Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba, the son of a farmer, was born in Katako Kombe in the central Congo on 2nd July, 1925. After leaving school he worked as a nurse's assistant and a postal clerk. An active trade unionist he founded the Post Office Employees Club. He also served as secretary of the Association for African Government Employees.

In October, 1958, Lumumba founded the National Congolese Movement (MNC). He became president of the organization and the following year led a series of demonstrations and strikes against the Belgian colonial government. Lumumba called for the Congo to be granted its immediate independence from Belgium. Lumumba was arrested but after sustained demonstrations the authorities were forced to release him.

After parliamentary elections in May 1960 the MNC became the country's strongest party. Lumumba became the new prime minister and immediately talked about the need for social and economic changes in the country. His decision to adopt a non-aligned foreign policy resulted in the CIA becoming interested in the developments in the Congo.

The country was governed from Leopoldville (Kinshasa). In Kantanga, a rich mining province, was very much under the control of Moise Tshombe. In July 1960, Tshombe, with the support of Belgian troops and white mercenaries, proclaimed an independent republic. Lumumba appealed to the United Nations for help and Dag Hammarskjold agreed to send in a peace-keeping force to restore order.

Lumumba was arrested by Mobutu's soldiers and transferred to Elizabethville, Katanga, where he was murdered on 17th January, 1961.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding an inquiry into the circumstances of his death. This was rejected by Moise Tshombe but evidence emerged later that the Belgian government was behind the events in Katanga.