The murder of Patrick Lumumba (The UN works for Imperialism, not for Africa)

Updated on March 06, 2021, Daniel Morley, Marxism
The murder of Patrick Lumumba (The UN works for Imperialism, not for Africa)

The United Nations, a tool of imperialism: Intervention in the Congo

Another notorious example is the revolution in the Republic of the Congo in 1960. Like many other leaders of the colonial struggle, Patrice Lumumba, was forced to the left in his struggle against imperialism. Once free of overt Belgian domination, Congo immediately found itself fighting a secessionist insurrection in the mineral rich South-East (Katanga). The rebellion was backed by the former colonial power Belgium in an attempt to destabilize the new government. Lumumba appealed to the UN for help against this blatant meddling in Congo’s internal affairs.

In response to his request, the UN Security Council decided to send military assistance to the Congo. However, tellingly the leading UN staff sent over had no meaningful connection to the country, its people and their cause. Instead they were Westerners, and naturally upper class, with far more ties to the countries Lumumba was fighting against (Belgium and the US) than with Congo. In his 2001 book The Assassination of Lumumba, Belgian writer Ludo De Witte has decisively proven that these UN forces worked to overthrow Lumumba rather than protecting the peace and the legitimacy of its first democratically elected government. The UN only passively requested that the Belgians withdraw from the Republic of the Congo; it never condemned or took real action against blatant Belgian meddling.

Rather, its presence made things more difficult for the new regime. It took over the radio station and the airport. It stopped him calling on friendly African nations for support and blocked aid from the Soviet Union.

“It is alleged that Hammarskjöld [Secretary General of the UN at the time] played a role in [Lumumba’s] assassination and Lumumba himself confirmed in a letter to his wife few hours before his death that the Belgians were conniving with some high officials at the United Nations to inflict pains on him and his people. The United Nations wanted to overthrow Lumumba’s government in August 1960 and in early 1961...Abstract rights did not inspire the actions of the United Nations and other international institutions and principles and this was shown by the different treatments accorded Lumumba in 1960 and Tshombe in 1961” (Fidelis Etah Ewane, The United Nations in the Congo from 1960-4: Critical Assessment of a Tragic Intervention)

Only after Lumumba was removed and assassinated in a coup did the UN take decisive action against the Katanga rebels. Reflecting on the criminal actions of the UN in sabotaging and destroying the first democratically elected government in this most exploited and oppressed of nations, it is immediately obvious why it behaved as it did: the countries carrying out the actions the UN was called on to prevent - that is Belgium and the USA - are highly powerful, influential countries, one of whom has a seat on the UN’s Security Council and hosts its headquarters. It is obvious that that is why the UN helped these countries to destroy a revolution that was against their interests. Lumumba’s tragic mistake was to trust in the UN’s supposed respect for national sovereignty and peace.

By Daniel Morley

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