Joseph Kasavubu is President of the Republic of Congo while Patrice Lumumba holds the posts of Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. Very quickly, relations with Belgium are tense. A few days after independence, soldiers of the Force Publique, center of racial segregation, mutinied following the provocation of its commander-in-chief, the Belgian general Emile Janssens1.

Mutineers plunder the property of Europeans, attack European officers and civilians. The Belgian government sends troops to protect its nationals. The military revolt is extinguished after the dismissal of Janssens by Lumumba and the immediate promotion of Congolese as officers of the Force Publique8. Lumumba's friend, Joseph Mobutu, is appointed chief of staff with the rank of colonel.2

At the same time, on July 11, Moise Tshombe, of Lunda origin, declared the independence of the rich mining province of Katanga (representing 70% of the currencies) as the Katanga State. Belgium seems to support secessionists. On July 14, Kasavubu and Lumumba broke off diplomatic relations with the former metropolis, accusing it of intervening militarily without the express permission of the Congolese government. In turn, the province of South Kasai secedes under the aegis of Albert Kalonji. Lumumba speaks to the UN to help regain control of Katanga; if UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld sends blue helmets, he does not order them to attack the secessionists in Katanga. Lumumba then asks for help from the USSR, which responds favorably by sending technicians, planes and military vehicles3. For the President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, it is obvious that Lumumba is a communist. Fearing that a communist stronghold would be created in central Africa, the US president ordered the CIA to eliminate Lumumba but the poisoning attempt failed. Seeing that his prime minister does not stop making enemies, President Kasavubu dismisses him. Supported by parliament, Lumumba, in turn, dismisses the president of his office.

Shared between the two men, the UN finally votes confidence in Kasavubu. He appoints Joseph Mobutu prime minister while Lumumba is placed under house arrest in Kinshasa on October 10, 1960. The latter fled and tries to join his followers in Stanleyville but Mobutu's soldiers capture him. Kasavubu and his new prime minister send him by plane to his enemy, Moise Tshombe, leader of independent Katanga. On June 17, 1961, he was executed by a platoon under the eyes of Katangese ministers and Belgian officers4. The radio prefers to announce that Lumumba was victim of villagers.

The prime ministers followed one another until Mobutu led a second military coup on November 24, 1965, this time overthrowing President Kasavubu.

Notes and references

1. ↑ He writes on a blackboard in front of his troops "before independence = after independence"
2. ↑ Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, Théophile Obenga, Pierre Salmon, General History of the Congo: from the ancient heritage to the democratic republic, p.571
3. Frank R. Villafana, Cold War in the Congo: The Confrontation of Cuban Military Forces, 1960-1967, Transaction Publishers, 2012, p.24
4. ↑ Ludo de Witte, The assassination of Lumumba, Karthala editions, 2000, p.253-258