Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Émery Lumumba[lower-alpha 5] (/lʊˈmʊmbə/;[3] 2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as the Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960. A member of the Congolese National Movement (MNC), he led the MNC from 1958 until his execution in January 1961. Ideologically an African nationalist and pan-Africanist, he played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic.

Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba in 1960
1st Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo
In office
24 June  5 September 1960[lower-alpha 1]
PresidentJoseph Kasa-Vubu
DeputyAntoine Gizenga
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJoseph Iléo
1st Minister of National Defense
In office
24 June  5 September 1960
Prime MinisterHimself
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byFerdinand Kazadi[lower-alpha 2]
Personal details
Élias Okit'Asombo

(1925-07-02)2 July 1925
Katakokombe, Congo-Kasaï, Belgian Congo[lower-alpha 3]
Died17 January 1961(1961-01-17) (aged 35)
Near Élisabethville, State of Katanga[lower-alpha 4]
Cause of deathExecution (by firing squad)
Political partyCongolese National Movement (MNC)
(m. 1951)

Shortly after Congolese independence in 1960, a mutiny broke out in the army, marking the beginning of the Congo Crisis. Lumumba appealed to the United States and the United Nations for help to suppress the Belgian-supported Katangan secessionists led by Moïse Tshombe. Both refused, due to suspicions among the Western world that Lumumba secretly held pro-communist views. These suspicions deepened when Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for assistance, which the CIA described as a "classic communist takeover".[4] This led to growing differences with President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and chief-of-staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, as well as with the United States and Belgium, who opposed the Soviet Union in the Cold War.

After Mobutu's military coup, Lumumba attempted to escape to Stanleyville to join his supporters who had established a new anti-Mobutu rival state called the Free Republic of the Congo. Lumumba was captured and imprisoned en route by state authorities under Mobutu. He was handed over to Katangan authorities, and executed in the presence of Katangan and Belgian officials and officers. His body was thrown into a shallow grave, but later dug up and destroyed.[5] Following his execution, he was widely seen as a martyr for the wider pan-African movement. Over the years, inquiries have shed light on the events surrounding Lumumba's death and, in particular, on the roles played by Belgium and the United States.[5] In 2002, Belgium formally apologised for its role in the execution.[6] In 2022, a gold-capped tooth, all that remained of his body, was repatriated to the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Belgium.[7]

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