From the archives:Patrice Lumumba Remembered

On this day in 1960, Congolese revolutionary leader Patrice Lumumba was overthrown in a bloody CIA-backed coup. The coup and Lumumba’s subsequent assassination robbed Africa of one of the continent’s greatest Pan-African, anti-imperialist leaders. Lumumba became the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1960 after its independence from Belgium. 60 years of Belgian rule in Congo was one filled with terror and genocide that left up to 15 million people dead and plundered the country’s wealth. The US was an early ally of tyranny in Congo. The 1884 Berlin Congress granted Belgian King Leopold II not just colonial control, but private ownership of the entire 2,600,000 km² Congo Basin region. Seven months earlier, the US had already recognized his claim to the territory. During Belgian colonial rule in Congo, the US acquired a strategic stake in the country’s immense natural wealth and the uranium that it used to build the atomic bombs it dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Congo became vitally important to US global hegemony. When Lumumba became Prime Minister in June 1960, he promised a break with imperialism, foreign control of the Republic of Congo’s resources and championed Pan-African solidarity. His leadership threatened both US corporate interests and triggered US cold war paranoia. A cable from CIA director Allen Dulles on August 25, 1960, read ”We are faced with a person who is a Castro or worse.”


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He subsequently ordered the CIA station chief in Congo: “Lumumba’s removal must be an urgent and prime objective… and a high priority of our covert action.” Both the US and Belgium, funneled cash and aid to rival politicians leading to Lumumba’s kidnapping and assassination by forces allied with Colonel Joseph Mobutu. With Mobutu in charge, the Global North’s neocolonial grip on the country was assured. During three decades of bloody rule under the US and European-backed Mobutu, the dictator came to control over 20% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s assets and his personal wealth ballooned to $5 billion, equal to the external debt of the country. Today, the DRC still suffers the consequences of Lumumba’s murder. The country has raw minerals worth approx. $24 trillion, including almost half the world’s known cobalt reserves, a mineral found in batteries of almost every common electronic device, from phones to electric cars. While multinationals continue plundering the DRC’s wealth, the country ranks among the five poorest worldwide, with approximately 60 million people living on less than $1.90 a day.


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