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by Ludo De Witte & translated by Ann Wright & Renée Fenby

Pub Date: July 1st, 2001
ISBN: 1-85984-618-1
Publisher: Verso

Indefatigable Dutch sociologist De Witte (Crisis in Kongo, not reviewed) examines the murder of Congolese nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba and unearths a sordid story of corruption, violence, conspiracies, and lies.

On January 17, 1961, former Prime Minister Lumumba and two of his associates were murdered by firing squads in a remote clearing. Shortly afterwards, their remains were moved, then exhumed a few days later. This time, the perpetrators, desperate to cover their trails, dismembered the bodies, submerging them in sulfuric acid. Even this was insufficient, so the remains of the remains were burned, and those stubborn fragments that refused to disappear were scattered across the countryside. Lumumba had been captured by his political enemies on December 1, 1960, days after escaping from house arrest; he was then subjected to many days of beatings and other humiliations (among the most disturbing of which was his being forced to swallow hair ripped from his own face and head). De Witte’s conclusion is blunt: “It was Belgian advice, Belgian orders and finally Belgian hands that killed Lumumba on 17 January 1961.” The author has examined documentary evidence at the United Nations, in Belgian archives, and in Africa, and he argues that Lumumba’s assassination resulted from the fear of the Belgians (and of other Western countries, especially the US, just then reeling from its problems with Castro) that Lumumba—a popular politician—would so animate the people that they would expel rather than accommodate the business interests in the country. De Witte shows with devastating clarity how the UN and the West portrayed Lumumba as a danger (comparisons to Hitler were made), how the eight Belgian soldiers and nine policemen shot him (and received bonuses in their next paychecks!), how the government concocted lies about an escape attempt and denied responsibility for his death. His research has left him deeply cynical, as revealed in his declaration that governments espouse humanitarian and ethical principles only when they serve political objectives.

Thoroughly researched, passionately written, deeply disturbing. (1 map, 2 charts, 8 pages b&w photos)