MI6 ‘arranged Cold War killing’ of Congo prime minister

Claims over Patrice Lumumba’s 1961 assassination made by Labour peer in letter to London Review of Books
Ben Quinn

Congo premier Patrice Lumumba waves in New York in July 1960 after his arrival from Europe. Photograph: AP

Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister was abducted and killed in a cold war operation run by British intelligence, according to remarks said to have been made by the woman who was leading the MI6 station in the central African country at the time.

A Labour peer has claimed that Baroness Park of Monmouth admitted to him a few months before she died in March 2010 that she arranged Patrice Lumumba’skilling in 1961 because of fears he would ally the newly democratic country with the Soviet Union.

In a letter to the London Review of Books, Lord Lea said the admission was made while he was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park, who had been consul and first secretary from 1959 to 1961 in Leopoldville, as the capital of Belgian Congo was known before it was later renamed as Kinshasa following independence.

He wrote: “I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it’.”

Park, who was known by some as the “Queen of Spies” after four decades as one of Britain’s top female intelligence agents, is believed to have been sent by MI6 to the Belgian Congo in 1959 under an official diplomatic guise as the Belgians were on the point of being ousted from the country.

“We went on to discuss her contention that Lumumba would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value Katangese uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals largely located in the secessionist eastern state of Katanga,” added Lea, who wrote his letter in response to a review of a book by Calder Walton about British intelligence activities during the twilight of the British empire.

Doubts about the claim have been raised by historians and former officials, including a former senior British intelligence official who knew Park and told the Times: “It doesn’t sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make. She was never indiscreet. Also MI6 never had a licence to kill.”

guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 2 April 2013 01.23 BST

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MI6 organised execution of DRC leader Lumumba, peer claims

British spies admitted helping to organise the detention and execution of the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1960s, a peer has claimed.
British spies admitted helping to organise the detention and execution of Patrice Lumumba the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1960s, a peer has claimed. Photo: AP

Baroness (Daphne) Park of Monmouth, who was the senior MI6 officer in the African country at the time, said she had “organised it”, according to the Labour peer Lord Lea.

Independence leader Patrice Lumumba was arrested, tortured and executed just months after becoming the first democratically elected prime minister of the DRC in 1960.

Although rebel forces carried out the killing, it has long been claimed that foreign intelligence agencies played a part.

Belgium, from which Lumumba won independence, apologised in 2002 for having some responsibility by failing to prevent his death, while in 2006 documents showed the CIA had plotted to assassinate him but the plot was abandoned.

However, Lord Lea of Crondall, claims he was told by Baroness Park herself that MI6 had also played a role.

He made the revelation in response to a review of a book by Calder Walton in to British intelligence in the London Review of Books.

Lord Lea wrote: “Referring to the controversy surrounding the death of Patrice Lumumba in1960, Bernard Porter quotes Calder Walton’s conclusion: ‘The question remains whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba ever amounted to anything. At present, we do not know’ .

“Actually, in this particular case, I can report that we do. It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010.

By Tom Whitehead

6:46PM BST 01 Apr 2013

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© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2013

MI6 told to reveal truth behind Lumumba death

Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Congo AFP/Getty Images

MI6 should open its archives to reveal the truth behind Britain’s alleged involvement in the assassination of African leader Patrice Lumumba in the 1960s, the author of a new book on intelligence said yesterday.

Michael Evans, Francis Elliott and Charles Bremner
Last updated at 12:25AM, April 3 2013

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© Times Newspapers Limited 2013

Patrice Lumumba: 50 Years Later, Remembering the U.S.-Backed Assassination of Congo’s First Democratically Elected Leader

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Lumumba’s pan-Africanism and his vision of a united Congo gained him many enemies. Both Belgium and the United States actively sought to have him killed. The CIA ordered his assassination but could not complete the job. Instead, the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested Lumumba. On January 17, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, Lumumba was shot and killed. [includes rush transcript]
Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZALEZ: This week marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. He was the first democratically elected leader of what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo had been a colony of Belgium since the late 1800s, which ruled over it with brutality while plundering its rich natural resources. Patrice Lumumba rose as a leader of the Congo’s independence movement and, in 1960, was elected as the first prime minister of the country.

AMY GOODMAN: Lumumba’s pan-Africanism and his vision of a united Congo gained him many enemies. Both Belgium and the United States actively sought to have Lumumba overthrown or killed. The CIA ordered his assassination but could not complete the job. Instead, the United States and Belgium covertly funneled cash and aid to rival politicians who seized power and arrested President Lumumba. This is how it was reported in a Universal Studios newsreel in December of 1960.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS NEWSREEL: A new chapter begins in the dark and tragic history of the Congo with the return to Leopoldville of deposed premier Lumumba, following his capture by crack commandos of strongman Colonel Mobutu. Taken to Mobutu’s headquarters past a jeering, threatening crowd, Lumumba — Lumumba, but promised the pro-red Lumumba a fair trial on charges of inciting the army to rebellion. Lumumba was removed to an army prison outside the capital, as his supporters in Stanleyville seized control of Orientale province and threatened a return of disorder. Before that, Lumumba suffered more indignities, including being forced to eat a speech, which he restated his claim to be the Congo’s rightful premier. Even in bonds, Lumumba remains a dangerous prisoner, storm center of savage loyalties and equally savage opposition.

AMY GOODMAN: On January 17th, 1961, after being beaten and tortured, the Congolese prime minister, Patrice Lumumba, was shot and killed.

For more, we go to Adam Hochschild. He’s the author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and the forthcoming book To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion. He teaches at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, is co-founder of Mother Jones magazine, had an op-ed in the New York Times this week called “An Assassination’s Long Shadow.” Adam Hochschild is joining us from San Francisco.

Explain this “long shadow,” Adam.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, Amy, I think the assassination of Lumumba was something that was felt by many people to be a sort of pivotal turning point in the saga of Africa gaining its independence. In the 1950s, there were movements for independence all over Africa. There was a great deal of idealism in the air. There was a great deal of hope in the air, both among Africans and among their supporters in the United States and Europe, that at last these colonies would become independent. And I think people imagined real independence — that is, that these countries would be able to set off on their own and control their own destiny economically as well as politically. And the assassination of Lumumba really signaled that that was not to be, because, for Belgium, as for the other major European colonial powers, like Britain and France, giving independence to an African colony was OK for them as long as it didn’t disturb existing business arrangements. As long as the European country could continue to own the mines, the factories, the plantations, well, OK, let them have their politics.

But Lumumba spoke very loudly, very dramatically, saying Africa needs to be economically independent, as well. And it was a fiery speech on this subject that he gave at the actual independence ceremonies, June 30th, 1960, where he was replying to an extremely arrogant speech by King Baudouin of Belgium. It was a speech he gave on this subject that I think really began the process that ended two months later with the CIA, with White House approval, decreeing that he should be assassinated.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And, of course, for most Americans, who — we’re not, perhaps, as familiar with African colonialism, since that was basically a European project throughout the 19th century — the role of Belgium and the importance of the Congo as really the jewel of Africa in terms of its wealth and resources — how did the Congo suffer before Lumumba came to power?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, the story really begins, in the modern era, in 1885, when — or 1884 to ’85, when all the major countries of Europe led — preceded by the United States, actually; we were the very first — recognized the Congo not as a Belgian colony, but as the private, personally owned colony of King Leopold II of Belgium, a very greedy, ambitious man who wanted a colony of his own. At that point, Belgium was not sure that it wanted a colony. Leopold ruled this place for 23 years, made an enormous fortune, estimated at over a billion in today’s American dollars. Finally, in 1908, he was forced to give it up to become a Belgian colony, and then he died the following year. And the Belgians ran it for the next half-century, extracting an enormous amount of wealth, initially in ivory and rubber, then in diamonds, gold, copper, timber, palm oil, all sorts of other minerals. And as with almost all European colonies in Africa, this wealth flowed back to Europe. It benefited the Europeans much more than the Africans.

And the hope that many people had when independence came all over Africa, for the most part, you know, within a few years on either side of 1960, people had the hope that at last African countries would begin to control their own destiny and that they would be the ones who would reap the profits from the mines and the plantations and so on. Lumumba put that hope into words. And for that reason, he was immediately considered a very dangerous figure by the United States and Belgium. The CIA issued this assassination order with White House approval. And as was said at the beginning, they couldn’t get close enough to him to actually poison him, but they got money under the table to Congolese politicians who did see that he was assassinated, with Belgian help. It was a Belgian pilot who flew the plane to where he was killed, a Belgian officer who commanded the firing squad.

And then, the really disastrous thing that followed was this enthusiastic United States backing for the dictatorial regime of Mobutu, who seized total power a couple years later and ran a 32-year dictatorship, enriched himself by about $4 billion, and really ran his country into the ground, was greeted by every American president, with the sole exception of Jimmy Carter, who was in office during those 32 years. And he left the country a wreck, from which it has still not recovered.

AMY GOODMAN: Adam Hochschild, I want to play a clip of the former CIA agent John Stockwell talking about the CIA’s plans to assassinate the prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba.

JOHN STOCKWELL: The CIA had developed a program to assassinate Lumumba, under Devlin’s encouragement and management. The program they developed, the operation, didn’t work. They didn’t follow through on it. It was to give poison to Lumumba. And they couldn’t find a setting in which to get the poison to him successfully in a way that it wouldn’t appear to be a CIA operation. I mean, you couldn’t invite him to a cocktail party and give him a drink and have him die a short time later, obviously. And so, they gave up on it. They got cold feet. And instead, they handled it by the chief of station talking to Mobutu about the threat that Lumumba posed, and Mobutu going out and killing Lumumba, having his men kill Lumumba.

INTERVIEWER: What about the CIA’s relationship with Mobutu? Were they paying him money?

JOHN STOCKWELL: Yes, indeed. I was there in 1968 when the chief of station told the story about having been, the day before that day, having gone to make payment to Mobutu of cash — $25,000 — and Mobutu saying, “Keep the money. I don’t need it.” And by then, of course, Mobutu’s European bank account was so huge that $25,000 was nothing to him.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former CIA agent John Stockwell talking about the CIA’s plans to assassinate Lumumba. Juan?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Adam, I’d like to ask you — you were in the Congo shortly after Lumumba’s death. Could you talk about — we have about a minute — could you talk about your personal experiences there and what you saw?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Yes, I was there. I was just a college student at the time. And I wish I could say that I was smart and politically knowledgeable enough to realize the full significance of everything I was seeing. I was not, and it was really only in later years that I began to understand it. But what I do remember — and this was, as I say, six months or so after he was killed — was the sort of ominous atmosphere in Leopoldville, as the capital was called then, these jeeps full of soldiers who were patrolling the streets, the way the streets quickly emptied at dusk, and then two very, very arrogant guys at the American embassy who were proudly talking over drinks one evening about how this person, Lumumba, had been killed, whom they regarded, you know, not as a democratically elected African leader, but as an enemy of the United States. And so, of course, I, as a fellow American, they expected to be happy that he had been done away with. There was something quite chilling about that, and it stuck with me. But I think it’s only in much later years that I fully realized the significance.

AMY GOODMAN: Adam Hochschild, I want to thank you very much for being with us, author of several books, including King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed.

Friday, January 21, 2011

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Quiet Sinners: Empire of Secrets: British Intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire by Calder Walton

It’s pretty obvious why British governments have been anxious to keep the history of their secret service secret for so long. In the case of decolonisation, which is the subject of Calder Walton’s book, revelations about dirty tricks even after fifty years might do irreparable damage to the myth carefully cultivated at the time: which was that for Britain, unlike France, say, or the Netherlands, or Belgium, the process was smooth and friendly. Britain, so the story went, was freely granting self-government to its colonies as the culmination of imperial rule, which had always had this as its ultimate aim – ‘Empire into Commonwealth’, as the history books used to put it. If for no other reason, the myth was needed in order to make ordinary Britons feel better.

Letters

Vol. 35 No. 7 · 11 April 2013

From David Lea

Referring to the controversy surrounding the death of Patrice Lumumba in1960, Bernard Porter quotes Calder Walton’s conclusion: ‘The question remains whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba … ever amounted to anything. At present, we do not know’ (LRB, 21 March). Actually, in this particular case, I can report that we do. It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park – we were colleagues from opposite sides of the Lords – a few months before she died in March 2010. She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it.’

We went on to discuss her contention that Lumumba would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value Katangese uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals largely located in the secessionist eastern state of Katanga. Against that, I put the point that I didn’t see how suspicion of Western involvement and of our motivation for Balkanising their country would be a happy augury for the new republic’s peaceful development.

David Lea
London SW1

Bernard Porter
Harper, 411 pp, £25.00, February, ISBN 978 0 00 745796 0
[*] Cambridge, 449 pp., £25, December 2012, 978 1 107 00099 5.

Find this story at 21 March 2013