Lumumba, Patrice(b. 1925, Onalua, Belgian Congo; d. January 17, 1961, Katanga province, Republic of the Congo), Congolese independence leader and first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
A charismatic and energetic statesman, Patrice Lumumba became politically active as a young postal worker when he organized the Stanleyville (now Kisangani) postal worker's union. In October 1958 he became involved with national politics, founding the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), Congo's first national political party. In December, Lumumba took a MNC delegation to the All-African People's Conference inGhana where he met with Pan-Africanists and African nationalists and became friends with Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's first African prime minister. Influenced by the spirit of nationalism and anticolonialism that pervaded the conference, Lumumba returned to the Republic of the Congo a militant, ready to demand independence.
Lumumba made the first public appeal for independence in January 1959. On October 31 he was arrested and held responsible for riots that broke out after a meeting of the MNC. From jail he and his nationalist supporters organized a boycott of the December local elections. Although the Belgian government had proposed a five-year decolonization plan, Lumumba and the MNC wanted immediate independence and believed a five-year plan would give Belgium the opportunity to install a puppet regime. In fact, Lumumba was released from jail in time to participate in the Round Table Conference in Brussels, where the Belgians ultimately agreed to grant independence within six months.
In May 1960 the Belgians selected Lumumba to be prime minister underJoseph Kasavubu, who was to be president. From the beginning, relations were strained between Lumumba, who wanted a strong centralized state free of outside interference and hoped to make the Republic of the Congo the leader of a Pan-African Union of African States, and Kasavubu, a federalist who took a more moderate stance and wanted to maintain close connections with Belgium and the West. This tension was evident from the nature of their June 30 independence ceremony speeches; Kasavubu thanked King Boudouin I for independence, and Lumumba reminded the king of the atrocities of Belgian colonialism.
Shortly after independence, the government faced widespread military revolt and the Katanga province, supported by Belgian troops and Western businesses, seceded. Belgium immediately sent in military troops to restore order; Lumumba, fearing a reinstatement ofcolonial rule, quickly broke diplomatic relations with Belgium. He appealed to the UN for military intervention, which arrived on July 14, 1960. Lumumba, however, soon lost faith in the UN mission, which he suspected was interested in protecting Belgian and other western business interests, and turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. This action caused a complete split with Kasavubu, who dismissed Lumumba in September 1960.
Lumumba contested his removal until Kasavubu was also pushed out of office, in a military coup led by Col. Joseph Mobutu (laterMobutu Sese Sekou) who, ironically, Lumumba himself had named army chief of staff. Mobutu ordered the arrest of Lumumba. Although Lumumba, using UN protection, avoided arrest for several months, he was finally caught in January 1961 and murdered in Katanga. Although it is uncertain who killed Lumumba, there is evidence that Mobutu, working in affiliation with the CIA and Moise Tshombe, the leader of the Katanga secession, may have been responsible. To this day Lumumba remains one of the country's national heroes.