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A reminder - how the trouble in the Congo began

Part One
Broadcast on the Congo Situation
By Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, then President of the Republic of Ghana, December 15, 1960

To read Part Two
To read Part Three
To read Part Four

The situation existing in our sister nation, the Congo, has now become so critical that I consider it my duty to speak to you tonight to remind you of the facts which led up to this crisis, to warn you of the dangers that today face not only the Congo, but Africa and, indeed, the whole world, and to suggest to you the only possible measures that I believe can be taken to avoid these dangers.

As we all know, independence was formally handed over by the Belgians on the 1st of July this year to the legally constituted government of the Republic of the Congo with Kasavubu as its President and Mr. Patrice Lumumba as its Prime Minister, duly elected by the Congolese people.

On 13 July, barely twelve days later, mutiny broke out within the Congolese army, acts of violence spread throughout the country and the machinery of government was brought to a stand-still. Then Mr. Lumumba, on behalf of the government, appealed to Ghana and to other Independent African States for military assistance to help restore law and order. An appeal was at the same time made to the United Nations.

In response to this appeal, a Ghana military contingent was flown to Leopoldville (the capital, now Kinshasa) forthwith, followed shortly afterwards by units of the Tunisian army. The United Nations Military Command was established some days later, and took over control of military operations.

Within a few weeks of our arrival in the Congo, it became apparent that the Belgians were infiltrating back into the country and were re-arming the Congolese troops for an attack upon the government, and every effort was being made by them to paralyze the United Nations Command.

I personally warned the Secretary-General of the United Nations about this and pointed out to him that the only possibility of getting the country back to normal hinged on the re-training and re-disciplining of the Force Publique (the Congolese army), a force of some 25,000 men stationed in various parts of the Congo.

After my Chief of Defense Staff had made an on-the-spot study of the situation, I further requested the Secretary-General to consider urgent measures for re-organizing the United Nations Command in the Congo so that it might become more effective in its all-important role, and stated that if the Ghanaian troops in Leopoldville could count on the full support from the United Nations, I was certain that they could bring the Force Publique in Leopoldville under effective control in one week.

Nothing was done. Instead the Force Publique was allowed a free rein to run riot, to be financed and maintained by those with vested interests and by colonialist and imperialist powers, to prevent the due process of parliamentary democracy and, finally, to arrest the head and other members of the legitimate Central Government and Parliament of the Congo.

Proposals were then made to transfer the Ghanaian troops from Leopoldville to other parts of the Congo. I made it clear that I did not consider this a wise a move at all, since Leopoldville is the capital of the country and I considered that if law and order were firmly established there, it would serve as an example for the rest of the Congo.

Regardless of my advice once more, the move was carried out. A few days later, Mobutu and his armed band, morally and physically supported and directed by the Belgians, challenged the authority of the United Nations Forces in Leopoldville, attacked our Embassy in Leopoldville ( against all diplomatic practice), waged verbal war against Ghana and other independent African States who had come to the aid of the legitimate government of the Congo, put the legally elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba under house arrest, and finally ran him to earth, arrested him like a criminal, publicly humiliated him, locked him up and severely manhandled and maltreated him.

Reiterating Ghana's position in the Congo situation, I have now requested the Secretary-general to consolidate and re-in-force the power and authority of the United Nations in accordance with the Security Council Resolutions on the Congo, and suggested to him that to do this effectively, the legal Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, must be immediately and unconditionally released from prison, all Belgians who have infiltrated back into the Congo to sabotage the independence of that country must be sacked forthwith and all colonialists who are seeking to control and dominate the Congo must be eliminated. Unless these conditions are fulfilled and the normal processes of parliamentary democracy thereby restored, the tragic mess which will result in the Congo will be the inescapable responsibility of the United Nations Organization. If they fail in their mission there, who will feel able to place their faith and confidence in the United Nations in the future?

In short, there must be immediate United Nations intervention in the Congo to forcibly restore law and order.

Part Two

Related article: Review of Raoul Peck's film "Lumumba"




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