Remembering Pan-Africanist and DRC’s independent leader, Patrice Lumumba

            Patrice Émery Lumumba was born in 2 July 1925. He served as the first prime minister of independent Democratic Republic of Congo from June until September 1960. Ideologically, Patrice Lumumba was an African nationalist and Pan-Africanist. He led the Congolese National Movement (MNC) party from 1958 until his assassination. On July 8, Lumumba started Africanising Congolese forces which was still dominated by Belgians. He appointed Sergeant Major Victor Lundulu as general and commander in chief despite his inexperience. Lumumba also appointed junior minister and former soldier Joseph Mobutu as colonel and Army Chief of staff, despite rumours about Mobutu’s ties to Belgian and US intelligent services. All European officers were replaced with few retained as only advisers. This led to widespread mutiny throughout the country next day. Congo’s crisis broke out shortly after Independence in 1960, as mutiny continued out in the army supported by the Belgian authorities simply because unlike majority of the African’s first leaders who signed treaties to cooperate with former colonial powers in exchange of ‘independence’, Patrice Lumumba was demanding complete independence from Europeans. Lumumba was not ready to put Belgian’s corporates interests over those of Congolese people. It was then that Belgian started to support the Katanga secessionists led by Moise Tshombe. Lumumba appealed to United States and United Nations for help to suppress the secessionists from Katanga. Lumumba turned to Soviet Union for support after both United States and United Nations refused. This led to growing rifts with President Joseph Kasavubu and chief of staff Joseph Désiré Mobutu. The United States and Belgium, who opposed Soviet Union in the Cold War conspired to support Mobutu instead. On 11 July, with support from the Belgian government and mining companies such as Union Minière, Katanga declared itself independent under regional premier Moïse Tshombe. It is worth noting that most Europeans went to Katanga province, which possessed much of the Congo’s natural resources, Belgium also stationed 6,000 troops in Katanga to protect its citizens from ‘violence’ and as a backup for Tshombe’s forces. On July 14, Lumumba and Kasavubu broke off relations with Belgium. They instead sent a telegram to Soviet Premier, Nikita Khrushchev requesting that he closely monitor the situation in the Congo. On 22 July Lumumba left to New York. He focused on discussing the withdrawal of Belgian forces and various technical assistance by Secretary General of United Nations. On July 27, Lumumba went to Washington DC, there he met the US Secretary of State where he appealed for financial and technical assistance. The US government informed Lumumba that they would offer any aid through UN. The following day while in US, he recieved a telegram from Gizenga of how Belgian and Congolese forces clashed at Kolwezi. Lumumba felt that UN was a stumbling block for his efforts to expel Belgian troops from Congo. On 29 July he went to Ottawa, Canada. Canadians refused Lumumba’s appeal of technical assistance, they instead told Lumumba, they will assist through UN. Frustrated, Lumumba turned to Soviet through their ambassador and negotiated military equipments. Frustrated by UN inactions toward Katanga and overall, Congo crisis, Lumumba sought Africa’s solutions immediately, after the departure from New York, Lumumba went directly to several African states. He toured Tunisia, Morocco, Guinea, Ghana, Liberia and Togo. He was well received in each country and issued joint communiques with their respective head of state. Ghana and Guinea pledged independent military support, the rest expressed to work through the United Nations to resolve the Katanga secessionists.  In Ghana Lumumba signed a secret agreement with President Nkrumah providing for a “Union of African States”. Centred in Léopoldville, it was to be a federation with a republican government. They agreed to hold a summit of African states in Léopoldville between 25 and 30 August to further discuss the issue. Lumumba returned to the Congo, apparently confident that he could now depend upon African military assistance. He also believed that he could procure African bilateral technical aid, which placed him at odds with UN secretary General Hammarskjöld’s goal of funneling support through ONUC. Lumumba and some ministers were wary of the UN option, as it would supply them with functionaries who would not respond directly to their authority. State of emergency In an attempt to consolidate the country again, Lumumba issued state of emergency and several orders to reassert his political dominance on 9 August. Lumumba avoided to consult his cabinet instead he chose ministers and officials he trusted such as Mpolo, Mbuyi, Kashamura, Gizenga and Kiwewa. Damien Kandolo, his chef de cabinet was often absent and acted as a spy on behalf of the Belgian government. Lumumba’s army successfully put down the rebellion in South Kasai, which was strategic in retaking Katanga. However, Army lacked enough strength to retake Katanga. From 25–31 August Lumumba had summoned an African conference in Leopoldville, but no heads of state were in attendance due to UN, US and Belgium compromise. Kasavubu began fearing coup d’état would take place due to growing of ant-Lumumba inside the government, and so he sacked Lumumba, of which Lumumba himself revoked afterwards. Coup On 14 September Mobutu staged a coup which he termed ‘peaceful revolution.’ He stated that “technicians” would run the government while politicians sorted out their differences until December. He declared that all Eastern Bloc countries should close their embassies. The coup was a surprise to Lumumba. Lumumba travelled that night to Camp Leopold II in search of Mobutu in attempt to change his mind. After discovering UN is behind Mobutu, Lumumba resolved to join Deputy Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga in Stanleyville and lead a campaign to regain power. He left the capital in a convoy of nine cars with Remy Mamba, Pierre Mulele and his family that is wife and his youngest child. Soldiers loyal to Gizenga were waiting to receive him in Orientale Province border, but Lumumba delayed by touring villages and conversing with locals. On 1 December Mobutu’s troops caught up with his convoy as it crossed the Sankuru river. Lumumba and his advisors had made to other far side, but his wife and child were left to be captured on the bank. Fearing for their safety, Lumumba went back against the the advice of Mwamba and Mulele, they bid him farewell as they feared this was the last time they would see him again. Mobutu men arrested him. Soviet Union blamed UN’s Secretary General and First World for ordering Mobutu to arrest Lumumba and demanded his immediate arrest. The United Nations Security Council was called into session on 7 December 1960 to consider Soviet demands of Lumumba’s release, the immediate restoration of Lumumba as the head of state of Congo, the disarming of Mobutu’s forces, and withdrawal of Belgian forces from Congo. Soviet also demanded the resignation of Swedish UN Secretary General Hammarskjold, the arrests of Mobutu and Tshombe and withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces. The pro-Lumumba resolution was defeated by a vote of 8–2. On the same day, a western resolution that would have given Hammarskjold increased powers to deal with the Congo’s situation was vetoed by the Soviet Union. Lumumba’s Assassination Lumumba was sent to Camp Hardy military barracks, accompanied by Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, two political associates who had planned to assist him in setting up a new government. The last Belgian minister of colonies, Charles d’Aspremont, ordered that Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito be taken to Katanga be executed. On arrival they were brutally beaten and tortured by Katangan and Belgian officers. Lumumba was driven later that night to an isolated spot where three firing squads had been assembled. Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito were lined up against by a tree and shot one at a time. The Belgians and their counterparts later decided to get rid of the bodies, by digging in and dismembering the corpses, then dissolving them in sulphuric acid while the bones were ground and scattered. Who really were the enemies of Lumumba? Lumumba had world powers especially western against him. His demands of full independence from from European and American corporates and governments attracted enemies from Imperial Belgium, UK and USA and thus his death. Gerard Soete, Belgian Police Commissioner later admitted in several accounts that he and his brother exhumed the body for the first time. They then dug up for the second time, cut it up with hacksaw and dissolved it in concentrated sulphuric acid. Lumumba’s execution was carried out by firing squad led by Belgian mercenary Julien Gat, Katangan police commissioner Verscheure, who was Belgian by descent, had overall command of the execution site. Central Intelligence Agency, sponsored attempt to poison Lumumba, which was ordered by U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower. The plot was later abandoned. The CIA was helping in searching of Lumumba’s where bouts. And CIA chief was directly in touch with Lumumba’s killers that night. In the early 21st century, the CIA declassified documents revealed that CIA had plotted to assassinate Lumumba. The documents revealed that the Congolese leaders who killed Lumumba, Kasavubu and Mobutu recieved money and weapons directly from the CIA. In 2013, the U.S. State Department admitted that President Eisenhower authorised the murder of Lumumba. British parliamentarian, David Lea in 2013, in a letter to the London Review of Books, reported having discused the issue of Lumumba’s death with MI6 officer Daphne Park shortly before she died in March 2010. Park had been stationed in Leopoldville at the time of Lumumba’s death. According to Lea, when he mentioned “the uproar” surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had “something to do with it”, Park replied, “We did. I organised it. You can also read about Democratic Republic of Congo’s most ruthless and dangerous warlord also known as the ‘terminator.’

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