Patrice Lumumba

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Patrice Lumumba as the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1960

Patrice Émery Lumumba (2 July, 192517 January, 1961) was an African anti-colonial leader and the first legally elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo after he helped to win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only ten weeks later, Lumumba's government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis. He was subsequently imprisoned and assassinated under controversial circumstances in January 1961. Patrice Lumumba continues to serve as a significant inspirational figure in the Congo as well as throughout Africa.


[edit] Path to Prime Minister

Lumumba was born in Onalua in the Katakokombe region of the Kasai province of the Belgian Congo, a member of the Tetela ethnic group. Raised in a Catholic family as one of four male children, he was educated at a Protestant primary school, a Catholic missionary school, and finally the government post office training school, passing the one-year course with distinction. He subsequently worked in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and Stanleyville (now Kisangani) as a postal clerk. In 1955, Lumumba became regional head of the Cercles of Stanleyville and joined the Liberal Party of Belgium, where he worked on editing and distributing party literature. After traveling on a three week study tour in Belgium, he was arrested in 1955 on charges of embezzlement of post office funds. His two-year sentence was commuted to twelve months after it was confirmed by Belgian lawyer Jules Chrome that Lumumba had returned the funds, and he was released in July 1956. After his release, he helped to found the non-tribal Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) in 1958, later becoming the organization's president. Lumumba and his team represented the MNC at the All-African People's Conference in Accra, Ghana, in December 1958. At this international conference, hosted by influential Pan-African President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba further solidified his Pan-African beliefs.

In late October 1959, Lumumba as leader of the MNC was again arrested for allegedly inciting an anti-colonial riot in Stanleyville where thirty people were killed, for which he was sentenced to six months in prison. Not coincidentally, the trial's start date of January 18, 1960, was also the first day of a round-table conference in Brussels to finalize the future of the Congo. Despite Lumumba's imprisonment at the time, the MNC won a convincing majority in the December local elections in the Congo. As a result of pressure from delegates who were enraged at Lumumba's imprisonment, he was released and allowed to attend the Brussels conference. The conference culminated on January 27th with the declaration of Congolese independence and the establishment of June 30, 1960, as the independence date with national elections from May 11–25, 1960. On the 31st of May, it was confirmed that Lumumba and the MNC had won electoral victory and the right to form a government. Lumumba and the MNC formed the first government on June 23, 1960, with thirty-five-year-old Lumumba as Congo's first prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as its president. In accordance with the constitution, on June 24 the new government passed a vote of confidence and was ratified by the Congolese Chamber and Senate.

Congolese independence from Belgium was finally gained on June 30, 1960. On Independence Day, in a ceremony attended by dignitaries, the foreign press, and the Belgian elite including King Baudouin, Patrice Lumumba delivered his famous independence speech<ref name="speech">Template:Cite web</ref> after being officially excluded from the event programme, despite being the elected Congolese Prime Minister. In direct contrast to the paternalistic glorification of colonialism in the speech of King Baudouin, as well as the relatively harmless speech of President Kasavubu, Lumumba's inflammatory anti-colonial speech resonated with the Congolese for its inspired honesty while simultaneously humiliating and alienating the colonialists.<ref name ="dw">Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba, Trans. by Ann Wright and Renée Fenby, 2002 (Orig. 2001), London; New York: Verso, ISBN 1-85984-410-3, pp. 1-3.</ref><ref name="marred">Template:Cite web</ref>

[edit] Deposed and arrested

Lumumba's rule was marked by the political disruption when the province of Katanga declared independence under Moïse Tshombe in June 1960 with Belgian support. Despite the arrival of United Nations troops, unrest continued and Lumumba sought Soviet aid. In September, Lumumba was dismissed from government by Kasavubu, an act of dubious legality; in retaliation, he attempted to dismiss Kasavubu from the presidency. On September 14, a coup d'etat headed by Colonel Joseph Mobutu (who would later gain infamy as dictator Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu wa za Banga) and supported by Kasavubu was successful. Lumumba was arrested on December 1, 1960, by troops of Mobutu. He was captured in Port Francqui and flown to Leopoldville in handcuffs. Mobutu said Lumumba would be tried for inciting the army to rebellion and other crimes. United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld made an appeal to Kasavubu asking that Lumumba be treated according to due process of law. The USSR denounced Hammarskjöld and the Western powers as responsible for Lumumba's arrest and demanded his release.

The United Nations Security Council was called into session on December 7 to consider Soviet demands that the U.N. seek Lumumba's immediate release, the immediate restoration of Lumumba as head of the Congo government, the disarming of the forces of Mobutu, and the immediate evacuation of Belgians from the Congo. Soviet Representative Valerian Zorin refused U.S. demands that he disqualify himself as Security Council President during the debate. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, answering Soviet attacks against his Congo operations, said that if the U.N. forces were withdrawn from the Congo "I fear everything will crumble."

Following a U.N. report that Lumumba had been mistreated by his captors, his followers threatened (on December 9) to arrest all Belgians and "start cutting off the heads of some of them" unless Lumumba was released within 48 hours.

The threat to the U.N. cause was intensified by the announcement of the withdrawal of their U.N. Congo contingents by Yugoslavia, the United Arab Republic, Ceylon, Indonesia, Morocco, and Guinea. The Soviet pro-Lumumba resolution was defeated on December 14 by a vote of 8-2. On the same day, a Western resolution that would have given Hammarskjöld increased powers to deal with the Congo situation was vetoed by the Soviet Union.

Lumumba was then transported on January 17, 1961, from the military prison in Thysville near Leopoldville to a 'more secure' prison in Jadotville in the Katanga Province. There were reports that Lumumba and his fellow prisoners, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, were beaten by provincial police upon their arrival in secessionist Katanga.

[edit] Death of Lumumba

Sixty-seven days after he came to power, Patrice Lumumba was dismissed by state president Joseph Kasavubu. Lumumba, in turn, tried to dismiss Kasavubu, but to no avail. Lumumba was placed under informal house arrest at the prime minister's residence. UN troops were positioned around the house to protect him.

Following his house arrest, Lumumba made the decision to escape; this would prove a fatal mistake. Smuggled out of his residence at night in a visiting diplomat's car, he began a long journey towards Stanleyville. Mobutu's troops were in hot pursuit. Finally trapped on the banks of the Sankuru River, he was captured by soldiers loyal to Colonel Mobutu.

He appealed to local UN troops to save him. The UN refused on orders from headquarters in New York, reasoning that he had escaped from UN protection. He was flown first to Leopoldville, where he appeared beaten and humiliated before journalists and diplomats.

Further humiliation followed at Mobutu's villa, where soldiers beat the elected prime minister in full view of television cameras. Lumumba was dispatched first to Thysville military barracks, one hundred miles from Leopoldville.

After the military personnel of Thysville mutinied, a more secure place was sought. It is established that Belgium wanted Lumumba taken to Katanga, which was under the rule of an enemy of Lumumba, Moise Tshombe. The Belgian Commission investigating the assassination of Lumumba reached the conclusions: that Belgium wanted Lumumba arrested; that it was not particularly concerned with Lumumba's physical well being; while informed of the danger to Lumumba's life it did not take any action to avert it.

Lumumba was beaten again on the flight to Elizabethville on January 17, 1961. He was seized by Katangan soldiers commanded by Belgians and driven to Villa Brouwe. He was guarded and brutalized still further by both Belgian and Katangan troops while President Tshombe and his cabinet decided what to do with him.

That same night it is said Lumumba was bundled into another convoy that headed into the bush. It drew up beside a large tree. Three firing squads had been assembled. Some sources say that the firing squads were commanded by a Belgian and that another Belgian had overall command of the execution site. The Belgian Commission's findings were that the execution was carried out by Katanga's authorities. Their report suggests that apart from Katangan ministers, four Belgian officers were present at the execution site, but were under the command of Katangan authorities. Lumumba and two other comrades (Mpolo and Okito) from the government were lined up against a large tree. President Tshombe and two other ministers were present for the executions, which took place one at a time. Lumumba's corpse was then buried nearby. The execution most likely took place on January 17, 1961 between 9:40 pm and 9:43 pm according to the Belgian report.

As to why Mpolo and Okito were executed, the apparent reason is that they would be possible political players in the events after Lumumba's death.

Nothing was said for three weeks - though rumor spread quickly. When Lumumba's death was formally announced on Katangese radio, it was accompanied by an implausible cover involving an escape and murder by enraged villagers. Later, under cover of this yarn, the Belgians dug up Lumumba's corpse and dissolved it in concentrated sulfuric acid. Only a couple of teeth and a fragment of skull survived the process which were kept as souvenirs.

For many years there was much speculation over the roles that western governments had played in the prime minister's murder. With the disclosure of certain documents by author Ludo De Witte, it was finally established that Belgian soldiers were in position around Lumumba at every stage of the assassination, right up to his death.

Under its own 'Good Samaritan' laws, Belgium was clearly legally culpable for failing to prevent the assassination from taking place. On a more formal level and (more importantly) straightforwardly proven, Belgium was in breach of their obligation to refrain from actions, which jeopardized the freedom and integrity of another state, as it stemmed from U.N. Resolution 290 of 1949.

Patrice Lumumba

The Belgian Commission finds that Belgium had not actively sought the death of Lumumba by his transfer to Katanga, but did not show foresight either; he died within five hours of his arrival there. Neither did they try to establish his welfare at any point. Interestingly the same report mentions that there had previously been U.S. and Belgian plots to kill Lumumba. Obviously either they failed or they were abandoned. Among them was a CIA sponsored attempt to poison him, after U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower apparently ordered the CIA to eliminate Lumumba.<ref name="Guardian">Template:Cite web</ref> CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb was a key person in this by devising a poison resembling toothpaste.<ref name="USN">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name ="AWKILL">Template:Cite web</ref><ref name = gottliebcp> Sidney Gottlieb "obituary" Template:Cite web</ref> However, the plan is said to have failed because the local CIA Station Chief, Larry Devlin, had a conscience issue and did not go forward.<ref name="USN" /><ref name="AWKILL" /><ref name = garsincp> Template:Cite web</ref>

The Belgian commission's 2001 report led to an official apology. In February of 2002, the Belgian government apologized to the Congolese people, and admitted to a "moral responsibility" and "an irrefutable portion of responsibility in the events that led to the death of Lumumba." In July of the same year documents released by the United States government revealed that while the CIA had been kept informed of Belgium's plans, they had no direct role in Lumumba's eventual death.<ref name="USN" />

However, this same disclosure showed that US perception at the time was that Lumumba was a Communist. Eisenhower's apparent call for Lumumba's elimination must have been brought on by this perception. Both Belgium and the United States were clearly influenced in their unfavourable stance towards Lumumba by the cold war. He seemed to gravitate around the Soviet Union. Arguably that was because that was the only place he could find support in his country's effort to rid itself of colonial rule, and not because he was a communist. However, the United States were very wary of him becoming too close to the Soviets, and influenced by them. On the other hand Belgium obviously had other additional, more pragmatic, reasons for opposing him. Among others they apparently felt that the Belgian interests in the Congo were not served by his government. Additionally, the Belgian head of state - i.e. the King - seemed to have an even more hostile stance than his government; he had a different attitude than the ministers of Foreign Affairs and African Affairs, who were handling the Congo case. In the words of the Belgian there was a conflict between the King and his government, which led to him taking individual actions and withholding important information from his ministers.

[edit] Lumumba's political legacy

[edit] Lumumba in the 2006 Congolese elections

Patrice Lumumba continues to serve as an inspirational figure in contemporary Congolese politics. In the 2006 elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, multiple political parties claim to be motivated by the teachings of Lumumba. This includes the People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD), the political party initiated by the incumbent President Joseph Kabila <ref name="PPRD">Template:Cite web</ref>. Antoine Gizenga, who served as Lumumba's Deputy Prime Minister in the post-independence period, is a 2006 Presidential candidate under the Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié (PALU)) <ref name="PALU">Template:Cite web</ref>. Other political parties that directly utilize his name include the Mouvement National Congolais-Lumumba (MNC-L) and the Mouvement Lumumbiste (MLP).

[edit] Lumumba's family and politics

Patrice Lumumba's family is actively involved in contemporary Congolese politics. Patrice Lumumba was married and had five children; François was the eldest followed by Patrice junior, Julienne, Roland and Guy-Patrice Lumumba.

François Lumumba was 10 years old when Patrice died. Before his imprisonment, Patrice arranged for his wife and children to move into exile. They went to Egypt and François spent the rest of his childhood there, before going to Hungary for education. He returned to Congo in the 1990s as rebellion against Mobutu began. Since 1992, François Lumumba has been the leader of the Mouvement National Congolais Lumumba (MNC-L), his father's original political party founded in 1958 <ref name="François">Template:Cite web</ref>.

Lumumba's youngest son Patrice-Guy, who was born six months after his father's death, was a presidential candidate in the 2006 elections, running independently <ref name="Patrice-Guy">Template:Cite web</ref>, but received less than 1% of the vote.

On the DVD of the film Lumumba in the special features section there is an interview with Julienne. In it she spoke of how Patrice knew that he was going to die for the cause. He spoke of it frequently, but did not anticipate the rule of Mobutu. She says that Lumumba had faith that his message would live on after his death.

[edit] Writings by Patrice Lumumba

  • Congo, My Country, 1962, New York: Praeger (Books That Matter)
  • Lumumba Speaks: The Speeches and Writings of Patrice Lumumba, 1958-1961 [Collection of Speeches, Little, Brown and Company, 1972] Translated by Helen R. Lane. Ed. Jean Van Lierde

[edit] Writings about Patrice Lumumba

  • Aimé Césaire, Une Saison au Congo (1966); Eng. trans. by Ralph Manheim, A Season in the Congo (1969). A poetic drama about the career and death of Lumumba.
  • W. A. E Skurnik, African Political Thought: Lumumba, Nkrumah, Touré (Social Science Foundation and Graduate School of International Studies, University of Denver. Monograph series in world affairs, v. 5, no. 3-4), 1968, Denver: University of Denver, ASIN B0006CNYSW
  • Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba, Trans. by Ann Wright and Renée Fenby, 2002 (Orig. 2001), London; New York: Verso, ISBN 1-85984-410-3
  • Thomas R. Kanza, Conflict in the Congo: The Rise and Fall of Lumumba (Penguin African library), 1972, New York: Penguin, ISBN 0-14-041030-9
  • Robin McKown, Lumumba: A Biography, 1969, London: Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-07776-9
  • G. Heinz, Lumumba: The Last Fifty Days, 1980, New York: Grove Press, ASIN B0006C07TQ
  • Panaf, Patrice Lumumba (Panaf Great Lives), 1973, New York: St. Martin's Press, ISBN 0-901787-31-0

[edit] Tributes

[edit] Filmography

[edit] Archive video and audio

[edit] Patrice Lumumba in popular culture

[edit] Books

  • Bogumil Jewsiewicki, ed., A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art, 1999, New York: Museum for African Art, ISBN 0-945802-25-0. The catalogue of a travelling exhibition of contemporary Congolese artists who were inspired by the legacy of Lumumba.
  • Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible is a fictional account of an American missionary family in the Congo during the election and assassination of Lumumba. The book is critical of western governments and their interference in Africa.

[edit] Movies

[edit] References


[edit] External links

  • Africa Within A rich source of information on Lumumba, including a reprint of Stephen R. Weissman's July 21, 2002 article from the Washington Post, "Opening the Secret Files on Lumumba's Murder," detailing declassified documents on the CIA's role in Lumumba's murder and the overthrow by Mobutu.
  • BBC Lumumba apology: Congo's mixed feelings
  • Mysteries of History Lumumba assassination
  • Pat Gauvin Patrice in far familly -
  • BBC An "On this day" text. It features an audio clip of a BBC correspondent on Lumumba's death.
  • Belgian Parliament The findings of the Belgian Commission of 2001 investigating Belgian involvement in the death of Lumumba. Documents at the bottom of the page are in English.
  • Belgian Commission's Conclusion A particular document from the previous link
  • Contemporary African Database Patrice Lumumba's page in the Contemporary African Database including a detailed profile and further external links.
  • D'Lynn Waldron Dr. D'Lynn Waldron's extensive archive of articles, photographs, and documents from her days as a foreign press correspondent in Lumumba's 1960 Congo
  • Mysteries of History Lumumba assassination
Preceded by:
Position created on independence from Belgium
Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
June 24, 1960 - September 20, 1960

Flag 1960–1963

Succeeded by:
Joseph Iléo
Famous Proponents: Kwame Nkrumah · Julius Nyerere · Malcolm X · Muammar al-Gaddafi · Molefi Kete Asante · Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia · Cheikh Anta Diop · Marcus Garvey · Henry Sylvester-Williams · Walter Rodney · Abdias do Nascimento · Ahmed Sékou Touré · W.E.B. Du Bois · Frantz Fanon · Bob Marley · Patrice Lumumba · George Padmore · Runoko Rashidi · Steve Biko · Thabo Mbeki · Jomo Kenyatta

Philosophies and Concepts: United States of Africa · African code · Afrocentrism · Kwanzaa · Pan-African flag · Négritude · African nationalism · African Century · Africanization

Organizations and Movements: African Union (preceeded by the Organization of African Unity) · Uhuru Movement · UNIA-ACL · · African Unification Front · African diaspora

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Patrice Lumumba

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