Moïse Kapend Tshombe (sometimes written Tshombé) (10 November 1919 – 29 June 1969) was a Congolese businessman and politician. He served as the president of the secessionist State of Katanga from 1960 to 1963 and as prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1964 to 1965.
|5th Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo|
10 July 1964 – 13 October 1965
|Preceded by||Cyrille Adoula|
|Succeeded by||Évariste Kimba|
|President of Katanga|
11 July 1960 – 21 January 1963
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Born||10 November 1919|
Musumba, Belgian Congo
|Died||29 June 1969 49) (aged|
El Biar, Algiers, Algeria
A member of the Lunda ethnic group, Tshombe was born near Musumba, Belgian Congo, the son of a successful businessman. He received his education from an American missionary school and later trained as an accountant. In the 1950s, he took over a chain of stores in Katanga Province and became involved in politics.
Along with Godefroid Munongo, he founded the Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga (CONAKAT) party. CONAKAT promoted a federal Congo independent of the Belgian colonial empire.
President of Katanga
CONAKAT won control of the Katanga provincial legislature in the May 1960 general elections. One month later the Congo became an independent republic. Tshombe became President of the autonomous province of Katanga. Patrice Lumumba was tasked with forming a national government. Members of his party, the Mouvement National Congolais, were given charge of the portfolios of national defence and interior, despite Tshombe's objections. The portfolio for economic affairs was awarded to a CONAKAT member, but this was undercut by the positioning of nationalists in control of the Ministry and Secretariat for Economic Coordination. Mines and land affairs were placed under separate portfolios. Tshombe declared that this diluting of CONAKAT's influence rendered his agreement to support the government "null and void".
On the evening of 11 July, Tshombe, accusing the central government of communist leanings and dictatorial rule, announced that Katanga was seceding from the Congo. Favoring continued ties with Belgium, he asked the Belgian government to send military officers to recruit and train a Katangese army.
Tshombe demanded United Nations recognition for independent Katanga, and he announced that any intervention by UN troops would be met with force. Nonetheless, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and his successor, Cyrille Adoula, successfully requested intervention from UN forces. UN forces were sent under the direction of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.
France, wishing to take advantage of Katangese minerals, sent to Tshombe the reinforcement of the mercenary Bob Denard and his men. It was supported by the networks of Jacques Foccart, the "Mr. Africa" of the French government.
Lumumba's government was dissolved, and Lumumba taken prisoner by Mobutu and detained at Camp Hardy in Thysville. Harold Charles d'Aspremont Lynden (Belgian minister for African Affairs) sent a highly confidential telegram on 16 January 1961 to the government in Léopoldville (President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu) to send Lumumba to Katanga. That would have stemmed from Lumumba's increasing popularity among soldiers, who might release him. Meanwhile, soldier mutinies and unrest increased by the day, at Prison Camp Hardy in Thysville. The telegram has still not been shown to exist.
Whilst being flown in a Sabena Douglas DC-4 plane to Katanga, Lumumba was beaten by the Congolese soldiers escorting him. In custody in Katanga, Lumumba was visited by Katangese notables and Belgian officers, who included Tshombe, Godefroid Munongo, Kibwe, Kitenge, Grandelet, Son, Gat, Huyghé, Tignée, Verscheure, Segers and Rougefort. Lumumba's execution, on 17 January, was carried out by a firing squad led by a Belgian mercenary, Julien Gat.
Prime Minister of the Congo
In 1963, UN forces succeeded in suppressing Katanga, driving Tshombe into exile in Northern Rhodesia, later to Spain. In July 1964, he returned to the Congo to serve as prime minister in a new coalition government. His cabinet was sworn in on 10 July. Tshombe's national support was derived from the backing of provincial political bosses, customary chiefs, and foreign financial interests. Among his first acts in office were the lifting of a curfew in Léopoldville, the release of 600 political prisoners—including Antoine Gizenga, and the ordering of Katangese gendarmes to return from their exile in Angola to the Congo and join the national army. In a New Year's message at the beginning of 1965, Tshombe rejected conciliation with the Simba rebels and called for their total defeat.
Tshombe formed the federalist Convention Nationale Congolaise (CONACO), a bloc of forty-nine parties for the 1965 general election. The party won comfortably gaining 38 seats with the alliance as a whole winning 122 seats. Despite this victory Tshombe was dismissed from his position as Prime Minister in October 1965 by President Kasa-Vubu and replaced by Évariste Kimba. In November, General Joseph Mobutu, who had just staged a successful coup against Kasa-Vubu, brought charges of treason against Tshombe, who again fled the country and settled in Francoist Spain.
In 1967, Tshombe was sentenced to death in absentia.
On 30 June 1967, he was in a Hawker Siddeley jet aircraft that was hijacked by Francis Bodenan, an agent of the French SDECE. According to the Congolese government, Tshombe was travelling to Africa. He was taken to Algeria, jailed, and placed under house arrest. At his trial, he was represented by French lawyer René Floriot. The pilots of the plane, Britons Trevor Copleston and David Taylor, were released and returned to the United Kingdom. The Congolese government demanded his extradition to Congo and his Western supporters agitated for his release. The Algerians resisted both demands. A part of his supporters gathered to form the Tshombe Emergency Committee in the U.S., including Marvin Liebman and William F. Buckley, to press for his release and move to Spain. Long-time aide Michel Struelens travelled to different European cities to lobby for Tshombe, eventually to no avail.
Death and legacy
"Moïse Tshombe nearly became the 'savior' of the Congo on his return from exile. But history decided otherwise, and the Congolese people found themselves under the leadership of Mobutu".— Thomas Kanza, 1972
Tshombe died in 1969; the official cause of death was listed as "death from heart failure." He was buried in a Methodist service at Etterbeek Cemetery, near Brussels, Belgium. Owing to his role in the death of Lumumba and his association with Western interests, Tshombe's name became synonymous with "sellout" to black African nationalists.
The plot of the 1978 war film The Wild Geese is based in part on speculation that Tshombe's plane had initially been diverted to Rhodesia before being sent to Algeria. The film's characters Col. Allen Faulkner and President Julius Limbani were largely based on Tshombe and his military ally Maj. "Mad Mike" Hoare.
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown.
- A derivative of Tshombe's name, chombe, was incorporated into the Shona language as a word for "sellout". Kuchomba is the verb form.
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