ON THIS DAY    13 February      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1961: Ex-Congo PM declared dead

Officials in the Congolese province of Katanga have declared former Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba dead.

According to a statement by the interior minister, Mr Lumumba was killed by villagers trying to take him into custody.

In an official broadcast three days ago the Katanga Government announced Mr Lumumba, 36, had escaped from Kolatey prison farm in the west of the breakaway province.

They offered a reward of 2,000 for his recapture and a further 300 for his accomplices, Maurice Mpolo - Minister of Youth - and Joseph Okito - former Vice-President of the Senate.

UN intervention

UN representatives claimed that report was covering up the fact Mr Lumumba - rumoured to have communist sympathies - had already been shot.

The authorities in Katanga refused to allow the United Nations Conciliation Commission to visit Mr Lumumba when they were in the capital, Elisabethville, recently.

President Moise Tshombe said the disappearances were "none of the United Nations' business".

The Secretary General of the UN, Dag Hammarskjold, intervened two weeks ago to ensure Mr Lumumba - the first democratically-elected leader of the newly-independent central African republic - would get a fair trial.

The former prime minister was indicted with incitement to murder, over the deaths of 1,000 Baluba people in the province of Kasai.

He was arrested in December by army leader Colonel Joseph Mobutu - who went on to take power - after being deposed in September by President Kasavubu.

The president had Mr Lumumba moved from Thysville prison, near Leopoldville to the Belgian-backed province of Katanga - known for its hostility to Mr Lumumba - claiming he would be more secure there.

Reports of Mr Lumumba and his associates being severely beaten by Belgian-led guards at Elisabethville airport have been widely circulated in the international media.

President Tshombe has denied these claims, but they have been supported by Swedish officers at the airport.

In Context
The next day 6,000 foreign students and workers mounted a violent protest against the Belgian Embassy in Moscow over Mr Lumumba's death.

The Soviet Government demanded the immediate withdrawal of UN troops from Congo, the resignation of Mr Hammerskjold and trials for President Tshombe and General Mobutu.

Within a week it became apparent Patrice Lumumba and his ministers had been killed on 18 January, the day they were moved to Katanga.

A Belgian Government inquiry into the murders reported in November 2001 that they would not have taken place without the complicity of Belgian and American intelligence services.

In February 2002 the Belgian Government made its first official apology for its part in the assassinations and has set up a $3m fund to encourage democracy and development in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
^^ Back to top |