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Patrice Lumumba’s Story

January 21, 2011

I don’t know if many people have heard of the name Patrice Lumumba, but I thought I would post an entry about him because I think it’s important to know what happened to him. This week marks the 50-year anniversary of his assassination.

Mr. Lumumba was “the first democratically elected leader of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” It appears his pan-Africanism didn’t jive too well with the United States and Belgium because both countries “actively sought to have him killed.” Try as they might, the CIA did’t quite succeed at this endeavor, so they collaborated with Belgium to “covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested Lumumba.” Finally, “on January 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, Lumumba was shot and killed.”

Human Rights Watch has additional information on what happened to Mr. Lumumba:

In 1960, Congo gained its independence from Belgium, and held democratic elections which brought to power a fiery young orator by the name of Patrice Lumumba. Standing against colonialist ideals, Lumumba is still revered by the Congolese, but his connections with the eastern bloc at the height of the cold war and support for African nationalism sealed his fate. With the complicity of the American government, Belgian agents organized his arrest and brutal execution. Thus came to an end the three-month rule of Congo’s first and, so far, only democratically elected leader. Lumumba’s assassination was a devastating blow to Congolese and other African nations struggling for an end to colonial rule.

I guess democracy doesn’t mean anything unless the correct candidate wins the election. As we see in Mr. Lumumba’s case, his desire to seek independence and nationalism conflicted with others’ interests.

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