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The Assassination of Lumumba [Paperback]

Ludo De Witte , Renee Fenby , Ann Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 17, 2002 1859844103 978-1859844106 2
Patrice Lumumba, first prime minister of the Republic of Congo and a pioneer of African unity, was murdered on 17 January 1961.

Democratically elected to lead the Mouvement National Congolais, the party he founded in 1958, Lumumba was at the centre of the country’s growing popular defiance of the colonial rule of oppression imposed by Belgium. When, in June 1960, independence was finally won, his unscheduled speech at the official ceremonies in Kinshasa received a standing ovation and made him a hero to millions. Always a threat to those who sought to maintain a covert imperialist hand over the country, however, he became within months the victim of an insidious plot and was arrested and subsequently tortured and executed.

This book unravels the appalling mass of lies, hypocrisy and betrayals that have surrounded accounts of the assassination since it perpetration. Making use of a huge array of official sources as well as personal testimony from many of those in the Congo at the time, Ludo De Witte reveals a network of complicity ranging from the Belgian government to the CIA. Chilling official memos which detail ‘liquidation’ and ‘threats to national interests’ are analysed alongside macabre tales of the destruction of evidence, putting Patrice Lumumba’s personal strength and his dignified quest for African unity in stark contrast with one of the murkiest episodes in twentieth-century politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In January 1961, seven months after Congo won independence from Belgium, the country's first elected head of state, Patrice Lumumba, was killed in the secessionist province of Katanga because of fears that he would ally himself with Russia and nationalize Belgian corporate interests in Congo. Using U.N. and Belgian foreign ministry archives, De Witte, a sociologist whose book, when published in Belgium, led to an official inquiry into the assassination, offers evidence that the Belgian government was directly involved in Lumumba's transfer to Katanga a copper-rich state under Belgian control and in his execution. De Witte points, for instance, to an October 1960 telegram, signed by the Belgian Minister of African Affairs, that called for the "‚limination d‚finitive" of Lumumba. The African leader was, De Witte shows, tortured and executed under Belgian supervision. Lumumba's body was exhumed twice and finally dismembered and dissolved in sulfuric acid by a Belgian police commissioner, who wrote an account of his involvement and later bragged on Belgian TV that he had kept two of Lumumba's teeth. According to De Witte, the U.N., under Dag Hammarskj”ld, which also wanted to keep the Congo under Western control, denied Lumumba the protection that would have saved his life. While the book lacks an analysis of who Lumumba was and what made the West fear his independence so much, and while it often reads like a dissertation, the revelations about Belgium's attempts (with U.N. complicity) to control its former colony offer a pointed dissection of how the Cold War was played out by proxy. (July)Forecast: A biopic, Lumumba, will open in New York on June 27 and in L.A. on July 20, with national release to follow. Publicity surrounding the film, plus a focusing of American attention on Africa by several recent books, may help generate sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“De Witte has assembled a staggering amount of detail to support his allegations of direct government participation in Lumumba's murder.”—Washington Post Book World

“De Witte has performed an important service in establishing the facts of Lumumba’s last days and Belgium’s responsibility for what happened.”—New York Review of Books

“De Witte writes without stylish frills or narrative tricks, but this is a vivid and utterly compelling account of a nation strangled at birth by the West.”—Ronan Bennett, Los Angeles Times

“De Witte’s book, politically passionate as it is, is an unignorable effort to bring the West face to face with its culpability in this entire sad and sanguinary tale.”—Richard Bernstein, New York Times

“One Belgian author has triumphed over decades of official obfuscation: Belgium did collude in Patrice Lumumba’s assassination ... It raises questions about Western policy in Africa that will reverberate for decades to come.”—Michela Wrong, Financial Times

“One should never underestimate the ruthlessness of British gentlemen cradling endangered shares.”—Neal Ascherson, London Review of Books

“Thoroughly researched, passionately written, deeply disturbing.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Whilst the battle for control over the resources of the Congo (now DR Congo) continues today this important book restores Congolese history and saves it from the official version peddled by those directly implicated in the affair.”—New Internationalist

Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Verso; 2 edition (December 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1859844103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1859844106
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #723,954 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost of Patrice Lumumba March 3, 2002
You may recall Adam Hochschild's book of a couple years ago where he intimated that KING LEOPOLD'S GHOST remains a malevolent force guiding the carnage that is taking place in the present day Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Well here's one for the Congolese. Forty years after his assassination Patrice Lumumba remains a haunting presence, forever reminding Belgium of its past misdeeds in Africa. Broader still his death bears testimomy to the fact that so much of what Europe and our government talks about as human rights concerns is self-serving and empty rhetoric.
Enough with the anger though as I don't want to go overboard and see it in the stark ideological terms as the author does when he says that what happened in the Congo in 1960 is a "staggering example of what the Western ruling classes are capable of when their vital interests are threatened." That is too trite an answer for the circumstances surrounding Lumumba's assassination and way too simple an analysis of the complex situation in the Congo at the time of independence.
THE ASSASSINATION OF LUMUMBA looks at a tiny fraction of Congo's history. The book is almost entirely confined to the period from June 30th, 1960 (when the country became independent from Belgium) to January 17th, 1961, when Lumumba and two of his former ministers of government were executed in the breakaway province of Katanga. During that period the country went through crisis, with Belgium, France, the US, the USSR and the UN all wanting to have a say. There were at least three substantive leaders of the Congolese: Lumumba as prime minister, Joseph Kasavubu the president, and the usurper Joseph Mobuto (who after all was said and done emerged in 1965 as the dictator Mobuto Sese Seko).
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of a Death Foretold February 22, 2002
...Five stars for the incredible amount of research that went into the writing of this book.. It is a book that was necessary and long overdue. For the first time we have clear proof of all the players, what they did and when they did it. Lumumba was assassinated by Tshombe?s police, with the help of Belgian officials. They can not any longer deny it.
De Witte depicts Lumumba as a fierce nationalist but denies that he was left-leaning. That claim may have to be investigated further. Lumumba did have strong connections to Russia and surely there is a reason why the university in Moscow for foreign students is named "Lumumba University". There is no doubt, though, that he presented himself as a socialist.
The author repeatedly mentions that Lumumba's rise to the presidency of the Congo was the story of a death foretold. Western governments repeatedly sais that Lumumba had to be "eliminated". But the interpretation was left open: did they mean "physically" or "politically"? It is interesting to note that it took them almost seven months to kill him. An assassin hired by the Belgians was called back. The CIA delivered a box of poison that was never used. Why this delay, when an invented illness would have been faster and politically more acceptable?
De Wittte also claims that Lumumba had to fail with his government because he lacked a functioning army and police force to back him up. What he never examines, unfortunately, is the fact that Belgium withdrew its administrative apparatus upon independence. And they had never trained any natives to be administrators. On July 1, 1960, The Congo had only a handful native lawyers, physicians, or even people with a higher education. Under those conditions you cannot run a country (you have to know where the telephones are).
Because of this book, Belgium officially apologized to the Congo ... Mr. de Witte could hardly wish for a better acknowledgement of his work.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Putting Lies to Death December 6, 2001
This book is certainly well written to the extent that it is a historical account of the early life of independent Congo up until the assasination of the first premier. It has taken over three deacades for such a foreceful and convincing counterfactual case to emerge, but it is just proof that "No lie(s) can live forever". The author has done well on this score.
The connivance of a whole set of opportunists in the Congo and some players in the international arena would be shocking for a person otherwise unfamiliar with this period. This book is proof that Lumumba's life could have been saved but it was not politically expedient to do so. Most of all, the author has led to the questioning of the assumption that the U.N. is an enduring friend of developing countries.
The author deserves unqualified credit for painstakingly seeking the facts through which to support the central thesis that the assassination was planned even if not very neatly executed.While the author's work is certainly not the last word on this issue, it has helped to put to death the lies that were advanced in the period following the assassination. Compared to other publications on the subject, I consider this a definitive text and perhaps an indispensable book in the history section of all college and public libraries.
The author is genuinely moved to expose the great injustice that was perpetrated against Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito and by extension to the Congolese people. It is not difficult to understand how the series of events led to the increased militarisation of Congolese politics. Belgium and its monarchy owes the Congolese people an apology.
While Mr.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars For telling the simple truth
From the moment that Patrice Lumumba gave an unscheduled speech telling the Belgian monarch and the world the simple truth that everyone knew (including Mark Twain and Joseph... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Marc Lichtman
4.0 out of 5 stars The death of an African statesman
Patrice Lumumba was a charismatic, commanding man with a revolutionary aura about him, cut down before he was able to exercise power long enough for anybody to be sure how he would... Read more
Published 8 months ago by ewaffle
2.0 out of 5 stars Let's Not Idolize Lumumba
The Assasination of Lumumba by Ludo de Witte strikes me as a very one-sided presentation to the historical upheaval experienced by Congo in the first months following its... Read more
Published on July 7, 2012 by Congolese by Birth
5.0 out of 5 stars The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba
The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba reveals the complicity of Belgium and the US in his murder, and the resulting tragedy. Read more
Published on January 29, 2011 by Vincent Nyakairu
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read
Finally some honest answers as to what happened to Patrice Lumumba. An excellent commentary on neo-colonialism in the Congo.
Published on November 10, 2009 by Liza L
5.0 out of 5 stars The death of a people's leader and the beginning of neo-colonialism
Patrice Lumumba was a symbol for all that is despised by the Imperialistic West. A nation that was so rich with resources that the Congo couldn't POSSIBLY be left to its own... Read more
Published on October 16, 2009 by Tim
1.0 out of 5 stars Wishful thinking as history
Patrice Lumumba is the subject of so much distortion and so much mythology that the simple truth is never said. He was a bad leader who destroyed Congo and them himself. Read more
Published on February 3, 2008 by Mark bennett
4.0 out of 5 stars This book adds important new documentation about the role of Belgium,...
For readers interested in the facts about Patrice Lumumba's murder, this translated book is a very valuable source of new information. Read more
Published on January 10, 2008 by Dr. Anna C. Roosevelt
4.0 out of 5 stars Lumumba the Man
I remember reading a book on Ralph Bunch about his time in the Congo, and he said something to the fact "how can millions of African men allow a few pasty faces to rule them so... Read more
Published on February 27, 2007 by Big Sistah Patty
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't know if this group is interested...
But here is a circular issued by the Lumamba Govt.

On September 15 he issued the following lengthy and highly revealing directive to the heads of the various provinces... Read more
Published on October 9, 2005 by Seeker
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