UIC Institute for the Humanities

Notes from the field

From:  Anna Roosevelt, Department of Anthropology
2012-2013 LAS Faculty Research Award for “Interviews about Coups and Killings in former Bergian Congo”  

Here are some of the findings from my interviews with Congolese and Europeans about the coups and killings in the countries of the former Belgian Congo:

I traveled to Europe this summer with funds from my department and my Humanities Institute LAS research award. The goal was to interview several of my informants on coups and killings in the countries of the former Belgian Congo in the 1960s and 19990s.   One of them was the retired Congolese former head of one of the ephemeral mineral secessions of Congo, which was created by the Belgian government and multinational mineral companies to prevent their income from going to independent Congo.  His testimony about the chaotic events following upon independence in Congo was fascinating.  He confirmed information I had from other informants and from archival documents that Patrice Lumumba was killed by Belgian officers in a farmhouse near the airport in Katanga, not in the woods by Katangan firing squads.  He also clarified why the plane that brought Lumumba could not land in his capitol but had to go on the Katanga.  His gendarmerie, made up of African officers, was loyal to him and not to the European military controlling the secessions.  When the French officer in charge of his secession agreed to accept delivery of Lumumba, who was slated for execution, my informant called his gendarmerie to block the runways, so the plane could not land.  He did not want to talk about his collaboration with the Belgians and multinationals on the secession, which was fine with me.  However, he did tell me that he regretted not accepting Lumumba's offer of the headship of a ministry in the Congo government and felt that the Belgians had double-crossed him when the secession ended.  I gave him copies of archival documents that I had copied that had been forged by the Belgians to attribute to him complicity in the execution. 

 

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