Article from ROAPE Volume 29 Number 93/94
Remembrance of Sins Past: Murder of Patrice Lumumba

Remembrance of Sins Past: Unraveling the Murder of Patrice Lumumba
Vol.29 No.93/94 (Sep/Dec 2002), pp537-560
The assassination of L D Kabila, forty years to the day after the 1961 murder of Patrice Lumumba, revived memories of the fate of the Congo's first (and only) democratically elected leader, but in Belgium, the case of Lumumba's assassination had already been re-opened by a solidly documented expose challenging what had for some time been the ‘official version’ of the murder. Written by Ludo DeWitte, this account identified those members of the Belgian establishment whom it saw as having deliberately engineered Lumumba's overthrow and ‘final elimination’ . Its publication directly led to the creation of a parliamentary commission of enquiry whose final report was released in November 2001. Much of the investigation took the form of an examination of archival and testimonial evidence. Most witnesses were not seriously challenged, and cross-examination was usually gentle and ineffective. Yet, considering the perceived need to achieve some form of national consensus, the enquiry cannot be dismissed as a whitewash. The report concludes that ‘certain members of the Belgian government and other Belgian participants were morally responsible for the circumstances leading to the death of Lumumba.’ The commission also identifies what it correctly views as dysfunctions in the decision-making process that prevailed in 1960-1961. Reactions to the report suggest that, for many of those involved in those violent events, stereotypes and cold war cliches die a reluctant death.