Africa in 1961 was undergoing a number of often violent political changes. In Angola, independence from Portugal was ongoing. Meanwhile, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in-fighting would come to an end with the execution–or assassination–of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and two close associates.
Lead Up To The Executions
The Democratic Republic of Congo was formed in 1960 with independence being declared that January and elections occurring in May. With office holders announced the following month, Patrice Lumumba was declared Prime Minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu was made the President of the DRC.
A number of changes by Lumumba caused some dissent in different groups. First there was the Force Publique which didn’t get pay raises. This sparked a mutiny in July 1960 which was eventually ended with the Africanization of the military and all European troops being released.
Things snowballed with Belgium sending in 6,000 troops to the Congo to protect Belgian citizens. This led to a number of hostile actions and to further conflict between the two countries.
The Cold War also made things difficult for the DRC as it attempted to remain neutral but needed assistance to move development along. A blunder in South Kasai would result in several massacres. Receiving help from Russia and threatening the U.S and U.N with further dealing with Russia put a strain on foreign relations.
Struggle to Stay In Power
Despite some international flexing and governing failures, PM Patrice Lumumba had a number of supports. President Kasa-Vubu had growing concerns that a coup could occur and declared that Lumumba and several governing ministers were now removed from their duties. The reasons given were for the mentioned blunders by Lumumba.
This resulted in Lumumba taking to the airwaves announcing Kasa-Vubu as a traitor to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Both the President and PM dismissed the other as traitors to the country leading to a debate in Parliament. While he won the debate, he couldn’t get the votes to remove Kasa-Vubu from power. He was to stay in house arrest until November when he managed to escape.