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Postindependence Turmoil, Secession of Katanga

Antoine Gizenga, Moise Tshombe, Kasavubu, Tshombe, Leopoldville

The political scene in the Congo was further complicated in July when Moise Tshombe, the Belgian-supported premier of mineral-rich Katanga Province, proclaimed Katanga to be an independent country. In response to an appeal from Prime Minister Lumumba, the United Nations (UN) Security Council demanded that Belgian forces withdraw, and it authorized Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold to send a peacekeeping force to the Congo to restore order. The UN force, comprising units from African countries, Sweden, and Ireland, gradually began to replace Belgian troops. When the Security Council ruled that no UN forces should be used to affect the outcome of any internal conflict in the province, Tshombe permitted UN troops to enter Katanga. Disappointed by the UNís refusal to use force to put down the secession, Lumumba then requested military assistance from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This caused Western nations to view Lumumba as a Communist sympathizer, and opposition to his rule increased both inside and outside the Congo.

In early September, President Kasavubu, with Western support, turned against Lumumba and dismissed him, replacing him with Joseph Ileo (later called Sombo Amba Ileo). Lumumba rejected the legality of the dismissal and in turn dismissed Kasavubu. The Congolese government was deadlocked. On September 13 the UN forces gave up control of the airports and radio station to Lumumba. However, the next day the Congolese armyóled by army chief of staff Colonel Joseph Desiree Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko), seized control of the government. While maintaining Kasavubu as president, Mobutu transferred executive and administrative authority to a caretaker government, the College of High Commissioners. Lumumba was placed under house arrest.

In December 1960 Antoine Gizenga, former deputy prime minister in Lumumbaís government, proclaimed himself prime minister and designated Stanleyville (now Kisangani) as the capital of the Congo. Over the next months his government was recognized by most Communist and Arab nations and by Ghana, and the USSR began sending arms and advisers. In January 1961 pro-Lumumba soldiers invaded northern Katanga, and the UN sent troops there to prevent civil war. Meanwhile, Lumumba was captured while escaping his UN-guarded villa in Leopoldville to join his supporters in Stanleyville. On Mobutuís orders, he was flown to Katanga, where troops loyal to Tshombe murdered him on arrival on January 17, 1961. Lumumba subsequently became a national hero and an inspiration for African nationalists and leftists. In February 1961, with Mobutuís assent, Kasavubu replaced Mobutuís caretaker government with a new provisional government headed by Ileo as prime minister.

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