The Assassination of Patrice Emery Lumumba!
Patrice Emery Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of the Democractic Republic of Congo (DRC), was killed on January 17, 1961. Lumumba was among Africa's best and most promising leaders. Unfortunately, Lumumba never had a chance to shape his newly independent country; he was tortured and then killed. Newly declassified State Department documents confirm what historians have been saying all along: the US government played a key role in Lumumba's assassination. Violence that erupted in the DRC (then Congo) in 1960/1961 continues to haunt DRC to this day more than 55 years later. The DRC is one of the richest countries in the world, yet majority of its people remain in extreme poverty. Billions of dollars in minerals is extracted from the country each year while a never-ending war rages. Some estimate DRC's mineral wealth to be as high as $24 trillion.
The CIA in collaboration with Belgian agents and Mobutu Sese Seko set up the plot and eventually carried out the assassination of Lumumba on January 17, 1961. There are suspicions that Britain may also have played a role; but this has not been proven. The US came to view Lumumba as a dangerous pro-Communist radical. Nothing could be further from truth; Lumumba had no intention of turning his country over to foreigners from either the East or West. Yet it did not take long for the US to label Lumumba a Communist and launch covert operation that led to his assassination. DRC had important minerals that the West wanted at all cost during the height of the Cold War; that was, ultimately, the reason for the plot to assassinate Lumumba. The US government launched a covert operation in August 1960 with the goal of eliminating Lumumba and putting a puppet regime in power; they found a willing ally in Mobutu Sese Seko. The US President Dwight Eisenhower authorized Lumumba’s assassination and the CIA Chief, Allan Dulles, subsequently allocated $100,000 for the operation.
There are more than 60 pages of documents declassified by the State Department detailing the plot; selection of a few documents here illustrates this sad chapter in history. Highlights of the documents includes, telegram 976 to CIA that states that the CIA Chief Station in Congo urged "arrest or other more permanent disposal of Lumumba.." Telegram 0026 to CIA details plots to kill Lumumba. Telegram 0057 reveals Mobutu's frustration and CIA Chief's appeal back home to get funds to pay Mobutu and his supporters in order to remove Lumumba. Eventually funds were approved, Mobutu and his stooges were paid, and Lumumba's fate was sealed. Telegram 09643 of November 2, 1960, reports Department of State's approval of the CIA plan to remove Lumumba once and for all. However, discussions continued about what to do in a January 14, 1961 report on the political situation in the Congo; it points out that they recommended the authorization of funds to assist Mobutu. In a letter dated January 15, 1961, Mobutu is reported to have been offered a payment of one million Belgian Congolese francs for his army; the source of the funds? The US government through the CIA. The CIA report of January 18, 1961, one day after Lumumba was assassinated, states that Lumumba was flown in a plane together with a fellow detainee. The reports states that Lumumba showed "signs of having been badly beaten in flight" and "all Lumumba teeth have been knocked out.." after disembarking. There is a picture of a white soldier holding Lumumba as he disembarks from the airplane. Numerous pictures of Lumumba were taken as he left the airport. Lumumba was executed shortly afterwards; but not before an "ear was severed.." according to a CIA report of his death.
Why was this brilliant son of Africa executed? Well, the excuse they gave at the time was that he was becoming a Communist. While the West, the US in particular, played a major role in Lumumba's execution, it is clear that the plot could never have worked had it not been for some Africans. This is the tragic reality that Africa has to confront. There are many lessons for the rest of us today as we examine our past and plan for the future.
We will never forget this great son of Africa Patrice Lumumba. Long live the revolution!
© Azaria Mbughuni