Lumumba and other leaders that couldn’t be

“The new Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, whom U.S. officials already believed was a dangerous, pro-Communist radical, turned to the Soviet Union for political support and military assistance, confirming the worst fears of U.S. policymakers. In August 1960, the U.S. Government launched a covert political program in the Congo lasting almost 7 years, initially aimed at eliminating Lumumba from power and replacing him with a more moderate, pro-Western leader”

Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964–1968, VOLUME XXIII, CONGO, 1960–1968, Editorial note 2

This quote belongs to an official document released by the US Department of State, which recognizes that the US government launched an operation to replace Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected president of Congo, just because he had different ideas and was not supportive of the West. There are two ideas that I extract from this document: First, this is the proof that the United States has run operations to replace leaders ― sometimes through assassination ― just because they defended different ideas. Patrice Lumumba in Congo and Mohammad Mosaddegh in Iran are just two examples. But what is shocking is to see that these operations were done at the same time that ideas of freedom were preached. The Cold War is gone, but still the US has intervened in some countries, such as Irak, claiming that their purpose was to free their population. I’m not saying that this is exactly the case of Congo, but I think that in the light of these operations that occurred in the past, maybe we should think again what is the real objective of the interventions that occur in the present. What are the real causes why United States and other nations want to intervene in certain countries? And more importantly, why these and not others?

The second one, and maybe more interesting, is that these documents help explain part of the current situation of Africa today. Lumumba was in office for 60 days. What would have happened if that period was longer? What would have happened if the United Nations had sent more help to control the unstable situation and prevented the coup? What would have happened if Belgium and the US were not supporting the rebels that performed this coup? The answers to these questions are not certain, but the fact is that a democratically elected leader was killed and substituted by a military that imposed an authoritarian regime with the support of western powers.  Many experts agree that many African countries haven’t escaped poverty because of corruption, mistaken policies and a great number of civil wars. However, we should think again who should be blamed for them. Maybe the characteristics of this continent make development more difficult, but it is also true that the role of other nations has been underestimated. These nations, in my opinion, have acted like the bully that keeps the other kid’s head under water, preventing him to breath. The one struggling could be stronger, fight back and get out of the water but, who is to blame for the kid not breathing? The one who is pushing down, or the one who cannot escape?

But Congo is not the only country in which we will always wonder what would have happened if there hadn’t been a coup supported by western powers. The case of Allende in Chile, the whole Condor Operation or even the Cuban blockage are examples of projects that were dismantled because it was not in the interest of other nations.

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