, has said Belgium must also investigate “its responsibility” in the kidnapping and murder in Algiers in 1969 of her father. In the book Le Rapt de Tshombe (or French for Tshombe's kidnapping) published in Brussels in 1997, Tshombe's nephew, Joseph, accused Belgian and French spies of involvement in his uncle’s abduction and death.

Lumumba's son, Francois, no friend of Kabila's like his sister Julienne, has already called on all Congolese that have something to tell about his father's assassination to come forward and testify before the Belgian inquiry. Other Lumumbists such as Patrice’s cousin, Albert Onawelho Lumumba (chairman of the Mouvement National Congolais-Lumumba), who lives in exile in the UK, say they are all ready to give evidence before the inquiry. Onawelho was Lumumba's secretary and claims to be the custodian of his will.

Burundi may also demand the same. Beyond Congo, the investigations into Lumumba's murder may well spur Burundi (another former Belgian colony) to ask Brussels to also investigate the death of their national hero, Prince Louis Rwagasore, who was shot dead on 13 October 1961 in Bujumbura by one Kageorgis, a Greek national who was believed to be working at the time for Belgian intelligence.

Rwanda (yet another Belgian colony) also suspects that Mwami (King) Charles Rudahigwa Mutara III, who died in exile across the border, in Burundi, in 1959, was murdered by Belgian agents. The King died suddenly after receiving an injection from a Belgian doctor. His people say he was poisoned.

In Africa itself, Lumumba's investigation may encourage the families of other nationalists who died at the hands of the colonialists to demand similar investigations, and eventually compensation.

Beyond Africa, Britain and France may have something to tell about their roles in Lumumba's demise. Historians say Gen. Alexander, the Briton seconded to Ghana as chief of defence staff, could not have played the role he played against Lumumba without some support from his home country. France, on the other hand, supported Kasavubu to the hilt, including allowing him the use of the national radio in neighbouring Congo-Brazzaville to broadcast vitriolic propaganda against Lumumba at the time the UN had seized Lumumba's radio in Leopoldville.

As for the US, historians say its responsibility in Lumumba's assassination runs second, if not first, to Belgium's ... America's diabolical role in the Congo is well-documented in book after book after book ..., and the Belgian inquiry is likely to put the US further in the dock.

The United Nations is next to follow. By allowing itself to be used by the major powers who wanted Lumumba dead, the UN cannot escape blame (and some responsibility) for the eventual outcome.

To the very end, the UN instructed its troops to do nothing to save Lumumba.

Madeleine Kalb, in her book Congo Cables, quotes the Swedish general, Karl von Horn, as saying that when the Ghanaian commander in Kasai requested permission to rescue Lumumba, "we were instructed [i.e. by the UN high command] to refuse the request, and [instead] issue orders to the Ghanaians not to intervene."

From Von Horn's own account (contained in his book, Soldat de la Paix (or ”Soldier of Peace”, published in Paris in 1966), he had little sympathy for Lumumba: "Unlike Lumumba," Von Horn wrote, "Mobutu seemed to me as an authentic patriot who did not waste his time playing with communist theories."

When Lumumba was transferred from Port Francqui to Elisabethville, there were six Swedish UN soldiers at the airport but, says Kalb, they did nothing to prevent his death.

Then, too, is the still unexplained plane crash on the Zambian side of the border, near Ndola, in which the UN Secretary General, Dag Hammarskjold, and his adviser Wenschoff died, in September 1961. Hammarskjold had arrived in Leopoldville on 13 September and announced three days later that he would go to Ndola, in (the then) Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) where Tshombe was living in self-imposed exile, to arrange a ceasefire in the Congo.

Hammarskjold duly left Leopoldville on 17 September for Ndola but did not arrive. The next day the wreckage of his plane was found near Ndola. The only survivor of the crash died later, being unable to give any clues as to what had actually happened.

As Nkrumah wrote in his book Challenge of the Congo: ”There have been several theories [about the plane crash], none of them entirely credible, and the circumstances of Hammarskjold's death remain obscure. But as in the case of the murder of Lumumba, there are doubtless people living who can throw light on the tragedy and one day perhaps they may be induced to tell what they know.”

Is the Belgian inquiry the "one day" Nkrumah talked about?


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