Death in the Congo is a gripping account of a murder that became one of the defining events in postcolonial African history. It is no less the story of the untimely death of a national dream, a hope-filled vision very different from what the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo became in the second half of the twentieth century.Read more...
Death in the Congo is a gripping account of a murder that became one of the defining events in postcolonial African history. It is no less the story of the untimely death of a national dream, a hope-filled vision very different from what the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of the Congo became in the second half of the twentieth century.
When Belgium relinquished colonial control in June 1960, a charismatic thirty-five-year-old African nationalist, Patrice Lumumba, became prime minister of the new republic. Yet stability immediately broke down. A mutinous Congolese Army spread havoc, while Katanga Province in southeast Congo seceded altogether. Belgium dispatched its military to protect its citizens, and the United Nations soon intervened with its own peacekeeping troops. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, both the Soviet Union and the United States maneuvered to turn the crisis to their Cold War advantage. A coup in September, secretly aided by the UN, toppled Lumumba's government. In January 1961, armed men drove Lumumba to a secluded corner of the Katanga bush, stood him up beside a hastily dug grave, and shot him. His rule as Africa's first democratically elected leader had lasted ten weeks.
More than fifty years later, the murky circumstances and tragic symbolism of Lumumba's assassination still trouble many people around the world. Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick pursue events through a web of international politics, revealing a tangled history in which many people--black and white, well-meaning and ruthless, African, European, and American--bear responsibility for this crime.
- ISBN-13: 9780674725270
- ISBN-10: 0674725271
- Publisher: Harvard University Press
- Publish Date: February 2015
- Page Count: 296
- Dimensions: 10.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-02-16
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1960, when Belgium grudgingly ceded power, Lumumba became prime minister of the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville) and the first democratically-elected head of the former Belgian colony. But historians Gerard, of the University of Leuven, and Kuklick, of the University of Pennsylvania, reveal how the geopolitical neophyte was unequipped to deal with his compatriots or the ex-colonial overloads who actively sought ways to undermine him and regain control. As the country quickly descended into chaos, his regime was further undercut by rivals bent on secession and ethnic tensions among the various politicians jockeying for power. Lumumba and his allies turned to the United Nations for help restoring stability, unaware that the U.S. effectively controlled the organization. Although Lumumba was more a nationalist than a communist, the Americans feared he would steer the Congo—and the rest of the continent—into Soviet Union's orbit. The CIA moved to discredit and captured the Congolese leader before carrying out one of the most chilling and successful assassinations of the Cold War. Though marred by stilted prose, the authors provide wealth of detail in this worthy primer to the events that plunged the nation into decades of dictatorship under Joseph Mobuto (Mobutu Sese Seko). (Feb.)