SAVE THE CONGO NOW  - Moise Tshombe

 

Moise Tshombe was the son of a wealthy Congolese business man. He was born in Musumba, South-west Katanga, in 1919. He received his education from an American Methodist Missionary School and later trained as an accountant; and in 1951 took over his father's chain of stores in Katanga.

He was married to the daughter of the Mwantayaav (emperor) of the Lunda, and his uncle and brother were subsequently enthroned as emperors while he was at the height of his political career. He first stepped into public life as a nominated member of the advisory Katanga Provincial Council, then as the local chairman of an association of middle-class Africans; but emerged onto public prominence in 1958 when the Lunda tribal association (Gassomel), of which he had been elected chairman, took part in the creation of CONAKAT -Confédération des Associations du Katanga, along with other ethnic associations such as Balubakat -the association of Katanga Baluba led by Jason Sendwe.  

Within a few months, however, Conakat had accepted the affiliation, as well as much of the political program, of the leading white settlers' organization in Katanga, a decision that led to Balubakat's withdrawal.  In the general elections of 1960, CONAKAT won control of the Katanga provincial legislature. In May of the same year, in the general parliamentary election, CONAKAT won eight seats out of 137 in the National Assembly; Lumumba’s National Congolese Movement (MNC) won about half of the 137 seats; Kasavubu’s ABAKO and MNC-Kalonji and other political parties shared the rest. 

A month later, in June, the Congo became an independent republic – with Patrice Lumumba elected as Prime Minister and Joseph Kasavubu as President. Two days before the independence Tshombe attempted to declare Katanga independent but his asstempt was foiled by Belgian authorities, but less than two week later, in July 11th 1960, with the support of Belgian mining company in Katanga -Union Minière, Tshombe would declare Katanga's secession from the rest of the Congo - favoring continued ties with Belgium; and within weeks he proceeded onto asking the Belgian government to send military officers to recruit and train a Katangese army.  

This move angered Patrice Lumumba –the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo, and his successor Cyrille Adoula; whom first requested a military assistance from the US – after realizing the US reluctance Lumumba moved onto requesting an immediate intervention from the United Nations and Dag Hammarskjold –the second UN Secretary-General, agreed to send in a peace-keeping force to restore order.  But the UN Security Council would not authorise the immediate deployment as requested by Lumumba - meanwhile, fighting and tension intensified between Moise Tshombe and Patrice Lumumba. But Tshombe, with covert military, technical and political assistance from Belgium, military support from white mercenary forces and financial aid from white settlers mining cobalt in Katange, Tshombe would maintained his independent Republic of Katanga for three years. 

In an effort to end the fighting and secure a cease-fire, the UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold arranged to meet Tshombe – a move that would claim his life in an horrific plane crash on September 17th 1961.  Lumumba was increasingly growing despair; and moved onto asking a military assistance from Russia, then Soviet Union. With the then on-going Cold War military, political and economic tensions between the East and the West; and bearing in mind that appox 75% of what constitutes the first Atomic Bomb which the US dropped in the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima came from the Congo and the Congo contained the largest resources of cobalt which was essential for making missiles, air planes and other military component for US Air Forces, the thought of Russian troops in the Congo sent waves of shocks across the Western world.  

Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th US President, was furious and ordered the elimination of Patrice Lumumba. Within months Joseph Mobutu, then Colonel in the Congolese army would lead a military coup: Lumumba would be abducted, beaten and humiliated in public, forced to eat his independence speech and transferred to Moise Tshombe in Katanga where he would be killed along side his two friends on his side by army squared in front of Moise Tshombe. 

In 1963, UN forces succeeded in capturing Katanga, driving Tshombe into exile in Zimbabwe, then Northern Rhodesia, later to Spain. In 1964 he would returned to the Congo to serve as prime minister in a new Coalition government led by Joseph Kasavubu, but would dismissed from his position the following year by President Joseph Kasavubu. In the same year, 1964, Mobutu –now General in the Congolese army, staged his second coup – this time against both Joseph Kasavubu and Moise Tshombe. Mobutu would install himself as the head of the Congo and a year later, in 1965, he would bring charges of treason against Tshombe, who again fled the country, and settled in Spain. In 1967, he was sentenced to death in absentia. On June 30, 1967, a plane he was traveling in was hijacked to Algeria, where he was first jailed and then kept under house arrest (awaiting extradition to Mobutu’s Congo but this was never carried out) until his death from, allegedly, heart failure on June 29th 1969. He is buried in Belgium.

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Rainforest

The Congo is home to the mighty and ancient yet intact rainforest on the planet. Covering an area more than twice the size of France (1.3 million square kilometres or 358 million acres), DRC’s rainforest is the second largest area of contiguous moist tropical forest left in the world and represent approximately one fifth of the world's remaining closed canopy tropical forest.

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