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Congo - 1960-1965

The Congo episode, from 1960 through 1965 or so, CIA became involved in the political struggle in the Congo. From decolonization, the Agency's activities included efforts to get rid of Patrice Lumumba, the Simba uprising, the capture of hostages in two Congolese cities, the mounting of a major paramilitary effort to rescue them that included CIA officers, and then after a civil war, the establishment of a pliant dictator - an archetype of the sort of leader used many time elsewhere in the world. The agency paid cash to selected Congolese politicians and gave arms to the supporters of Joseph Mobutu and Cyril Adoula. Eventually the CIA sent mercenaries and paramilitary experts to aid the new government. Members of the Central Intelligence Agency's "Project Wizard" covert action program dominated the post-Lumumba Congolese regime. In 1964 CIA B-26 airplanes were being flown in the Congo on a regular basis by Cuban-exile pilots who were under CIA contract. These pilots and planes carried out bombing missions against areas held by rebel forces.

The post-independence collapse of authority in the Belgian Congo, in July I960, made it necessary for the Joint Chiefs of Staff to extend the scope of their active interest in the region. Until then their interests and activities had been confined to participating in the review of policy proposals. The mid-summer crisis gave them, however, the additional responsibility of actively directing a large-scale logistical effort in support of a major military operation by the United Nations.

Early in 1960, the gradual transfer of sovereign rights planned for the Congo by the Belgian Government had been impatiently swept aside by the African leaders. At the round-table conference in Brussels in January and February 1960, the Congolese delegates had presented a common front in their desire for immediate independence, no matter how divided they were on other issues. Accepting the inevitable, the Belgian Government had agreed in the course of the conference to grant the Congo its independence on 30 June and to hold a Congo-wide Parliamentary election at the end of May 1960.

Squalls appeared on the political horizon almost at once. Of the seven major "parties" in the Congo, none gained enoughseats in the election to assure it of even 30 percent of the votes in the Chamber of Representatives. Patrice Lumumba, whose the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais-- MNC) party won some 33 of the 137 seats, emerged as leader of the largest single bloc. The Abaleo, under Joseph Kasavubu, the Conatcat party of Katanga, led by Moise Tshombe, and a dissident wing of the MNC led by Albert Kalondji in Kasai Province, together garnered about 27 votes, but were allied chiefly by their growing opposition to a tightly centralized, unitary type of government.

On the basis of the MNC Party's weak victory in the May elections, the Belgian Resident Minister authorized Mr. Lumumba to seek out the possibilities of forminga government. Nearly two weeks of political bickering and maneuvering followed. Unable to persuade Mr. Kasavubu and his followers to participate in Lumumba's efforts to form a government, the Resident Minister withdrew his authorization and offered it to Kasavubu. Now it was Lumumba's turn to react. Bitterly assailing the Belgian Minister, Mr. Lumumba immediately declared that he and his followers would not cooperate in any arrangement with Mr. Kasavubu.

The crisis that suddenly burst upon the Republic of the Congo, as the new nation was called, in the wake of independence, on June 30, 1960, has several dimensions: the mutiny of the Force Publique on July 5; the secession of the country's richest region, Katanga, on July 11, soon followed by a similar move in southeastern Kasai Province (now Kasai-Oriental Region), which declared itself the Independent Mining State of South Kasai on August 8; and the role of the United Nations, first as a peacekeeping force and ultimately as the chosen instrument for bringing Katanga back into the fold of the central government. The crisis was further compounded by the trial of strength at the center between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba, culminating in Lumumba's assassination at the hands of the Katangan secessionists in January 1961.

Lumumba's greatest affront was his decision to accept substantial Soviet aid in order to attack the secessionist areas. This move brought to a climax the issue of communist influence, which had been a source of growing concern to the West and to more moderate Africans alike. By mid-September the Congo again appeared to be heading towards utter anarchy. As a result, on September 5 President Kasavubu announced the dismissal of Lumumba, Vice Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga, Minister of Information Anicet Kashamura, and several others from the government. At the same time, Kasavubu also appointed Mobutu as head of the ANC. Joseph Ileo was chosen as the new prime minister and began trying to form a new government. With the arrest, release and re-arrest of Lumumba and the emergence of Kasavubu's Army chief into a dominant role, chaos gave way to confusion, calm and crisis in rapid succession.

Supported by Belgium, Tshombe had recruited white mercenaries to build an independent army, the Katanganese gendarmerie. In the Katangan struggle, Tshombe's name became directly associated with the deaths of Patrice Lumumba and Dag Hammarskjöld.

In 1960, after President Eisenhower expressed concern about Patrice Lumumba's Congolese government, CIA conducted planning and discussions with opposition figures over possible removal. The week after the 18 August 1960 NSC meeting, a presidential advisor reminded the Special Group of the "necessity for very straightforward action" against Lumumba and prompted a decision not to rule out consideration of "any particular kind of activity that might contribute to getting rid of Lumumba." The following day, director of Central Intelligence Dulles cabled Leopoldville, Republic of the Congo, that "in high quarters" the "removal" of Lumumba was "an urgent and prime objective." Shortly thereafter the CIA's clandestine service formulated a plot to assassinate Lumumba. The plot proceeded to the point that the CIA delivered lethal substances and instruments specifically intended for use in an assassination to the Congo Station. There is no evidence that these instruments of assassination were actually used against Lumumba.

Lumumba, dismissed by the president in September 1960, later fled toward the northeastern Congo, but was captured en route and subsequently killed by Katangans. Lumumba and two colleagues were, in the contemporary idiom, "rendered" to their Belgian-backed secessionist enemies. On Jan. 17, Lumumba was sent to the Katanga region. Lumumba and two colleagues were tortured and executed in the presence of members of the Katangan government. No official announcement was made for four weeks.

Lumumba was brutally murdered, without a doubt at the instruction of the CIA. The United States and Western Europe, fearing that the former Belgian colony would turn to the Soviets following independence, were complicit in plotting Lumumba's assassination. The 1975 US Senate "Church" Committee investigation of alleged CIA assassinations concluded that while the CIA had earlier plotted to murder Lumumba, he was eventually killed "by Congolese rivals. It does not appear from the evidence that the US was in any way involved in the killing." But in fact, CIA Station Chief Larry Devlin was consulted by his Congolese government "cooperators" about the transfer of Lumumba to sworn enemies, had no objection to it and withheld knowledge from Washington of the impending move, forestalling the strong possibility that the State Department would have intervened to try to save Lumumba.

The February 1961 announcement of his death sparked an uprising in the northeast Congo and particularly in the Stanleyville (now Kisangani) area. Lumumba, the Congo's first prime minister, had captured the hearts of pan-Africanists. His execution had made him into a cult figure within the Congo. Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the UN prior to his fatal plane crash on 18 September 1961, had restrained the UN force in the Congo from militarily crushing Tshombe. The deaths of Lumumba and Hammarskjold had turned the UN's peacekeeping mission into open war with Tshombe.

The wave of Lumumbist "second independence" rebellions that swept the country in 1963-65 seemed to offer an opportunity for an expanded Soviet role. In January 1964, as Chinese-trained Lumumbist Pierre Mulele began his insurgency in Kwilu, all personnel of the Soviet embassy were expelled from Zaire, on the grounds of complicity (probably fictitious) with the rebellion. In fact, Soviet support for the insurgents was largely rhetorical.

Support for the Congo continued unabated during the Johnson administration. U.S. military assistance increased dramatically in response to the fall of Stanleyville (Kisangani) to rebel forces on August 4, 1964. In early August 1964, several thousand Simba rebels under the command of Nicholas Olenga stormed the defenses of Stanleyville, a city of 300,000 deep in the heart of the newly independent Republic of the Congo. The victorious rebels promptly took more than 1,600 European residents hostage and announced that any attempt by the Congolese government to recapture the city would precipitate the killing of the Europeans. So began the drama that culminated in the first-and in many ways, the most complex-multinational hostage rescue operation of the cold war.

Planes provided by the Department of Defense, flown by pilots supplied by the Central Intelligence Agency, augmented the CNA’s efforts against an increasingly robust rebel insurgency, which received support from neighboring African nations, the Soviet bloc and Chinese Communists. The United States also made diplomatic approaches to the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to secure support for the Republic of the Congo. By late October, the situation in Stanleyville was dire. On October 28, the rebel Army commander placed all Westerners in the area (including a number of Americans) under house arrest. Smaller but significant numbers of hostages were seized in other cities under rebel control.

One hundred and eleven days after Olenga's capture of Stanleyville, in the dawn hours of 24 November 1964 following a strike by CIA-piloted B-26s against Stanleyville Airport, 5 U.S. Air Force C­130s bearing 340 troops of the 1st Battalion, Belgian Paracommando Regiment, staged a combat assault to seize the airport. The airborne assault was planned to coincide with the arrival in Stanleyville of a ground force composed of Belgian and U.S. Army officers, a small CIA element, and a contingent of the Congolese Army. Once Stanleyville was secured, the Belgian paras staged another combat assault on Paulis, several hundred miles away, to rescue still more European hostages.

The Soviet Union eventually began to supply significant aid to the secessionists, overland from Sudan. But after several truckloads of arms had been stolen by rebels in southern Sudan and turned against the Sudanese government, Khartoum cut off the route to Zaire. During 1965 most communist aid to the rebellions came from China and Cuba (uncoordinated with the Soviet Union).

The joint U.S.-Belgian effort to rescue the hostages in late November, Operation Dragon Rouge, succeeded but severely damaged Prime Minister Tshombe, who was viewed as ineffectual by both Kasavubu and Mobutu. He was dismissed in October 1965 and once again, the nation teetered on the brink of civil war. Mobutu orchestrated another coup d’état on November 25, 1965, removed both the President and Prime Minister, and took control of the government. The Soviet Union initially reacted very negatively to Mobutu's 1965 coup, denouncing the "American grip on the country."

The Peoples' Friendship University was founded February 5, 1960 by the Soviet government. A year later, it was given the name of Patrice Lumumba. The university was created at a time when the Soviet Union and the West fiercely fought for influence in dozens of Asian and African states freshly liberated from colonial rule and Latin American countries which were looking for their political identity. It was intended as a place where new political elites from Asian, African and Latin American countries could receive free education and be politically indoctrinated to maintain close ties with the Kremlin in the future. During its first 50 years, the university prepared over 70,000 specialists in various sectors, many of whom became senior members of government, political and business leaders in their countries. On February 5, 1992, the university was renamed the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia (RUDN). The collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991 removed the ideological mission of the university, but it remained a highly valued educational institution with a solid international reputation. According to independent ratings agency ReitOR, the university ranks fourth among Russian universities after Moscow State University, St. Petersburg State University and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

In March 2002 Belgium issued an official apology for the murder of Patrice Lumumba.

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Page last modified: 13-11-2018 16:55:22 ZULU