Showing posts with label Congo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Congo. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

‘The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba Is One of the Most Important Assassinations of the 20th Century’

Janine Jackson interviewed Maurice Carney about the assassination of Patrice Lumumba for the January 21, 2022, episode of CounterSpin. This is a lightly edited transcript.

      CounterSpin220121Carney.mp3

 

Twitter: Today, the FBI honors the life and work of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Twitter (1/20/20)

Janine Jackson: We saw a good amount of media attention to Reverend Martin Luther King this past week, including, yes, the FBI pretending with a straight face that they are honoring his legacy. But also some acknowledgement of a point that we at FAIR make, that celebration of King today is often a whitewashing, avoiding discussion of many of his actual views, and that the news media who are so full of bromides for King in his death were working hard at attacking and undermining him while he lived.

Meanwhile, another anniversary that offered opportunity for reflection was utterly overlooked. January 17 marked 60 years since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first elected prime minister of the post-independence Democratic Republic of the Congo, a crime in which the US played a significant role.

In August of 1960, CIA Director Allen Dulles told the agency’s station in Congo that: 

"it is the clear-cut conclusion that if Lumumba continues to hold high office, the inevitable result will at best be chaos, and at worst pave the way to Communist takeover of the Congo, with disastrous consequences for the prestige of the UN and for the interests of the free world generally. Consequently, we conclude that his removal must be an urgent and prime objective."

As corporate media bang the drums for a new or continued cold war in Africa today, the story of Lumumba seems especially significant. But telling it openly would require a dry-eyed examination of US actions and intentions that corporate news media are just not in the business of providing.

We’re joined now by Maurice Carney, co-founder and executive director of the group Friends of the Congo. He joins us now by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome back to CounterSpin, Maurice Carney.

Maurice Carney: It’s a pleasure to be back with you, Janine.

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba

JJ: May I just ask you to talk a bit about January 1961, and the context for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. The country is newly independent, but still in transition. Why was Lumumba considered such a danger?

MC: Lumumba was considered a danger for several reasons. One, he was a nationalist and a pan-Africanist. And as he articulated in his June 30, 1960, inaugural speech, he wanted the resources of the Congo to benefit the Congolese people. Anyone familiar with the creation of the Congo—it was created by European nations, it was created as an outpost for the extraction of natural resources to benefit Europe and the West. And Lumumba represented an end to that system. So that’s one reason.

Secondly, he was uncompromising in his critique of the colonial history in the Congo, and really contemporary imperialism. He was an anti-colonial fighter. So that also represented a problem.

And so those two reasons, and the critique that he brought against colonialism and imperialism, the uncompromising self-sufficiency, self-determination and pan-Africanism that he articulated, indicated that he was someone that couldn’t necessarily be controlled or owned or readily influenced by the West. So that posed a huge problem for the United States, and European powers as well.

JJ: I think the failure to even talk about the assassination today reflects in some ways just how important and how dangerous Lumumba was judged, so much so that we can’t even explore it now. But his murder was important and inspired action.

MC: Yeah, in fact, Professor Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja argued that the assassination of Patrice Lumumba is one of the most important assassinations of the 20th century. Professor Nzongola is now ambassador to the United Nations of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He has written a book entitled Lumumba. So he articulated  the significance of Lumumba’s assassination.

Maurice Carney

Maurice Carney: “We see the centrality of Lumumba to not only post-independence Congo, but a post-independence Africa.”

And, in fact, even the chief of station of the CIA in the Congo, Larry Devlin, in a book with the same title, Chief of Station Congo, laid out how critical Lumumba was, not only to the Congo, Janine, but to Africa at large. That is to say, Devlin shared and he intimated that we had to get rid of Lumumba because not only would we have lost the Congo if Lumumba were to stay and remain in power, but we would have lost all of Africa. So we see the centrality of Lumumba to not only post-independence Congo, but a post-independence Africa.

And the president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, articulated that and concurred with that. Within his book, The Challenge of the Congo, he shared how Congo would ultimately serve as the capital of Nkrumah’s project, the pan-African project, of the United States of Africa. So Congo, which is located in the heart of the African continent, arguably one of the richest countries on the planet in terms of natural resources, strategically located on the African continent, was vital to Nkrumah’s pan-African project. So it was a very critical country. And Lumumba was a pan-Africanist who accepted and acknowledged the role the Congo would play in a self-determined, independent Africa.

JJ: You and I talked at one point about how US officials were saying—and this is just a few years ago—US officials were saying and media were parroting the statement Congo hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since 1960, without even pretending to explore why that is and what the US role has been in that.

MC: Right.

JJ: And I just wonder if you could address the role of news media here in—I mean, it’s mainly what they haven’t done with regard to this, or what they have done, I don’t know.

MC: I think when we had a discussion that was around the role that—if I’m not mistaken, I think it may have been Time magazine—had played at the time in planting stories that were fed to them by the Central Intelligence Agency, in presenting Lumumba in a disparaging fashion, basically working hand in glove with US foreign policy in destabilizing the Congo. So the media, it was through its vocal means—and at the time of Lumumba, they did play a destructive role—and today through its silence.

We know, based on declassified documents that were recently published by the US State Department, that the United States played a critical role in the destabilization of the Congo, not only during the time of Lumumba, but right up until today. These classified documents from the State Department say that at the time, the covert action in the Congo was the largest in the world by the United States government. And that for the first 10 years or so of Congo’s independence, the Central Intelligence Agency had a role to play in who would lead the Congo. As you know, it went through several leaders. And, of course, the leader that wound up taking control of the country, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in 1965, was installed, backed and maintained by the United States.

So to the extent that we see instability in the Congo, that we see corruption, that we see a lack of security, the role the United States played in uprooting the native democratic process that began in that country with the election of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, that role by the United States is central. And it’s something that, unfortunately, today’s media has not taken up and articulated and shared with the American public in the way that it ought to and that it should.

JJ: Finally, right now Patrice Lumumba’s family is fighting for the return of his remains, such as they are. Listeners may not know his body was dissolved in sulfuric acid. But the demands go beyond that important repatriation. If we heard the voice of the Congolese people, not just Lumumba’s family, but if we could hear the voice of Congolese people today, what would they be saying that we’re not hearing?

MC: We at Friends of the Congo honored the daughter of Lumumba, Jr. at Congo Week event, Juliana Lumumba, who has led the fight to have her father’s remains repatriated to the country. And in her acknowledgement speech, she had a message for the Congolese youth. That is, to continue the teachings, the ideas of Lumumba, to look at him as a model and example of sacrificing his life for a country and a continent.

And Congolese youth today embrace that sentiment, particularly through their music. There are a number of Congolese musicians, hip hop artists who bring Lumumba’s ideas and teachings to the current generation of Congolese. So they are actually embracing Lumumba’s ideas. They’re embracing Lumumba’s teachings, the ideas of self-sufficiency, self-determination, pan-Africanism. The Congolese youth have taken that up today, and they’re sharing it with the current generation, and they’re doing it through music, through art, through writing.

So he is, especially in light of the lack of strong leadership, not only in the Congo but throughout the African continent, Lumumba is being fully embraced, fully shared, and being held up as a model for future leaders. So he’s in good stead.

And we acknowledge Lumumba ourselves through our campaign that’s on Lumumba Day, LumumbaDay.org, where people throughout the world are joining up and saying, even if the media doesn’t speak about Lumumba and his importance and his significance, they’re going to do so. And they’re doing that from the platform of LumumbaDay.org. Every January 17, he’s being held up, along with the colleagues who were assassinated with him, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito. So his legacy is in very, very good standing with not only Congolese youth, but people throughout the globe.

JJ: We’ve been speaking with Maurice Carney, co-founder and executive director of the group Friends of the Congo. You can find them online at FriendsOfTheCongo.org. Maurice Carney, thank you so much for joining us this week on CounterSpin.

MC: Thank you, Janine. It’s been my pleasure.


Originally published on FAIR.org, January 25th, 2022. Reprinted with permission.     

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