From: Charles R Spinner <email@example.com>
Subject: Belgium Against One Life in Congo: Lumumba
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 22:31:31 -0800
Author urges parliamentary commission to quiz those involved in Patrice Lumumba's murder
Evidence of direct Belgian government complicity in the execution of the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba must be made public and those implicated questioned, a historian demanded yesterday.
Lugo de Witte, a Flemish expert on Africa, called for a parliamentary commission of inquiry to hear testimony under oath from former officials involved in the 1961 killing of one of Africa's most charismatic post-colonial leaders.
His 400-page book, just published in French, throws new light on one of the darkest chapters in Belgium's long and rapacious relationship with Congo, and establishes clear state responsibility for a brutal political murder.
Lumumba—popular, articulate and a hero of the anti-colonial struggle—was just 36 when he became the first prime minister of the independent Congo in June 1960.
But within a month a civil war erupted, provoked by the attempted secession of the copper-rich Katanga province, led by Moise Tshombe. Tshombe recruited Belgian, French and South African mercenaries to fight the government. United Nations forces intervened in the biggest peacekeeping operation the UN had mounted since being founded, but they did little more than maintain the status quo.
Lumumba was deposed and an unknown colonel called Joseph-Desire Mobutu took control of country, which he renamed Zaire, and remained a faithful friend of the west until his overthrow in May 1997.
The United States saw the militant nationalist Lumumba as a communist sympathiser; CIA involvement in plans to kill him has been long established by senate hearings and declassified documents.
But Mr De Witte's research showed that by the time Lumumba was
killed Washington had little ability to operate on the ground in Congo
and had given way to Brussels.
Belgian officers had direct
responsibility for his assassination, he insisted yesterday.
A document signed by the then Belgian minister for Africa, Harold
Aspremont Lynden, in October 1960, said explicitly:
objective to pursue, in the interests of the Congo, Katanga and
Belgium, is clearly the final elimination of Lumumba.
On January 17 1961, Lumumba, under arrest by Mobutu's forces, was transferred to Katanga on a Sabena plane on the orders of Aspremont Lynden and the Belgian foreign minister, Pierre Wigny.
He was assaulted in the presence of Belgian officers and tortured in a villa guarded by Belgian troops, before being shot by an execution squad supervised by a Belgian captain. His body was exhumed by a Belgian police commissioner, Gerard Soete, and dissolved in acid.
In a macabre twist, Mr Soete admitted on Belgian television last year that he had kept two of the victim's teeth, prompting calls for their return to Congo. But he insisted he had later thrown them into the North Sea.
Much is now known about this 40-year-old mystery, but crucial information remains buried in Belgian government files, including the records of a secret Congo committee which met under the chairmanship of then prime minister, Gaston Eyskens.
Last month the government approved the creation of a parliamentary commission to investigate the episode, but its precise terms of reference have yet to be decided.
Any inquiry must have the power to conduct new research, Mr De
It is often assumed that the Belgian officials involved
in the affair are dead, but that is not so. These people must be
questioned under oath, and if that can be done there will be many more
After his death Lumumba became a powerful symbol of the anti-colonial struggle. A university named after him was established in Moscow and became a magnet for students from the third world.
In his political testament, written in jail shortly before he was
killed, he reflected:
One day history will have its say, but it
will not be the history they teach at the UN, in Washington, Paris or
Brussels, but the history they teach in countries freed from
colonialism and its puppets.
Africa will write its own history, and it will be one of glory and