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New Left Review 11, September-October 2001


Linda Melvern on Ludo De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba. Archival revelations of the way the Belgian government organized the murder of the Congo’s first Prime Minister.

LINDA MELVERN

DISPATCHING LUMUMBA

Who killed Patrice Lumumba? The Belgian government’s spokesmen were adamant when news of the murder of the Congo’s first elected prime minister was announced in February 1961: ‘In accordance with its policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Congolese state, Belgium has absolutely nothing to do with the arrest, imprisonment, transfer and death of the former Prime Minister.’ ‘At no time were the Belgian authorities consulted.’ ‘Like you,’ Foreign Minister Wigny insisted, ‘I learned about Lumumba’s transfer in the press.’ It was ‘emotional Africans’, meeting ‘without any of their European advisers’, as one Belgian intelligence officer put it, who ‘decided to get rid of him. What were their motives? Revenge, tribal hatred . . .’ Ludo De Witte, author of Crisis in Kongo, has trawled the archives of the Belgian Foreign Office, the UN, the Institut Africain and other collections, subjecting these claims to careful scrutiny. His important new book casts considerable light on the ways in which the West has subjected Africa to a self-serving blend of indifference and intervention.

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