A BBC report revealed that in 2002, former colonial power, Belgium admitted responsibility for its part in the killing of Patrice Lumumba who became the first prime minister of the newly-independent Congo in 1960, with the United States refusing to explain its role despite long-held suspicions.
According to a source quoted in Death in the Congo, a book about the assassination, President Dwight D Eisenhower of the US gave “an order for the assassination of Lumumba. There was no discussion; the [National Security Council] meeting simply moved on”.
Eisenhower was concerned about communism and was worried about Congo following a similar path to Cuba.
However, a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plan to lace Lumumba’s toothpaste with poison was never carried out. This revelation was made to BBC in 2000 by Lawrence Devlin, who was a station chief in Congo at the time.
A survey of declassified US government documents from the era notes that the CIA “initially focussed on removing Lumumba, not only through assassination if necessary but also with an array of non-lethal undertakings”.
While there is no doubt the CIA wanted him dead, the survey does not indicate direct US involvement in his eventual killing.
Lumumba became the first prime minister of the newly-independent Congo in 1960, but he lasted just a few months in the job before he was overthrown and assassinated in January 1961.