In a book published in 2001, The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba, (Verso, ISBN: 1850846181) the Belgian writer, Ludo De Witte, gives chapter and course of the true nature of the opposition that Ghana’s Charge D’affaires in the Congo, Mr N.A. Welbeck faced from the Belgians and the Americans.
“Belgian military chiefs”, DeWitte wrote, “made nightly visits to Mobutu and President Kasavubu to plot Lumumba's downfall.” A Belgian officer, Colonel Louis Maliere, “spoke [to De Witte] of the millions of francs he brought over [from Belgium] for this purpose,” De Witt further reported. The plot to kill Lumumba was called ‘Operation Barracuda’ and was run by the Belgian Minister for African Affairs, Count Harold d'Aspremont-Lynden, himself.
The CIA also brought in an assassin, known only as "Joe from Paris”, later exposed as Sidney Gottlieb, to try and place a poisoned toothpaste in Lumumba’s bathroom so that if he used it, he would be killed. This is how the informative magazine, US News and World Report, described the CIA effort, which followed a direct order from the head of the CIA, Mr Allen Dulles.
Mr Dulles told his chief is station in Leopoldville that:
"In high quarters here, it is the clear-cut conclusion that if [Lumumba] continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will [have] disastrous consequences . . . for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective”.
It is strongly believed that when he said “high quarters”, CIA Director Allen Dulles meant it was President Dwight D Eisenhower himself who wanted Lumumba‘s “removal.”.
This is how Kevin Whitelaw of the US News and World Report later reported the matter:
“It was the height of the Cold War when Sidney Gottlieb arrived in Congo in September 1960. The CIA man was toting a vial of poison. His target: the toothbrush of Patrice Lumumba, Congo's charismatic first prime minister, who was also feared to be a rabid Communist.”
When Lumumba finally was killed, in January 1961, no one was surprised when fingers started pointing at the CIA. A Senate investigation of CIA assassinations 14 years later -- known as the “Church Commission” enquiry -- found “no proof” that the agency was behind the hit. But, the US News and World Report acknowledges, “suspicions linger.” New evidence suggests that Belgium was “the mastermind.” Belgian operatives “directed and carried out the murder, and even helped dispose of the body.”
Even after Mobutu had driven Lumumba out of office, Lumumba remained under the microscope of Western spy services. His alleged ties to Moscow frightened Washington. His fierce anti-colonialism unnerved Brussels. Belgium finally got its chance at Lumumba after Congolese authorities arrested him in December 1960. Belgian officials engineered his transfer to the breakaway province of Katanga, which was under Belgian control.
De Witte’s book reveals that a telegram was sent from Count d'Aspremont Lynden, essentially ordering that Lumumba be sent to Moise Tshombe’s Katanga. Anyone who knew anything about Congolese politics would know at once that this was a death sentence for Lumumba.
Does that mean the CIA didn't play a role? Declassified U.S. cables from the year preceding the assassination, “bristle with paranoia about a Lumumba-led Soviet Communist takeover”. The CIA was hatching plots against Cuban leader Fidel Castro and was accused of fomenting coups and planning assassinations worldwide. And Lumumba clearly scared the daylights out of the Eisenhower administration.
When Lumumba arrived in Katanga, on January 17, accompanied by several Belgians, he was bleeding from a severe beating. Later that evening, Lumumba was killed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian officer.
A week earlier, Lumumba had written to his wife, "I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable, and with profound trust in the destiny of my country." Lumumba was 35.
After the Belgian firing squad had done its work, its next step was to destroy the evidence. Four days after the murder, the Belgian Police Commissioner, Gerard Soete and his brother cut up Lumumba’s body with a hacksaw and dissolved it in sulphuric acid. In an interview on Belgian television, Soete unashamedly displayed a bullet and two teeth which, he claimed to have saved from Lumumba's body.
What remains unclear is the exact extent of Washington's involvement in the final plot. A Belgian official who helped engineer Lumumba's transfer to Katanga told de Witte that he kept CIA station chief Lawrence Devlin fully informed of the plan. "The Americans were informed of the transfer, because they actively discussed this thing [with the Belgians ] for weeks," says de Witte. But Devlin, now retired, denies any previous knowledge of the transfer.
Either way, Lumumba's death served its purpose. It bolstered the shaky regime of Joseph Mobutu. During his three-decade rule, Mobutu would steal everything he could from the Congo’s coffers, and run his country -- which is bursting with natural resources -- into the depths of poverty and incessant civil war, which continues to this day. It took a civil war to oust Mobutu, but Congo has still seen little peace since Mobutu’s ouster.
At one stage, at least five African countries -- Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Sudan -- were fighting in the Congo.
THE CONGO CABLES
The 1975 report of the US Senate, called the “Church Committee Report” and entitled "Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders" provides a rare inside account of how such operations are planned and carried out--in this case, the CIA's attempt to assassinate Lumumba,
According to the Church Committee, "It is likely that President Eisenhower's...strong...concern about Lumumba...was taken by [CIA director] Allen Dulles as authority to assassinate Lumumba." And so, CIA officials ordered a staff scientist (code- named "Joe") to prepare "toxic biological materials" that would "produce a disease...indigenous to that area [of Africa]" and to deliver the poison to the CIA station chief in Leopoldville, who was to assassinate Lumumba.
But before the station chief could carry out his orders, Lumumba was captured by the forces of Joseph Mobutu and delivered to his archenemies in Katanga, where he was murdered. Excerpts from the cables, published by the Church Committee, show these exchanges between CIA headquarters in Washington and the officers in the Congo:
August 18, 1960. Station chief, Leopoldville, to CIA headquarters: “EMBASSY AND STATION BELIEVE CONGO EXPERIENCING CLASSIC COMMUNIST EFFORT TAKEOVER GOVERNMENT...THERE MAY BE LITTLE TIME LEFT IN WHICH TO TAKE ACTION TO AVOID ANOTHER CUBA.”
(After this cable from the Leopoldville Station Chief to his bosses in Washington, it’s certainly fair to conclude that it was the tail that was wagging the dog, rather than vice versa!)
August 26. Headquarters to Leopoldville:
“IN HIGH QUARTERS HERE IT IS THE CLEAR-CUT CONCLUSION THAT IF [LUMUMBA] CONTINUES TO HOLD HIGH OFFICE, THE INEVITABLE RESULT WILL...AT WORST.. PAVE THE WAY TO COMMUNIST TAKEOVER...CONSEQUENTLY ..;HIS REMOVAL MUST BE AN URGENT AND PRIME OBJECTIVE...OF OUR COVERT ACTION...TO THE EXTENT THAT THE AMBASSADOR MAY DESIRE TO BE CONSULTED, YOU SHOULD SEEK HIS CONCURRENCE. IF … HE DOES NOT WISH TO BE CONSULTED YOU CAN ACT ON YOUR [OWN] AUTHORITY…”
September 19. Headquarters to Leopoldville, announcing the arrival of the poison:
["JOE"] SHOULD ARRIVE APPROX. 27 SEPT...WILL ANNOUNCE HIMSELF AS "JOE FROM PARIS"...ALL CABLE TRAFFIC THIS OP...HOLD ENTIRELY TO YOURSELF.”
October 15. Headquarters to Leopoldville:
“POSSIBLE USE COMMANDO TYPE GROUP FOR ABDUCTION [LUMUMBA]...VIA ASSAULT ON HOUSE…”
October 17. Leopoldville to headquarters:
“NOT BEEN ABLE PENETRATE [LUMUMBA’S] ENTOURAGE...RECOMMEND HQS POUCH SOONEST HIGH POWERED FOREIGN MAKE RIFLE WITH TELESCOPIC SCOPE AND SILENCER. HUNTING GOOD HERE WHEN LIGHT IS RIGHT.”
November 14. Leopoldville to headquarters:
“TARGET HAS NOT LEFT BUILDING IN SEVERAL WEEKS. HOUSE GUARDED DAY AND NIGHT...TARGET HAS DISMISSED MOST OF SERVANTS SO ENTRY THIS MEANS SEEMS REMOTE.”
January 13. Fearing that Lumumba, who had been imprisoned by Mobutu's forces in December, would soon be freed by his supporters and seize power, Leopoldville cabled headquarters:
“THE COMBINATION OF [LUMUMBA'S] POWERS AS DEMAGOGUE… AND SPIRIT OF DEFEAT WITHIN GOVERNMENT]...WOULD ALMOST CERTAINLY INSURE [LUMUMBA] VICTORY IN PARLIAMENT...REFUSAL TAKE DRASTIC STEPS AT THIS TIME WILL LEAD TO DEFEAT OF [UNITED STATES] POLICY IN CONGO.”
On January 17, 1961, Mobutu and his ally Joseph Kasavubu sent Lumumba to his enemies in Katanga province, the forces of local leader Moise Tshombe. Two days later, the CIA base chief in Elizabethville cabled headquarters:
“THANKS FOR PATRICE. IF WE HAD KNOWN HE WAS COMING WE WOULD HAVE BAKED A SNAKE.”
“Baked a snake” for Lumumba? This racist message is final proof, if one was needed, that the CIA station in Leopoldville, was in collusion with the Belgians in sending Lumumba to Tshombe. Otherwise, why would the Elizabethville station say to its Leopoldville counterpart, “THANKS FOR PATRICE”? The Church Committee appears to have deliberately refused to accept the implications of that message.