Patrice Lumumba

Statement at a press conference in Leopoldville

August 17, 1960

Source: Patrice Lumumba: Fighter for Africa’s Freedom, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1961, pp 61-64.
Written: by Patrice Lumumba;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.

At my yesterday's press conference I stated the grave reasons that prompted the Government to ask the President of the Security Council to examine the question of immediately sending a group of neutral observers to the Congo to ensure control over the implementation of the resolution of July 14, 1960. Certain circles with interests in the Congo have qualified our position as a lack of confidence in the U.N. As I stated yesterday and repeat again, the matter here is not in a lack of trust or in any suspicion with regard to the U.N. On the contrary. The Government and the people of the Congo continue to trust the U.N. and its Security Council. What we have condemned, and that can be proved, is only the method by which the U.N. Secretary-General sought to implement the Security Council's resolutions. He acted as though there were no Government of the Republic.

The Congolese people regard his contacts and meetings with Tshombe as well as the assurances that he gave Tshombe as treachery. Tshombe did not conceal the fact that he had official assurances from the U.N. Secretary-General. In conformity with the Security Council's resolutions, Mr. Hammarskjöld should not have had talks with Tshombe. Furthermore, the Secretary-General did not once show any desire to consult with the Government of the Republic as he was officially advised to do by the resolution of July 14, 1960. Consequently, a line must be drawn between the personal actions of Mr. Hammarskjöld, which we brand in the name of truth and justice, and the far-sighted policy of the United Nations. In the Congo nobody approves the steps that have so far been taken in the Congo issue by the U.N. Secretary-General. His interpretation of the Security Council's decisions clearly shows us his intentions. The Government is aware that certain circles seek to turn the Congo into a second Korea. And in order to achieve this purpose by roundabout ways, implementation of the decisions of an organ of the highest international authority is being delayed. Many crimes have been perpetrated in Katanga because of the U.N. Secretary-General's delay in carrying out the decisions of the United Nations.

The fact of the matter is that several scores of Congolese, military personnel and civilians, were shot two days ago. These repugnant crimes have been concealed from the public. Surely the U.N. Secretary-General knows about it. The conspiracy of silence designed to delude world public opinion is noteworthy. The Belgian press and the correspondents sent to Katanga assert that order reigns there, whereas in reality arbitrary shootings and arrests are occurring every day as a consequence of Tshombe's compact with Belgium. Every day I receive disturbing news from various parts of Katanga and every day the people of Katanga Province are asking the Government to intervene and deliver them from the oppression of the Belgium-Tshombe group. Conscience will not allow the Government to permit such a situation to continue in the country. We wanted to go to the Security Council to condemn this situation, for all to hear, believing that if our official delegation were absent the Security Council might be misinformed. I asked the U.N. Secretary-General to postpone his departure for 24 hours to enable our Government delegation to accompany him. Our request was turned down. And yet in his letter of August 15, 1960, he assured me that the Security Council would meet only after the arrival of our delegation. To my great surprise and to the surprise of the whole of Congolese public opinion, I learned that the Security Council is to meet tomorrow morning although the delegation of the Congo has not left the country because of transportation difficulties.

This morning I cabled the President of the Security Council, asking him to postpone the meeting until the arrival of a delegation from the Congolese Government.

I hope that this well-founded request is complied with. Moreover, I hope that the Government will not be compelled to renounce the services of the U.N. In the event a decision we shall consider as undesirable is taken, that is to say, if a group of neutral foreign observers will not be sent with instructions to ensure control over the implementation of the Security Council's resolutions, the Government will, to its regret, be forced to consider other, speedier measures. More than a month of our hopes in the U.N. and of waiting has passed. It is over a month now that we have been waiting for its resolutions to be carried out.

It does not do for any country to lecture us or to tell us what road we should take if there is no desire to help us in the way we have asked and if it is contemplated to use our request for military aid to pursue other political aims. We are prepared to withdraw this request. Nobody can enter the Congo and no foreign power can set foot in our country and interfere in its affairs if it has not been specifically requested to do so by the legal Government of the Congo Republic. The Congo is a sovereign, independent and free state with the same rights as France, Belgium, Britain and the U.S.A. We are the masters of our own destinies and we shall make the Congo into what we want her to be and not into what others want. Those who reproach me for telling the truth and exposing certain manoeuvres are giving themselves away in the face of this truth, because it will triumph in the very near future. Together with our people we shall defend our country to the end, regardless of the plots and manoeuvres of the Belgian colonialists and their allies. History will show who is right.