PATRICE ÉMERY LUMUMBA
Patrice Émery Lumumba alternatively styled Patrice Hemery Lumumba; 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. Ideologically an African nationalist and pan-Africanist, he led the Congolese National Movement (MNC) party from 1958 until he was assassinated.
Shortly after Congolese independence in 1960, a mutiny broke out in the army, marking the beginning of the Congo Crisis. Lumumba appealed to the United States and the United Nations for help to suppress the Belgian-supported Katangan secessionists led by Moïse Tshombe. Both refused due to suspicions among the Western world that Lumumba ambiguously held pro-communist views. These suspicions deepened when Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance, which the CIA described as a “classic communist takeover”. This led to growing differences with President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and chief-of-staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, as well as with the United States and Belgium, who opposed the Soviet Union in the Cold War.
After Mobutu’s military coup, Lumumba attempted to escape to Stanleyville to join his supporters who had established a new anti-Mobutu rival state called the Free Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was captured and imprisoned en route by state authorities under Mobutu. He was handed over to Katangan authorities, and executed in the presence of Katangan and Belgian officials and officers. The bodies were then thrown into shallow graves, but later dug up and destroyed.
Following his assassination, he was widely seen as a martyr for the wider pan-African movement. Over the years, inquiries have shed light on the events surrounding Lumumba’s death and, in particular, on the role played by Belgium, and the United States. In 2002, Belgium formally apologized for its role in the assassination.