Lumumba, Patrice Emergy

Lumumba, Patrice Emergy pətrēsˈ ĕmârzhēˈ lo͞omo͞omˈbä [key], 1925–61, prime minister (1960) of the Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). A member of the Batatele tribe, he was educated in mission schools and later worked as a postal clerk. He became a member of the permanent committee of the All-African Peoples Conference (founded in Accra, 1958) and president of the Congolese National Movement, an influential political party. After the uprising (Jan., 1959) in the Congo, he fled the country to escape arrest but soon returned. Late in 1959, accused of instigating public violence, he was jailed by the Belgians but was released (1960) to participate in the Brussels Congo conference, where he emerged as a leading negotiator. When the Republic of the Congo came into existence (June, 1960) Lumumba was its first premier and minister of defense.

Shortly after independence, the army mutinied, the Belgian government flew in troops to protect Belgian citizens, and Katanga province declared its independence. A coup in September, covertly aided by the UN, overthrew Lumumba's government. President Kasavubu, Lumumba's rival for power, dismissed him as prime minister and he, in turn, dismissed Kasavubu as president. Shortly afterward, Lumumba was put under house arrest by Colonel Mobutu. Lumumba escaped but was recaptured and then flown, on orders from Mobutu and Kasavubu, to Katanga. On January 17 1961, armed men drove Lumumba to a concealed area of the Katanga bush, shot him, and buried him in a hurriedly dug grave. In February it was announced that he had been killed. Riots of protest took place in many parts of the world. Lumumba's murder is considered, by some historians, to be one of the defining events in postcolonial African history. He was Africa's first democratically elected leader and his rule lasted less than three months. Lumumba became an symbol for anti-imperialist activists.

See his Congo: My Country (1962); Lumumba Speaks (ed. by J. van Lierde, tr. 1972). See also T. R. Kanza (1972); L. De Witte, The Assassination of Lumumba (1999); E. J. Keller and R. A. Hill, eds., Trustee for the Human Community: Ralph J. Bunche, the United Nations, and the Decolonization of Africa (2010); G. Nzongola-Ntalaja, Patrice Lumumba (2014); E. Gerard and B. Kuklick, Death in the Congo: Murdering Patrice Lumumba (2015); P. Monaville, Students of the World Global: 1968 and Decolonization in the Congo (2022).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: African History: Biographies