By Owei Lakemfa.
PATRICE Lumumba, a postal worker, was 34 when he won election as Prime Minister to lead the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC to its June 30, 1960 independence. He made a powerful speech at the independence celebrations denouncing the barbaric colonisation of the DRC which led to the massacre of 15 million Congolese. The departing Belgian colonialists regarded the speech an insult and decided that Lumumba must die. The British and Americans thought Lumumba was speaking like a communist and must, therefore, be eliminated. American President Dwight D. Eisenhower then ordered Lumumba’s assassination.
The Belgians set the events in motion by sending in troops to strengthen a secessionist movement in the Katanga Province while the Americans bought over the DRC Army Chief of Staff, Mobutu Seseseko, to engineer a mutiny. Within weeks of independence, the country was in turmoil. Lumumba was in a dilemma: he could ask for assistance from the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, USSR but he would be branded a communist; so he turned to the United Nations, UN, whom he assumed was a neutral body. He was to realise that the UN is a body susceptible to manipulations by powerful countries.
Lumumba did not learn from the Korean experience when the UN on June 25, 1950 passed its Resolution 82 which, basically, empowered the US and its allies to invade Korea under its banner. Today, 70 years later, the foreign troops who invaded Korea in the name of the UN are still in that divided country, except that now, they fly the American flag. On Lumumba’s invitation, UN troops came to the DRC. They included troops from some African countries, notably Nigeria, whose Chief of Army Staff was British Major General Forster!
When the UN troops arrived, they placed Lumumba, the democratically elected Prime Minister under house arrest. Rather than watch his country taken over by colonialists and their lackeys, he escaped and headed for his stronghold of Stanleyville to establish a new government and put up resistance. Taking advantage of his enormous popularity, he stopped at towns and villages along the way, mobilising the masses.
Unfortunately, this left a trail which the bloodhounds of the American, Belgian and British secret services picked and sent rebel soldiers after him. He was eventually captured. What do you do with a man who had the mandate of his people to lead? Put him on trial? If so, on what charges; for being a patriot?
Since Western leaders had decided that Lumumba should be murdered, they tried to find a way of executing him without their hands dripping with the blood of the innocent. They embarked on a ridiculous and childish plot. They flew him and his two comrades, Joseph Okito, Senator representing the Kasai Province and First Vice President of the Senate, and Maurice Mpolo, Minister of Youths and Sports, into the rebel enclave of Katanga and handed them to the rebel forces led by Moise Tshombe. They were tortured on the way from the airport, then the convoy turned off into a forest, where they were tied to trees and shot.
The firing squad was led by Belgian officers. The man who supervised the murders, chopped up the bodies and then dissolve them in acid was Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete. In 2000, 39 years after these sordid events, he told the AFP about that January 17, 1961 day: “We started by getting drunk, to have the courage. We dismembered the corpse (of Lumumba) the hardest bit was cutting it up.” Soete said he took two teeth of the famous African leader as souvenir. That same year on the ARD German TV channel, he showed Lumumba’s teeth.
After Soete’s death, his daughter in 2016 granted a newspaper interview during which she displayed a tooth of Lumumba she had inherited from her father. This June, Lumumba’s daughter, Juliana, 64, petitioned the Belgian King Philippe condemning the “vile statements made in Belgium about holding some of his remains” and complained that: “The remains of Patrice Emery Lumumba are being used on the one hand as trophies by some of your fellow citizens, and on the other as funeral possessions sequestered by your kingdom’s judiciary.” Pointing out that her legendary father was a “hero without a grave” she demanded the return of his remains “to the land of his ancestors”.
On September 10, 2020, a Belgian court ruled that Lumumba’s remains should be returned to his family. This formalised the decision by the Belgian Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office that his remains could be given back to his family. This is a victory not only to the African peoples, but the entire human race whose species committed such unspeakable crimes.
Cuba learnt from the Lumumba experience. It had been invaded from April 17-19, 1961. But aware that the Americans were planning a larger and more determined invasion, the Cubans did not waste their time seeking UN intervention or troops, they appealed directly to the Soviet Union which sent missiles to the country as a deterrent. The Americans, led by an inexperienced President John Kennedy, were furious. Havana is 510 kilometres from Florida and the missiles could easily be turned at it.
Kennedy threatened an attack that could trigger a Third World War, and staked his reputation and Presidency on the removal of the missiles from Cuba. The Soviets decided to give him a face-saving solution: the missiles would be removed on two conditions. First, America must undertake never to invade Cuba again. Secondly, America must remove its missiles on the Turkish border with the Soviet Union. Kennedy agreed. Thus, was the ‘Missile Crisis’ resolved. None of the parties thought highly of a UN intervention. It was a win-win situation; all sides got what they wanted. Until today, America has not invaded Cuba again.
Since the debacle in Congo, the UN has continued to carry out its peace keeping missions, including in Rwanda where in 1994, it ordered its troops back to the barracks to watch, or allow the genocide take place. UN troops are today in Western Sahara under the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, MINURSO, where it is watching the Moroccan occupiers detain, torture and massacre the indigenous Saharawi.
The UN has also been used to perpetrate crimes across the universe. For instance, it was used as cover in the criminal Western invasion and decimation of Iraq based on information it knew were lies. The UN was also used as cover in the invasion and devastation of Libya, including the cowardly execution of its President, Mouamar Ghadaffi.
The UN has been of tremendous benefit to humanity, setting up life-saving agencies like UNICEF and UNHR, but its peace-keeping missions need some teeth.