ON THIS DAY    14 September      Graphics version >>   BBC News >>
Search ON THIS DAY by date   
  Go back one day Go forward one day

Front Page |  Years |  Themes |  Witness
1960: Violence follows army coup in Congo

The army says it has taken control of the West African state of Congo just 10 weeks after the country was granted independence.

The head of the Congolese army, Colonel Joseph Mobutu, says he has suspended the two rival prime ministers and President Joseph Kasavubu until the crisis has been resolved.

Meanwhile there has been heavy fighting in the southern breakaway province of Katanga which has left up to 70 people dead.

It began when police started searching buildings for supporters of the dismissed prime minister, Patrice Lumumba.

Arrest warrant

Mr Lumumba, elected prime minister when Congo was given its independence by Belgium on 30 June, has fled to his headquarters in Stanleyville.

A warrant for his arrest has been issued after he rejected as illegal the attempt nine days ago to dismiss him as prime minister.

His rival for the office of prime minister, Joseph Ileo, was appointed by President Kasavubu.

Now all three men have been suspended from office and parliament has also been adjourned for at least a month.

Mr Lumumba's newly-formed government came under pressure just two weeks after independence when the mineral-rich Katanga province, led by Moise Tschombe, broke away from central control.

Belgian troops moved in - initially to defend foreign nationals - but then refused Prime Minister Lumumba's orders to leave.

United Nations troops have been sent to Manona, the scene of today's fighting, 400 miles north of Elisabethville, capital of Katanga.

They have begun airlifting women and children from the town.

But the UN has also been criticised for intervening in Congo's internal affairs.

The Soviet Union is now calling for the dismissal of UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjoeld, accusing him of violating Security Council instructions in Congo.

It has accused UN troops of seizing a local radio station in Leopoldville and closing all Congo airports.

In Context
Reports later revealed close links between the Soviet Union and Patrice Lumumba, who had requested arms and military help from the Soviets to support his struggle against the breakaway regime in Katanga.

There were several attempts made to kill Patrice Lumumba and in February 1961 he was declared dead after he was captured by the authorities in the breakaway republic of Katanga.

In 2001 an official report into the killing blamed the Belgian authorities for complicity.

UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold died in a plane crash in September 1961. It has never been confirmed how the aircraft came down.

He was on his way to peace talks with the leader of the breakaway republic of Katanga when the plane came down.

UN troops finally left Congo in 1964.


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

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