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Fiasco and Fallout: The UN, USSR, and CIA (3/4)

Sam Leslie

Although the UN resolution of July 14, 1960, aided in jumpstarting the process of removing Belgian troop deployment, it did little to directly answer the colonialist regime in Katanga, revealing to Lumumba the UN’s hazardous neutralist strategy.

Lumumba, seeking decisive mutual intervention, grew increasingly frustrated by the UN policy towards Katanga, as the Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold deemed Katanga an internal conflict. Hence, the UN’s policy was troublesome for the Congolese government. Furthermore, the UN garnered large amounts of diplomatic sway and interventionist ability in various international conflicts and could, therefore, mold the future of the Congo. Historically, Hammarskjold placed himself in the middle of the two oppositional forces in a crisis usually involving the Cold War, resulting in various controversial outcomes. However, in the context of Congo, this loyalty to neutralism placed the UN between colonialism and anti-colonialism, a questionable and compromising line to hold. For the US, this vague midline was a guiding policy. The US approached African liberation along a thin line of supporting NATO colonial allies while voicing views of tolerance for African liberation as explained in a US press release: “[the] Road to survival is one of: well-balanced economic and political developments with emphasis on the rights and privileges due to the dignity of man.” Dwight Eisenhower’s administration was unusually ignorant of African liberation as his priorities were mainly invested in upholding NATO, a military coalition opposed to the USSR. Furthermore, in December 1960, the UN held a vote to condemn colonialism and the US abstained, exposing the US's dubious beliefs concerning colonialism. Thus, the Soviet Union, the opposing faction of the Cold War, resisted Eisenhower’s tolerance of colonialism by pushing the international discourse towards anti-colonial objectives. In a written press release to Congolese leaders on July 16, 1960, the Prime Minister of the USSR, Nikita Khrushchev, wrote: “Your struggle is the struggle of hundreds of millions of people…which form the links of the same chain of imperialist post-war policy aimed at preventing the enslaved peoples from gaining independence, acquiring national freedom, building a new life and gaining the natural wealth of their countries and all the great achievements of contemporary science, technology, and agriculture.” Khrushchev’s press release procured the companionship of Lumumba due to his declarative beliefs opposing a common enemy, colonialism. Within this speech, he mentioned aid to Congo through “resolute measures”, which further convinced Lumumba of the USSR’s potential efficacy. After a UN resolution on July 22nd only restated the previous resolution, Lumumba accepted Soviet military assistance on July 31, 1960.

Although the USSR's mutual intervention policy aligned with Lumumba’s anti-colonialist platform, it ultimately instigated the US into pursuing self-interested tactics, jumpstarting the US’ reliance on covert, uncompromising action that decided the future of Congo. The US was largely unfavorable to the UN declaration that “Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence.” Leadership in the US believed Congo's leadership, and its basis for rebellious conception proved that it required more development to succeed as an autonomous nation. The USSR approached Congolese development through a contrasting perspective, one of mutually beneficial trade and economic assistance which could exponentially increase Congolese development beginning at its independence. Therefore, it seemed logical that Lumumba would be more favorable toward the USSR’s pathway for African development and liberation. Even before the USSR's intervention the US quickly assumed that Lumumba had succumbed to Communist authority. Despite this belief, Lumumba was not a Communist rather, he popularized himself with the USSR due to resolute stances on African self-reliance and anti-imperialism. Given this, the Krushchev administration believed that Lumumba would lead Congo toward a post-colonialist world; this achievement would directly boost USSR ideological influence worldwide. Therefore, the US classified Soviet aid as a Cold War threat. Upon Lumumba’s agreement to mutual aid, the US gave up on diplomatic efforts as the UN’s commitment to neutrality backfired, instead transitioning towards discrete CIA activity to effectively garner influence in Congo. During a closed security meeting with CIA officials and the administration on August 1, 1960, President Dwight Eisenhower asked for the removal of Lumumba through “any means possible.” This call to action, along with an expenditure of 90-150 million to use in Congo, gave wider authority to the CIA, and it began funding unorganized anti-Lumumba protests, labor movements, and anti-Communist propaganda to create momentum for a change of leadership. A telegram from the CIA’s Congo station said, “Also will stress Lumumba and company well organized, opposition disorganized, Station faced with problem finding, developing and recruiting…and political action assets, few if any of opposition appear to understand parliamentary methods needed change govt.” The CIA’s intentions in Congo contrasted with previous US rhetoric of development as the new goal was to promote inability and instability, thereby stalling development. Previously installed US CIA stations and information centers further fueled this covert action in Congo. The CIA plotted an unseating of Lumumba using Mobutu Seko, a pro-west Congolese military figure, who emerged as a candidate for leadership in Congo after two meetings with the CIA. Mobutu plotted a march on Leopoldville with Congolese troops to oust Lumumba from parliament. The CIA subsidized this agreeable plan and on September 14, 1960, Mobutu Seko dismissed Lumumba, the symbol of Congolese unity, from Congolese parliament.


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20 Helmreich, "U.S. Foreign."


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