Fall of Lumumba

Wind of Change

Sub-Saharan Africa 1960.0905

Fall of Lumumba

Africa after World War II, African independence (5 September 1960)

Historical Map of Sub-Saharan Africa

Faced with revolts in Katanga and South Kasai and losing faith in the UN, PM Lumumba of the Congo asked the Soviet Union for aid in August 1960. This disturbed the US, which encouraged President Kasa-Vubu to dismiss Lumumba. When Lumumba refused to step down, the leader of the UN Operation, an American, closed the Congo's radio station and airports.

Notes

The Two Republic of Congos 1960-64

During this period, Congo (Brazzaville) was called the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Leopoldville/Kinshasa) was called the 'Republic of the Congo'. For both the sake of simplicity and to avoid confusion, we always refer to Congo (Brazzaville) as the 'Republic of Congo' and Congo (Kinshasa) - the center of attention in Africa during this period - as simply 'the Congo'.

UN presence in the Congo

From mid-August 1960 to late 1961 the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) was based in all major cities and airfields of the Congo and was conducting patrols along the railroads and major roads of that country. However the general refusal of ONUC to involve itself in the Congolese Civil War meant that its influence was strongest in areas under control of the Congolese government and restricted in the rebelling regions. Thus, in the map, only major ONUC bases are depicted under UN influence in areas outside government control, even though ONUC patrols and presence often extended beyond these bases.

Main Events

Independence of Senegal

In August 1960, as presidential elections for the Mali Federation approached, growing Senegalese concerns that [French] Sudan intended to centralize the federation under Muslim leadership and break ties with France reached crisis point. On 19 August, following reports of Senegalese peasants arming in Dakar, Modibo Keïta, president of the Mali Federation and a French Sudanese, dismissed Mamadou Dia of Senegal as the defense minister and mobilized the armed forces. In response Senegal declared independence under the presidency of Léopold Sédar Senghor, sending the French Sudanese officials back to Bamako on a sealed train - an insult in the heat of August. Keïta demanded the railroad be destroyed at the border after the trip but otherwise did little, acknowledging the loss by renaming the Mali Federation (now just the Sudanese Republic) as the Republic of Mali in September.

South Kasai Campaign

With the support of Soviet advisors and equipment, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of the Congo sent 2,000 Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC) troops in an offensive against the secessionist region of South Kasai. By 27 August the ANC soldiers had captured Bakwanga, the capital of South Kasai. However, the campaign was marred by ethnic violence in which some 3,000 Baluba were killed.

Dismissal of Lumumba

On 29 August 1960 President Joseph Kasa-Vubu of the Congo met with Andrew Cordier, the newly appointed leader of the UN Operation in the Congo but also an American with ties to the CIA. Both were critical of Patrice Lumumba's actions as the Congolese Prime Minister, in particular his request for Soviet aid. On the night of 5 September Kasa-Vubu made a radio announcement dismissing Lumumba from his position; half an hour later, Lumumba responded over the radio, refusing to step down and rejecting Kasa-Vubu's act as against the Congolese Constitution.

UN intervention in the Congo

Following the attempt by President Kasa-Vubu of the Congo to dismiss PM Lumumba, Andrew Cordier, leader of the UN Operation in the Congo (ONUC), ordered the closing of the Congo's airports to all non-UN traffic under the pretext of maintaining order. The following day he also closed the pro-Lumumba Léopoldville radio station, effectively silencing Lumumba's supporters. Cordier's actions drew criticism for meddling in Congolese internal affairs and on 8 September he was replaced as head of ONUC by Indian diplomat Rajeshwar Dayal.

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