Patrice Lumumba

 

Portrait of Patrice LumumbaPatrice Emery Lumumba (1925-1961), Congolese politician, was born in the Sankuru-Kasai province of the Belgian Congo. In October 1958 he was one of the founders of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), an organisation that strived for a peaceful immediate independence for the Belgian Congo. The MNC congres in Stanleyville in October 1959 led to riots.

Lumumba was held responsible, arrested and jailed for six months. His enormous popularity among the Congolese people was the reason for his release and participation in the round-table conference in Brussels in January 1960.

 

The conference agreed on a date for independence, 30 June, with national elections in May. Although there was a multiplicity of parties, the MNC came out far ahead in the elections, and Lumumba emerged as the leading nationalist politician of the Congo. Maneuvers to prevent his assumption of authority failed, and he was asked to form the first government, which he succeeded in doing on 23 June 1960.

 

A few days after independence, some units of the army rebelled, largely because of objections to their Belgian commander. In the confusion, the mineral-rich province of Katanga proclaimed secession. Belgium sent in troops, ostensibly to protect Belgian nationals in the disorder. But the Belgian troops landed principally in Katanga, where they sustained the secessionist regime of Moise Tshombe.

 

The Congo appealed to the United Nations to expel the Belgians and help them restore internal order. As prime minister, Lumumba did what little he could to redress the situation. His army was an uncertain instrument of power, his civilian administration untrained and untried; the United Nations forces (whose presence he had requested) were condescending and assertive, and the political alliances underlying his regime very shaky. The Belgian troops did not evacuate, and the Katanga secession continued.

 

Lumumba at the UN, 24 July 1960Lumumba travelled to New York to discuss the situation in the Congo with Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld on 24 July 1960 (UN Photo 123836, MB).

 

Since the United Nations forces refused to help suppress the Katangese revolt, Lumumba appealed to the Soviet Union for planes to assist in transporting his troops to Katanga. He asked the independent African states to meet in Léopoldville in August to unite their efforts behind him. His moves alarmed many, particularly the Western powers and the supporters of President Kasavubu, who pursued a moderate course in the coalition government and favoured some local autonomy in the provinces.

 

On 5 September President Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba. The legalities of the move were immediately contested by Lumumba. There were thus two groups now claiming to be the legal central government. On 14 September power was seized by the Congolese army leader Colonel Joseph Mobutu (president of Zaire as Mobutu Sese Seko), who later reached a working agreement with Kasavubu. In October the General Assembly of the United Nations recognized the credentials of Kasavubu's government. The independent African states split sharply over the issue.

 

In November Lumumba sought to travel from Leopoldville, where the United Nations had provided him with provisory protection, to Stanleyville, where his supporters had control. With the active complicity of foreign intelligence sources, Joseph Mobutu sent his soldiers after Lumumba. He was caught after several days of pursuit and spent three months in prison, while his adversaries were trying in vain to consolidate their power. Finally, aware that an imprisoned Lumumba was more dangerous than a dead Prime Minister, he was delivered on 17 January 1961, to the Katanga secessionist regime, where he was executed the same night of his arrival, along with his comrades Mpolo and Okito. His death caused a national scandal throughout the world, and, retrospectively, Mobutu proclaimed him a "national hero."

 

 

Links

 

The biography of Patrice Lumumba in Wikipedia.

 

 

Catalogue

 

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics                     29 May 1961

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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last revised: 16 September 2010