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Britain 'pressed America to get rid of Lumumba'
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels
(Filed: 09/08/2001)

BRITAIN played an active role in encouraging America to "get rid of" Patrice Lumumba, the Left-wing firebrand Congolese prime minister murdered in 1961, according to a book launched yesterday.

Citing declassified US documents, the Belgian writer Ludo De Witte claims that Lord Home, the then Foreign Secretary, pressed the Eisenhower administration to move swiftly against Lumumba four months before he was killed.

Lord Home held two meetings with Eisenhower in September 1960 to discuss the disintegration of the former Belgian colony, where Europeans had suffered a wave of violence and property seizures, and separatists had taken control of the copper-rich area of Katanga.

By then, Lumumba, 35 - the first elected leader of an independent Congo and already a Third World icon - was under house arrest, "protected" by United Nations guards.

The West was afraid that his supporters might retake the country with Soviet support.

White House records of the first meeting on September 19, 1960, state: "The president expressed his wish that Lumumba would fall into a river full of crocodiles; Lord Home said regretfully that we have lost many of the techniques of old-fashioned diplomacy."

Nine days later, Lord Home went further, this time in the presence of Harold Macmillan, the Prime Minister, demanding prompt action.

According to US records: "Lord Home raised the question why we are not getting rid of Lumumba at the present time. He stressed that now is the time to get rid of Lumumba."

De Witte's book, The Assassination of Lumumba, prompted an inquiry by the Belgian parliament when it was first published in Dutch in 1999.

It alleged that Brussels had ordered the "definitive elimination" of Lumumba - disputing the official version that he was killed in an internal power struggle.

The new English edition develops evidence that America took direct control of the operation after the failure of Belgian plans to eliminate Lumumba.

Allen Dulles, the then CIA chief, allegedly orchestrated assassination plans, including one to poison Lumumba's toothpaste.

In the end, it appears that Anglo-US help was not necessary.

Congolese factions did the dirty work themselves, under Belgian instructions.

18 January 2001: Despots and destruction

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