The CIA murdered people

Congo and the Lumumba murder

He stands there oversized, in a suit and his typical glasses, one hand stretched out into the sky in greeting: sooner or later everyone in the capital Kinshasa comes past the statue of Patrice Lumumba. She stands on the boulevard leading to the airport, warning her. Lumumba was prime minister of the first freely elected government in the Congo from June to September 1960. But it was less his politics that made him known than his death. It is still considered one of the great unpunished crimes of post-colonial Africa.

The uncomfortable one

June 30, 1960 may already be the beginning of the young head of government's end. It is the day on which the Belgian king gives the Congo independence. Patrice Lumumba openly denounces the racist practices of the colonial rulers at the official celebrations. Congolese cheer at the ceremony or at home in front of the radio. The Belgian king and foreign diplomats are appalled.

The political goals of the young politician also do not fit into the plans of the western powers: Lumumba wants the Congo to emancipate itself, to free itself from the chains of colonization. He wants to unite the huge country with its many ethnic groups and not cede the coveted raw materials to foreign companies. Above all, Belgium and the USA see their influence in danger. "That's why they decided to get rid of the new government and, ultimately, Lumumba itself," says Ludo de Witte. The Belgian sociologist has been studying the Congo for over 20 years and has meticulously reconstructed Lumumba's disempowerment in his book "Government Order Mord".

Martyrdom and murder

The young republic quickly fell into chaos: the Congolese army revolted against the Belgian officers who still preside over it. Belgium intervenes militarily and helps the resource-rich province of Katanga in the south to separate from the rest of the country. A civil war quickly developed in which Lumumba deployed its own troops in Katanga and also in the raw material province of Kasai. He calls on UN troops for help and also asks the Soviet Union for support. In the middle of the Cold War, the US is already seeing the Congo drift into the communist camp. They fear that Moscow could secure its influence on the huge country and thus on the entire continent. Belgians and Americans quickly see a man they trust: Army chief Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, a former friend and confidante of Lumumba - and the later dictator, who will rule the Congo for over 30 years from 1965 with a hard hand.

A copper mine in the resource-rich region of Katanga

In September Lumbumba is deposed as prime minister by the Congolese president. He escaped from house arrest in November, but Mobutu's troops arrested him - he was brutally beaten and tortured. "Lumumba was popular with the people, his supporters wanted to free him," says Ludo de Witte. "That would have been a disaster for Belgium and the USA. That is why they took him to the only part of the country that was firmly in the hands of the West: the Katanga province under the control of the Belgian military". There he was shot dead on January 17, 1961, by a killing squad organized by the Belgian officers. Officially, it is said at the time that Lumumba fled and was later murdered by angry villagers.

No redress

The public only learns about the role of the Western powers and the gruesome details much later. Ludo de Witte's book leads Belgium to set up a parliamentary committee of inquiry in 2000 to deal with the Lumumba case. In 2002, the then Belgian Foreign Minister, Louis Michel, apologized to the relatives and the Congolese population for the role played by the Brussels officials in the murder.

The case has not really been dealt with, criticizes Ludo de Witte: "The Commission has indeed determined that Belgium has a moral responsibility, but that is very vague and lies somewhere between total denial and confession of the whole truth." De Witte explains that Brussels wants to continue to play an important diplomatic role in Central Africa. "If Belgium had taken full responsibility, that would only be possible to a very limited extent." De Witte criticizes that the committee's proposals, such as the establishment of a fund in the name of Lumumbas to promote democracy in the Congo, have not yet been implemented. No one was ever punished for murder.

"National hero" is written on the base of the Lumumba statue on the boulevard of the same name in Kinshasa

Congo's "Che Guevara"?

The fall has not let go of the Congo to this day. Ultimately, Lumumba's death cleared the way for dictator Mobutu. "The country is still struggling with the consequences of its regime, it is still on the ground," says de Witte. The British journalist Michela Wrong sees it similarly. She lived for a long time in the Congo and other African countries and wrote a book about Mobutu. "The Lumumba murder left deep wounds," she says. "What happened to Lumumba had repercussions across the continent. People thought: So this is what happens when you turn against the West, they are fooling us." At the same time, the murder gives people the feeling to this day that they do not hold the fate of their countries in their own hands. This is "a very negative and harmful legacy," said Wrong.

The fact that Lumumba opposed the USA and the former colonial power Belgium and vigorously advocated the interests of his country sometimes earned him the reputation of a folk hero, a "Che Guevara" of the Congo. Journalist Michela Wrong thinks this picture is at least partially exaggerated. "The fact that he died so young led to a lot of transfiguration and wishful thinking," she says. "After his death he became a hero. But one has to ask whether that would have happened if he had ruled this huge country with all its problems longer."