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British peer reveals MI6 role in Lumumba killing
Updated: Apr 20, 2014 05:30 AM , By Hasan Suroor | 10 comments
Patrice Lumumba
Patrice Lumumba

The British intelligence services may have just had one of their best-kept secrets blown: their role in the abduction and assassination of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first democratically elected prime minister whose Pan-African nationalism and pro-Moscow leanings alarmed the West.

For more than 50 years, rumours have swirled over allegations of British involvement in Lumumba’s brutal murder in 1961, but nothing has ever been proved — leaving the CIA and its Belgian peers alone to take the rap for what a Belgian writer has described as “the most important assassination of the 20th century.” Now, in a dramatic revelation, a senior British politician has claimed that he got it from the horse’s mouth that it was MI6 that “did” it.

In a little noticed letter to the editor in the latest issue of the London Review of Books (LRB), Lord David Edward Lea responded to the claim in a new book on British intelligence, Empire of Secrets: British intelligence, the Cold War and the Twilight of Empire by Calder Walton, that the jury is still out on Britain’s role in Lumumba’s death. “The question remains whether British plots to assassinate Lumumba … ever amounted to anything. At present, we do not know,” writes Walton.

Lord Lea retorted: “Actually, in this particular case, I can report that we do. It so happens that I was having a cup of tea with Daphne Park… She had been consul and first secretary in Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, from 1959 to 1961, which in practice (this was subsequently acknowledged) meant head of MI6 there. I mentioned the uproar surrounding Lumumba’s abduction and murder, and recalled the theory that MI6 might have had something to do with it. ‘We did,’ she replied, ‘I organised it.’”

According to Lord Lea, she contended that if the West had not intervened, Lumumba would have handed over Congo’s — now called Democratic Republic of Congo — rich mineral deposits to the Russians. When contacted by The Hindu, Lord Lea confirmed the contents of his letter to the LRB and that the conversation over tea took place a few months before Ms. Park died in 2010. “That’s the conversation I had with her and that’s what she told me. I have nothing more to add,” he said when asked if he had any other independent confirmation of Ms. Park’s claim.

Ms. Park was a career intelligence officer who served in Kinshasa (then Leopoldville) between 1959 and 1961. On retirement, she was made a Life peer as Baroness Park of Monmouth. Her fellow peers in the House of Lords referred to her as a spokesperson for the Secret Intelligence Service. She was also briefly head of Somerville College, Oxford University.

There has been no comment from MI6 on Lord Lea’s revelation. “We don’t comment on intelligence matters,” an official said.

Lumumba, hailed as “the hero of Congolese independence” from Belgium in 1960, was shot dead on January 17, 1961 after being toppled in a US-Belgian backed military coup barely two months after being in office.

Lumumba had been sheltered by Rajeshwar Dayal — the Indian diplomat who was the UN Secretary General’s representative in the Congo — for several days but was captured and killed soon after he chose to leave the compound. “This heinous crime was a culmination of two inter-related assassination plots by American and Belgian governments, which used Congolese accomplices and a Belgian execution squad to carry out the deed,” wrote Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a specialist on African and Afro-American studies and author of The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People's History.

Declassified American documents from the time have established Washington’s role in covert assassination plots — the most famous being a CIA plot to poison Lumumba’s toothbrush by smuggling poisoned toothpaste into his bathroom.

“The toothpaste never made it into Lumumba’s bathroom. I threw it in the Congo River,” Larry Devlin, the CIA station chief in Leopoldville, later said.

Not much is publicly known about UK role. But, in 2000, the BBC reported that in the autumn of 1960 — three months before Lumumba was murdered — an MI5 operative in the British embassy in Leopoldville suggested “Lumumba’s removal from the scene by killing him.”

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  • Of course, Britain will flatly deny that MI6 had anything to do with the assassination. As for Lord Lea's claim, the other is not available to validate that indeed such a question was asked and an affirmative answer supplied. Certainly it furthers the suspicion, but it does not prove it conclusively and it will be unwise to expect Britain or MI6 to own up.
    From: Sridhar S
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 21:00 IST
  • What British people don't know is they've got a hidden colony in which their country is very active: DR Congo. the doubter should watch this on youtube: Congo crisis: uncovering the truth by Keith.
    From: Joachim Mbala
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 19:51 IST
  • So we don't have any hard evidence of MI6'S involvement. We are banking on one woman's words, who by the way is dead. We have every evidence of American and Belgian involvement. Had the British any meaningful role then it would have been revealed when they made their disclosures. Maybe we should just wait for the CIA to declassify even more documents.
    From: Tarik Tee
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 16:25 IST
  • It will be interesting if some one from MI6 can reveal its role in re-establishing Mohamad Ali Jinha to demand Pakistan. According to history he has given up his dream of Pakistan but after his long stay in UK he returned and got what he wanted. Thare has to be a role of MI6 in this.
    From: Dr dharma Sharma
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 14:47 IST
  • Shouldnt there be a case registered? Shouldnt the British be tried? No. Nothing will happen. Because for the 'west' the assassinated guy was a terrorist. So they have done a service for humanity. Ridiculous.
    From: Ramachandra
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 11:08 IST
  • This is what they are mercenaries of democracy, The Motivation for the heinous murder is “Lumumba would have handed over Congo’s — now called Democratic Republic of Congo — rich mineral deposits to the Russians” This is what they were doing in Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Libya, Syria and numerous other countries. The killing of Yasar Arafat, Sadam Husain, Gaddafi.. numerous assassination attempts on Fidel Castro, Venezula suspects the death of their president was an organized attempt by US. Whatever they say about the reason to attack other countries the motivation is pure selfish financial and corporate interest.
    From: Toney
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 10:30 IST
  • As the atrocities committed by US's CIA and MI6 slowly come to light, the world understands how developed countries caused chaos, civil war, thousands of fatalities and poverty in several developing countries through their actions in the cold war. How ironic it is that the US claims to advocate democracy when it has led of the destruction of Congo by undermining democracy? How different is it then, from the Soviet Union, by advocating anarchy and lawlessness? This article makes one understand that selfish economic and political motives overshadow ideology and morality for developed countries.
    From: Kalyani ravi
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 7:09 IST
  • Truth will prevail.List might have too long.This article reminds allegations made for Dr. Homi J. Bhabha's unpredictable departure.
    From: Hrishil
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 4:15 IST
  • Was Dag Hammarskjoeld's plane crash also a planned end to a very independent UN.Secretary GEneral?
    From: subbanarasu divakaran
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 3:52 IST
  • same as it ever was. money rules. lies triumph.
    From: thomas vesely
    Posted: Apr 1, 2013 at 3:01 IST