Patrice Lumumba

Statement at a press conference in Leopoldville

August 16, 1960

Source: Patrice Lumumba: Fighter for Africa’s Freedom, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1961, pp 59-61.
Written: by Patrice Lumumba;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.

I have asked you to this press conference primarily to announce to you an important decision that the present situation has forced the Government of the Republic to take.

You shall see that we are conscious of the gravity of the hour and are not shirking our responsibilities. The reason for calling this conference is that I wanted to determine the present situation with you.

Yesterday, from the U.N. services, you received a version of the divergences between the U.N. Secretary-General and our Government. Some people are seeking to present this dispute as a question of personality, of personalities. I should like to emphasise here and now that the U.N. Secretary-General is a high officer in the service of an institution that we respect to the point that we have appealed to it (for aid-Tr.). However, here the question is to examine, on the basis of facts, the Secretary-General's mission and the manner in which he has or has not fulfilled this mission.

Everything was perfectly clear in the evening of July 14 in New York, when the Security Council decided, I quote the text of the resolution, "to authorise the Secretary-General to take, in consultation with the Government of the Republic of the Congo, all necessary measures with a view to giving that Government the military assistance it requires until such a time when the national security forces, thanks to the efforts of the Congolese Government and with the technical assistance of the United Nations, are, in the opinion of that Government, fully capable of carrying out their tasks".

From this it is quite clear that the Secretary-General had no business giving his own interpretation of the order instructing him to extend to our Government unrestricted military assistance, which we required and still require and with regard to which we are the sole judges.

We asked the U.N. for assistance, and it responded to our appeal. Our attitude towards the United Nations remains one of full trust. Strong and confident of our right, we are profoundly convinced that the U.N., which has already demonstrated its insight and impartiality with regard to us, will straightforwardly carry out the decisions it has adopted.

Let me emphasise once again that the matter concerns the maintenance of peace among nations.

That is why we regret some of the actions that have been taken by the Secretary-General, and you are bearing witness that these actions are only prolonging the crisis, which we are the first to deplore.

Incidents, which U.N. troops should have stopped long ago, are taking place every day because of the behaviour of the aggressive Belgian forces and because of certain ambiguities created by some groups.

On the other hand, all the Belgian magistrates have fled, leaving their offices in indescribable disorder, with the result that civil courts no longer exist.

We have decided to take immediate steps to hold in check all trouble-makers, white or black, in order to enable our people to retrieve their dignity and to restore legality and peace.

I shall now read you the ordinance that was promulgated by the Government today.

[P. Lumumba reads the text of the ordinance.]

I shall now give you some figures to show that with goodwill each can make his contribution towards the solution of our problems.

In the period from August 1 to 8, the Matadi-Leopoldville Railway transported 6,000 tons of timber. During thepast week this figure has been nearly trebled to 17,500 tons. In other words, in the past eight days we have restored the normal rhythm.

This encouraging result was achieved with only 5 per cent of the former European personnel. We greet the work that has been done by these people. The Government of the Republic takes this occasion to reaffirm the friendship of the Congolese population for the Belgian people. It confirms that it is ready to restore diplomatic relations with Belgium as soon as Belgian troops withdraw from the Congo, including the bases at Kitona and Kamina. We are prepared to renew friendly relations.