by José Steinsleger
On the morning of June 30, 1960, in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa), King Baudouin I of Belgium thought that after he himself declared the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo, people and settlers would be eternally grateful to the colonial metropolis. But something went wrong.
Patrice Lumumba, the young prime minister of the government headed by Joseph Kasavubu, took the microphone and the managers of protocol were stiff: "Never again will we be your monkeys," said Lumumba in the nose of the king. The monarch turned pale and it was heartbreaking to hear the words of national leader:
"During the 80 years of colonial rule, we suffered so much that we cannot remove the scars of the memory. We were forced into slave labor for wages that do not even allow us to eat enough to ward off hunger, or to find housing, or raise our children and loved ones who are ...
"We have suffered ironies, insults and beatings just because we are black ... Who can forget the massacres of many of our brothers, or the cells in which they have put those who do not submit to oppression and exploitation? Brothers, this is the way our life has been."
Totally unexpected in the agenda (an orderly ceremony with gratitude to the white master), the speech shook the peoples of black Africa and the colonial world. In Belgium, the conservative press attacked Lumumba, stating that his death would be "... a blessing for the Congo."
The Catholic daily La Libre Belgique estimated that some Lumumbist ministers "... have become like primitive and stupid, or like Communist creatures" (07/12/1960). Marcel de Corte, professor of moral philosophy at the University of Liege, said of Lumumba: He is a barbarian who cries with rage at the officials, when maybe it would be enough of a virile gesture for one of these to rid the planet of his flagrant despoliation (27/07/1960).
In the last 50 days of Patrice Lumumba (research of G. Heinz and H. Donnay) he notes that even before the historic speech, Lumumba was considered in the European media as a Congolese politician who had to be separated at all costs from power.
The journalist P. de Vos, leader of major colonial societies, wrote that he wanted to see the nationalist leader "... dead with a bullet in his pelt ... I know there will be in one of the asylums of Kasai, a madman who will take charge of this work" (Iberian European Ediciones, Madrid 1970, p. 31).
In September 1960, Colonel Joseph Mobutu (who from 1965 to 1997 ruled the country despotically and renamed it Zaire), led a coup, and Lumumba was arrested on the outskirts of Kinshasa. Freed by his bodyguard and militants of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC-Congolese National Movement), the leader returned to the city, where he harangued to the crowd.
Simultaneously, the imperialist powers went into action. A month after the inauguration of the government, backed by Washington, Paris and Brussels, the puppet Moise Tshombe declared the secession of Katanga, a bountiful mineral province during the Second World War which was the main source of rubber, and the minerals titanium and cobalt. The uranium used for nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from the Shinkolobwe mine, one of several administered by the Belgian Congo.
Lumumba asked for help from Moscow, and Allen Dulles, head of the CIA, suggested getting him out of the way "... as soon as possible." President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the action. The army and UN peacekeepers arrested Lumumba on the 10th of October. The Premier managed to escape again and tried to get to Stanleyville (now Kisangani), his main support base. He was eventually arrested by Mobutu's men.
On January 10th, Lumumba was placed on a Belgian civil aircraft piloted by a Belgian who moved him to Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi), capital of Katanga province. During the six hours of travel, Belgian and Congolese soldiers and mercenaries tortured and beat him cruelly and mercilessly.
Ludo de Witte, Flemish sociologist, who in 2000 published substantial research based on Belgian official records and documents of the United Nations, spoiled the official version in Brussels, which for 30 years, attributed the crime to settling scores between the various Congolese factions.
On the evening of January 17th, Lumumba and his colleagues, Mauricio Mpolo and Jose Okito, were tied to a tree and killed one after another by the Belgian military in a short distance execution supervised by Tshombe. De Witte proved that the operation called Barracuda was directed by the Belgian captain, Julián Gat.
Another Belgian, Commissioner Gerard Soete, Tshombe police chief, told VRT television in Brussels (as well as De Witte) that he ordered the victims to be made to disappear with sulfuric acid. From memory, Soete was left with two of Lumumba's teeth, and a bullet lodged in the skull.
Translated from the Portuguese version by:
In a weary world of endless US military interventions, sanctions, trade tariffs and chaos, let’s pause and take stock of the shining house on the hill