Did MI6, not CIA, kill Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba?

Patrice LumumbaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The 1961 abduction and murder of iconic Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was organized by British, not American, intelligence, according to a claim made this week by a British Labour politician and Life peer. Lord Lea of Crondall said in a letter published in the current edition of The London Review of Books that he was told so by Baroness Park of Monmouth, who at the time headed the Leopoldville station of MI6, Britain’s primary external intelligence service. Lumumba was a pan-Africanist activist who in 1958 helped found the Mouvement National Congolais, later becoming the organization’s leader. In 1960, he became Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. However, his government soon became embroiled in the Cold-War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many believe that Washington, fearing that Lumumba would attach uranium-rich Congo to the Soviet sphere of influence, tasked the Central Intelligence Agency with organize a coup d’état against him. It was carried out by Congolese Colonel Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko, who then ruled Congo with an iron fist until his death in 1997. In January 1961, pro-Mobutu soldiers, assisted by Belgian troops, abducted Lumumba and executed him following several days of beatings and torture. But according to Lord Lea, Baroness Park told him shortly before she died, in 2010, that she had orchestrated Lumumba’s killing on behalf of MI6. Known as Daphne Park until she entered the peerage, Park was often referred to as “the queen of spies” due to her four decades in the service of MI6. As one of the top female British intelligence officers, Park served as Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow between 1954 and 1956, before being transferred to Congo in 1959. While there, she served as Consul and First Secretary at the British embassy in Leopoldville —renamed Kinshasa following Congo’s independence. According to Lord Lea, Park confided to him that, as chief of the MI6 station in Leopoldville, she arranged Lumumba’s execution because of fears that the Congolese leader “would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value […] uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals”. It is worth noting that some historians have expressed skepticism over Lea’s claim, and one unnamed “senior British intelligence official”, who knew Park, told The London Times that the allegation “doesn’t sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make [because] she was never indiscreet”. He added that “MI6 never had a license to kill” in a manner as that which was employed in Lumumba’s assassination.

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10 Responses to Did MI6, not CIA, kill Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba?

  1. The timing is crucial here — the effect of this “news” could have been intended rattle the trans-Atlanticist sentiment b/w the British Commonwealth and the United States (by implying that the Brits conducted the assassination and then put the blame on the Yanks and the Dutch to cover its role); If this is a strategic information/disinformation campaign against the West, it could not come at a better time. Also, I could think of a couple of countries with the motives to plant such a story as this…

    Regards,

    M.

  2. walter james(mac) mcintosh says:

    I recall that in the late 1990’s the Belgium government fronted up to this assassination . while it is true that President Eisenhower did order that CIA assassinate Lumumba , a very complete investigation concluded that CIA were not the ones that killed him . Since the Belgium’s have admitted to this assassination it is hard to figure where this story is coming from or why .

  3. Joseph C. Goulden says:

    I commend to readers’ attention the recent book, “Chief of Station Congo,” by Larry Devlin, who was the Agency’s first CoS in the country. Larry relates that an emissary did arrive from Washington bearing a poison and instructions to dispose of Lumumba. Larry wrote (and he also told me in an interview) that he did not join CIA to become an assassin, so he put the poison in his office safe and let the matter ride. (His strong Catholocism was also a factor.) Superiors did not press the issue. Lumumba ultimately died at the hands of others. This episode was well-hashed by the Church Committee.
    Joe Goulden
    Washington, DC

  4. Paddy Hayes says:

    As it happens I too had afternoon tea in the Lords with the late Daphne Park. We did touch on the issue of Lumumba and his death. She would only say that he was both “an able and a dangerous man”, a risky combination in those times. As one of your previous correspondents says the issue was referred to by Devlin in his book but there were gaps in his account, he remained a loyal servant to the end. My best take on the issue was that the Belgian government (as admitted) were the main instigators with the Agency being, if not complicit then certainly well briefed. An official station telegram was declassified which gave details of the date for Lumumba’s breakout from custody. So Devlin knew. That means Park knew too. I think her famous trip to Stanleyville on “routine consular business” was undertaken so that she would be in that city in the event that Lumumba made it across the river to freedom after the breakout. Devlin stayed in Leopoldville in order to keep on top of developments in the search. So no, the CIA and SIS didn’t pull the trigger, maybe they didn’t even hold the gun but they sure were awful close….

  5. alohamac says:

    My dear friend David Doyle was Chief of Base Katanga Province during the period . He was quite relieved when the Belgium government finally fronted up to the assassination of Lumumba for he was thought falsely by many to be complicit in this political assassination which he assured me he was not . As for Syd Gottlieb rushing down there with poisoned toothpaste; Syd was always trying to prove that the Technical Services Division was prepared to support clandestine service operation no matter how off the wall. Larry Devlin spoke for many when he said he did not become an intelligence officer to take on the role of assassin .

  6. Harry Mahan says:

    Damn, I really thought We did it…smoke & mirrors, allways smoke & mirrors…hate to sxee them get the credit though, I used to know a few of them…

  7. Pete says:

    Yes I took tea with many of the chaps – not at Lords but the Gods ;-)

  8. I expect it was a joint effort, with people across agencies stumbling over each other to open the doors to executing Lumumba. Insofar as any British desire to wash its hand of the affair, I have to (cynically) laugh at the very idea. MI6 had roasted a quite bigger chicken in closely related assassination:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/17/dag-hammarskjold-un-secretary-general-crash/print

    And inasmuch as pinning these events on cold war politics, todays reality points to another culprit; the corporate bottom line ($) that has ridden the coattails of colonialism and subsequent corporate neo-colonialism:

  9. AlbertE. says:

    Patrice was bayoneted to death by his own people. The folks in the Congo have been doing that long before the colonialists arrived and have been doing it for a long time after the colonialists have left. That is how they do things there. So simple.

  10. woodman19 says:

    So Albert E. thinks the stuff about Belgian officers in Katanga killing Lumumba was just made up and the Belgian government apologised for no good reason? Guess it’s so much easier to live in his fantasy land, and say “he was bayoneted… by his own people…that is how they do things”. But I thought this discussion was supposed to keep out bigoted comments?

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