Patrice Émery Lumumba (2 July 1925 – 17 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 US CIA-sponsored coup during the Congo Crisis. He was subsequently imprisoned and assassinated under controversial circumstances.**************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 35-year-old Lumumba as Congo's first prime minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu 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 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 Kasa-Vubu, Lumumba's outspoken anti-colonial speech resonated with the Congolese for its inspired honesty while simultaneously humiliating and alienating the King and his entourage.**********************Lumumba's rule was marked by 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, Prime Minister Lumumba was dismissed from government by President Joseph Kasa-Vubu, an act of dubious legality; in retaliation, Lumumba attempted to dismiss Kasa-Vubu from the presidency, an act of even more dubious legality. On September 14, a coup d’état endorsed by the CIA and organized by Colonel Joseph Mobutu removed Lumumba from office. Lumumba was later arrested on December 1, 1960, by troops loyal to 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 Kasa-Vubu 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. 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 seize 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.*************Sixty-seven days after he came to power, Patrice Lumumba was dismissed by state president Joseph Kasa-Vubu. Lumumba, in turn, tried to dismiss Kasa-Vubu, 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 (1) Belgium wanted Lumumba arrested, (2) Belgium was not particularly concerned with Lumumba's physical well being, and (3) although informed of the danger to Lumumba's life Belgium did not take any action to avert his death.
Lumumba was beaten again on the flight to Elisabethville 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 - Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete and his brother - dug up Lumumba's corpse, cut it up with a hacksaw, and dissolved it in concentrated sulfuric acid. Only a couple of teeth and a fragment of skull survived the process, kept as souvenirs. In an interview on Belgian television in 1999, Soete displayed a bullet and two teeth that he claimed he had saved from Lumumba's body.*************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 its obligation (under U.N. Resolution 290 of 1949) to refrain from acts or threats "aimed at impairing the freedom, independence or integrity of another state."*******************The Belgian Commission found 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.*****************Patrice Lumumba continues to serve as an inspirational figure in contemporary Congolese politics. In the 2006 elections, 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. Antoine Gizenga, who served as Lumumba's Deputy Prime Minister in the post-independence period, was a 2006 Presidential candidate under the Unified Lumumbist Party (Parti Lumumbiste Unifié (PALU)) and was named prime minister at the end of the year. Other political parties that directly utilize his name include the Mouvement National Congolais-Lumumba (MNC-L) and the Mouvement Lumumbiste (MLP).