Did MI6, not CIA, kill Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba?

Patrice Lumumba
The 1961 abduction and murder of iconic Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was organized by British, not American, intelligence, according to a claim made this week by a British Labour politician and Life peer. Lord Lea of Crondall said in a letter published in the current edition of The London Review of Books that he was told so by Baroness Park of Monmouth, who at the time headed the Leopoldville station of MI6, Britain’s primary external intelligence service. Lumumba was a pan-Africanist activist who in 1958 helped found the Mouvement National Congolais, later becoming the organization’s leader. In 1960, he became Congo’s first democratically elected Prime Minister. However, his government soon became embroiled in the Cold-War rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. Many believe that Washington, fearing that Lumumba would attach uranium-rich Congo to the Soviet sphere of influence, tasked the Central Intelligence Agency with organize a coup d’état against him. It was carried out by Congolese Colonel Joseph Mobutu Sese Seko, who then ruled Congo with an iron fist until his death in 1997. In January 1961, pro-Mobutu soldiers, assisted by Belgian troops, abducted Lumumba and executed him following several days of beatings and torture. But according to Lord Lea, Baroness Park told him shortly before she died, in 2010, that she had orchestrated Lumumba’s killing on behalf of MI6. Known as Daphne Park until she entered the peerage, Park was often referred to as “the queen of spies” due to her four decades in the service of MI6. As one of the top female British intelligence officers, Park served as Second Secretary at the British Embassy in Moscow between 1954 and 1956, before being transferred to Congo in 1959. While there, she served as Consul and First Secretary at the British embassy in Leopoldville —renamed Kinshasa following Congo’s independence. According to Lord Lea, Park confided to him that, as chief of the MI6 station in Leopoldville, she arranged Lumumba’s execution because of fears that the Congolese leader “would have handed over the whole lot to the Russians: the high-value […] uranium deposits as well as the diamonds and other important minerals”. It is worth noting that some historians have expressed skepticism over Lea’s claim, and one unnamed “senior British intelligence official”, who knew Park, told The London Times that the allegation “doesn’t sound like the sort of remark Daphne Park would make [because] she was never indiscreet”. He added that “MI6 never had a license to kill” in a manner as that which was employed in Lumumba’s assassination.

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