1961: About fifteen anti-Lumumbists, in Stanleyville

Add comment February 20th, 2014 Headsman

Although it occurred some weeks before, the execution/murder of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba only became public on February 13, 1961.

A week later, on February 20, pro-Lumumba forces in Stanleyville (today, Kisangani) shot approximately 15 prisoners in retaliation. Stanleyville was the headquarters of Lumumba ally Antoine Gizenga, whose enclave the late Lumumba had been trying to reach when he was captured. In the confused post-Lumumba days, Gizenga elevated himself to head of state for the rebellious Lumumbist state; 21 Communist-backed states would recognize this as Congo’s legitimate government, in opposition to the official one of Joseph Kasavubu.

Those suffering the Lumumba-backers’ wrath this date included ten politicians — notably Alfonse Songolo, a former Lumumbist minister who had prominently broken with that faction after Lumumba was deposed the previous autumn — plus five soldiers in the anti-Lumumba force of the bright young officer and future definitive author of Congolese horrors, Joseph-Desire Mobutu.

The London Times had reported (Feb. 23-24) that “usually well-informed sources” alleged the execution, but that the U.N. was unable itself to confirm the fact independently.

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Congo (Kinshasa),Cycle of Violence,Death Penalty,Execution,History,Hostages,Politicians,Power,Shot,Soldiers,Treason,Wartime Executions

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1968: Pierre Mulele, hoodwinked

5 comments October 9th, 2013 Headsman

On this date in 1968,* Congolese revolutionary Pierre Mulele was shot by firing squad in Kinshasa.

The anti-colonialist (French link) Mulele served as Minister of Education in the leftist government of Patrice Lumumba, overturned by a western-backed coup in 1961.

Trained up in Maoist doctrine in China, Mulele took to the country to launch a strange insurrection from Kwilu, then fled to neighboring Republic of the Congo (aka Congo-Brazzaville, after its capital city) when that project collapsed.

Mulele was lured back to his home Congo in late September of 1968 under an amnesty extended by the Mobutu regime.

In retrospect, it might have been better not to trust Mobutu.

Foreign Minister Justin Bomboko … personally escorted the former rebel across the Congo River from the neighboring Congo Brazzaville, while Mobutu was on a private visit to Morocco. On his arrival, Mulele was feted over champagne and caviar. But Mobutu had hardly returned to Kinshasa when he announced that Mulele was not covered by the amnesty and that he would be tried as a war criminal.

He got a 15-hour military trial on October 8, with execution the very next day. Though the press reports aver merely that he was shot, Michela Wrong’s In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu’s Congo** reports a quite more grisly spectacle.

tortured to death by soldiers. His eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals ripped off, his limbs amputated one by one as he slowly expired. What remained was dumped in the river.

That sounds … unsanitary.

As a result of this state perfidy — “an act of kidnapping and of international piracy” against an “authentic heir to the ideal which inspired Patrice Lumumba,” in the undiplomatic official statement† — Congo-Brazzaville broke off diplomatic relations with Congo-Kinshasa.

* Some sources have Mulele’s execution on Oct. 3, but the contemporary newspaper reports make clear that Mulele was tried on the 8th and shot on the 9th. Oct. 3 appears to be the date Mobutu publicly announced that Mulele would not be covered by amnesty.

** This site has been in the footsteps of Mr. Kurtz as well.

† London Times, Oct. 10, 1968.

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1966: Evariste Kimba and three other “plotters” against Mobutu

2 comments June 2nd, 2008 Headsman

On this date in 1966, the Congo’s last civilian Prime Minister and three former cabinet officials “walked unfalteringly to the gallows in the main square”* of Kinshasa and were hanged before a crowd a hundred thousand strong as Lt. Gen. Joseph-Desire Mobutu consolidated his ruinous Zairian dictatorship.

A cycle of weak governments and nationwide chaos had befallen the resource-rich former Belgian Congo in the early 1960’s after the CIA eliminated the leftist Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Evariste Kimba was, when the cycle ended in the fall of 1965, the most recent man to succeed to Lumumba’s title — though hardly his stature — in the tottering government of Joseph Kasavubu (or Kasa-Vubu).

Acting once again with western support, the general later to rename himself Mobutu Sese-Seko overthrew civilian rule on November 25, 1965.

To judge by either tenure (he ruled for more than 31 years) or personal enrichment (rumored to be $5 billion sapped from the poverty-ridden country during that time), Mobutu would rate as one of the 20th century’s most successful evil dictators.

But nobody knew at first that he wouldn’t be another forgettable here-today, shot-tomorrow general. And to see that didn’t happen, Mobutu showed the iron fist early, and made clear that he would brook no resistance, especially not from the old regime’s politicos. A true post-partisan, he declared in 1966 a five-year ban on party activity.

That formed the backdrop, or the pretext, or both, for squelching the “Pentecost Plot”, a supposed attempt by Kimba, along with former ministers Jérôme Anany, Emmanuel Bamba and André Mahamba, to mount a coup of their own.

Pentecost was Sunday, May 29 that year. The four were arrested on May 30 — “[o]n the morning of their arrest the Information Service of the Congo announced, in the name of the government, that they would ‘now appear before a military tribunal which will condemn them to death and they will be hanged.'” (source) When you know the result already, there’s no sense dragging things out: the Pentecost Plotters were tried, convicted and sentenced on June 1 (they denied the charges and received a six-minute deliberation), and hanged on June 2.

Kinshasa’s major football arena, Kamanyola Stadium, was renamed Stade des Martyrs de la Pentecôte in honor of this day’s victims shortly after Mobutu was ousted by guerrilla commander Laurent Kabila in 1997.

* New York Times

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Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Capital Punishment,Congo (Kinshasa),Death Penalty,Execution,Hanged,Heads of State,History,Politicians,Public Executions,Treason,Wrongful Executions

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