February 13, 2014

On this day February 13th

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

13 February, 1961 Patrice Lumumba gained the reputation of being a powerful and charismatic leader during his brief reign as Zaire's first Prime Minister (the former Belgian Congo, now the Democratic Republic of Congo). In 1958 he formed and led the Movement National Congolais (MNC), which sought a unitary state while its main opponents opted for a form of federalism.

In the May 1960 elections, the MNC emerged as the strongest single party with 33 of the 137 seats. Lumumba became Prime Minister in June in an uncomfortable coalition with his rival, Joseph Kasavubu, who became President. The independent Republic of the Congo was declared on 30 June 1960.

The complete breakdown of order immediately after independence was due in part to Lumumba's intemperate rhetoric, and was followed by the attempted secession of the mineral-rich Katanga region under Moise Tshombe and UN intervention. In September the coalition broke down, and Lumumba was ousted in a coup led by Mobutu. On 1 December he was imprisoned at Thysville and on 17 January 1961 he was flown to Elisabethville in Katanga.

On 13 February 1961 it was announced that he was shot, and killed, while trying to escape.

The first and only elected Prime Minister of the Congo Republic, Patrice Lumumba, was assassinated a few months after Congo gained formal independence from Belgium. The killing of Lumumba remained a secret for years. In later years it was alleged that it was sanctioned by the Belgian government and the Dwight Eisenhower administration, acting through the local agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the Congo, and was funded and advised by Brussels and Washington. A staunch enemy of Lumumba and President of Katanga, Congo independent province, Moise Tchombe, and Mobuto Sese Seko, who became Prime Minister after the death of Lumumba, allegedly took part in the plot. The killing of Lumumba haunted the Belgium government until a Commission of Inquiry, chaired by the MP Geert Versnick, was set up to address its past relations with its colonies. On 5 February 2002 the Belgian Forein Minister Louis Michel apologised for his country's role in the assasination of Lumumba and offered a $3,25 million fund in Lumumba's name to promote democracy in Congo.


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