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Lumumba, Patrice Emery (1925–1961)

Title: Patrice Lumumba
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Congolese independence leader and the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (June–September 1960). Born in Onalua, Belgian Congo, on 2 July 1925, Patrice Lumumba attended a Protestant mission school and worked for a number of years as a post office clerk. In October 1958 he formed the first nationalist political organization in the Congo, the Mouvement National Congolais (Congolese National Movement). In October 1959 he was jailed for instigating riots in Stanleyville but was released to attend the January 1960 Round Table Conference in Brussels, convened to discuss Congolese independence.

Upon the independence of the Congo in June 1960, Lumumba became the new nation's first prime minister. Only a few days later, however, Congolese soldiers mutinied, and the mineral-rich province of Katanga announced its secession. Belgium then dispatched troops to the Congo and supported the Katanga secessionist movement. Hoping to avoid a showdown and possible civil war, the United Nations (UN) dispatched a peacekeeping force to the Congo at the behest of Lumunba's government.

Lumumba's relationship with UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld was tense, and UN forces were overly assertive and patronizing. Furthermore, the UN refused to intervene in the Katangan secessionist crisis and Belgian troops remained in the country. Thus, in August 1960 Lumumba broke relations with Hammarskjöld, threatened to demand the withdrawal of UN forces, and turned to the Soviet Union for assistance in the growing crisis. This action galvanized President Dwight D. Eisenhower's administration to support the assassination of Lumumba, although Belgian plans to get rid of the radical upstart were already under way.

On 5 September 1960, Congolese President Joseph Kasavubu summarily dismissed Lumumba as prime minister, a move of questionable legality that enraged Lumumba and his supporters. In early December, Army Chief of Staff Joseph Mobutu ordered Lumumba arrested, an act carried out with the help of foreign intelligence sources that allegedly included the United States. In January 1961 Lumumba was transferred to Katanga, where he had many Belgian and Congolese enemies. On 17 January 1961 he was murdered in Katanga. While in 2001 the Belgian government acknowledged some responsibility for Lumumba's assassination, his killing has never been fully documented.

Lise Namikas


Further Reading
Orwa, D. K. The Congo Betrayal: The UN-US and Lumumba. Nairobi: Kenya Literature Bureau, 1985.; Van Lierde, Jean, ed. Lumumba Speaks: The Speeches and Writings of Patrice Lumumba, 1958–1961. Boston: Little, Brown, 1963.; Witte, Ludo de. The Assassination of Lumumba. Translated by Ann Wright and Renée Fenby. New York: Verso, 2001.
 

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