Moise Tshombe

Moise Tshombe

Moise Tshombe, the son of a wealthy businessman, was born in Musumba, Congo, in 1919. Tshombe was educated at an American Methodist mission. He trained as an accountant and in 1951 took over a chain of stores in Katanga.

Tshombe became involved in politics and founded the Conakat political party which advocated an independent but federal Congo. He was especially keen for his power base of Kantanga, a rich mining province, should remain under his control.

In October, 1958, Patrice 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. Patrice 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.

In July 1960, Tshombe, supported by white mercenaries and the Belgian mining company Union Minière, declared Katanga independent. Lumumba appealed to the United Nations for help and Dag Hammarskjold agreed to send in a peace-keeping force to restore order.

The following month Colonel Sese Seko Mobutu, with the support of the United States and Belgium, led a military coup and ousted Patrice Lumumba from power. Lumumba was arrested by Mobutu's soldiers and transferred to Elizabethville, Katanga, where he was murdered on 17th January, 1961.

In September 1961 fighting erupted between Katanga troops and the noncombatant forces of the UN. In an effort to secure a cease-fire he arranged to meet President Tshombe. On 17th September 1961 Dag Hammarskjold was killed when his plane crashed close to Ndola airport.

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

The fighting continued and independent regimes were established at different times in Katanga, Stanleyville and Kasai. For a while Tshombe lived in Europe but returned to become prime minister of the Congo Republic in July 1964. After holding corrupt elections he was forced to flee and went to live in Spain.

General Sese Seko Mobutu staged another military coup in November 1965. He placed Tshombe on trial for treason in his absence and was condemned to death.

In July 1967 Tshombe was kidnapped and taken to Algeria. Moise Tshombe died in prison of a heart-attack on 29th June 1969.