Cold War in The Congo

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Kathleen Nixon


The Cold War and the Congo:


The Congo was under Belgian rule - before the Cold War the Congo was a Belgian Colony ruled by King Leopold II in Brussels. The society was treated with cruelty and unjust, there was no exercise or any care in reforming or helping the Congo develop.

Around 1957 the Congo began demanding independence. Although it did not have much of a political structure the Congo began experiencing different political campaigns. After the 1957 Municipal Elections there were various conversations in order to introduce autonomy to the Congo. In 1959 disagreements and riots began across Leopoldville. Both Europeans and Africans died during these revolts. With the Congo in chaos, a hundred delegates from top Congolese political parties met in a conference that included the Belgian government.

Independence was obtained on June 30th of 1960 and the Congo was to be known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

From these elections Joseph Kasavubu and the Bokongo Tribal Group came out victorious - his main beliefs were based on those of a federalist independent Congo. Patrice Lumumba - other political leader established the first political party Mouvement National Congolauis (MNC) which centralized its views on a communist Congo controlled by a main government. Moise Tshombe's party won control over Katanga (Southern Province).

The United States - Eisenhower administration had high hopes for the Congo´s new government due to the fact that they're ideals where mainly pro-western. Although these hopes disappeared when the newly independent nation was led into chaos.

The establishment of different political parties and leaders led to some of the major conflicts faced in the Congo.

Important Figures:

Joseph Kasa-Vubu: First President after Municipal Elections

Moise Tshombe

Patrice Lumumba: Prime Minister

Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko

Eisenhower Administration

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) United States

Lawrence Devlin - CIA Chief of Station in the Congo

Events of the War:

As chaos was spreading and the situation began getting worse Mobutu decided to take power over the Congo and gave Katanga independence, he did this by ousting the Congolese and Belgian government.

Unable to control the Congolese National Army - the Belgians brought in troops to the Congo to restore order. Because the Congo was now independent this act was illegal due to the fact that they did not seek permission from either President Kasa-Vubu or Vice President Lumumba. As a result the Congolese government appealed directly to the UN demanding the removal of Belgian troops. On July 13th the UN approved a resolution which created an intervention force and called for the withdrawal of all Belgian troops.

United States supported UN effort. However members of the Eisenhower administration were concerned that the Congo crisis would provide an opening for Soviet intervention - therefore they saw a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Patrice Lumumba was invited to visit Washington in late July, the US wanted to influence him on western ideals although the visit did not turn out as they expected.

Reports from Lawrence Devlin, the CIA Chief of Station in Leopoldville described the situation in the Congo as a classic Communist takeover.

Soviet bloc technicians then arrived to the Congo, in request from Lumumba who was not receiving any support from the UN or the USA - therefore the USA national security team was convinced that Lumumba had to be removed, even if they had to assassin him. Lumumba was being seen as an African Fidel Castro.

Lumumba was then dismissed from the Congolese government and looked for support in order to return to office. Tension grew within the Congo and in order to avoid a civil war, Colonel Joseph Mobutu of the Congolese National Army orchestrated a coup d'état on September 14th, which was backed up by the USA - the Soviets were then ordered out of the country.

Mobutu's support towards a pro-Western government placed him in good stead with Devlin, who then informed Mobutu about a plan that Lumumba wanted to assassinate him. Lumumba was then arrested and ultimately killed on January 17, 1961.

Different theories about who killed Patrice Lumumba. However fingers point towards the CIA due to the fact that President Eisenhower authorized his murder although it is said that the plot was abandoned and the lethal poison dumped in the Congo River. New evidence suggests that Belgium was the mastermind behind Patrice Lumumba's death.

Next 4 years - United States attempted to create a stable, pro-Western regime through vote buying and financial support for pro-Western candidates.

When the UN troops left the Congo there was a rising concern over the instability that would occur therefore the Kennedy administration signed a bilateral military agreement with the Republic of the Congo.

Congo support continued throughout Johnson administration - US military assistance increased when rebel forces grew. There were great efforts against any increasing rebel action supported by neighboring African nations, the Soviet bloc and the Chinese Communists - planes were provided by the US Department of Defense flown pilots from the CIA.

Despite uprisings and riots that occurred within the Congo Mobutu was able to rule for about 30 years - however most of the control he gained was due to the support he was given by the USA due to the fact that he proved to be an ally against Communist encroachment in Africa.

This allowed him to receive extensive US financial and political support, increasing his stature in much of Sub-Saharan Africa.


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