Patrice Lumumba

Statement at a press conference

August 19, 1960

Source: Patrice Lumumba: Fighter for Africa’s Freedom, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1961, pp 64-7.
Written: by Patrice Lumumba;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.

This morning Mr. Bunche handed me a note from the U.N. Secretary-General.

In it Mr. Hammarskjöld gives an account of a trivial incident between U.N. forces and the Congolese army. The Secretary-General and his representatives in Leopoldville have deliberately exaggerated this incident with the sole purpose of using it to further their aims on the eve of the Security Council meeting. Their purpose is to influence the opinion of the Security Council members in favour of the Secretary-General, who has compromised himself by his actions in Katanga. This manoeuvre must be publicly exposed.

What really happened is this. The Government of the Republic decreed a state of emergency throughout the country. On the other hand it was found that many foreigners are entering the Congo without the agreement of the Government of the Republic. For them the Congo has become an international market. These people are spying and continuously instigating disorders in the country.

In this situation it was decided to check the identity of all passengers of aircraft belonging to foreign powers. This check was conducted with every sign of courtesy.

Upon the arrival of two aircraft transporting Canadian military personnel, the security forces wished to check the identity of these passengers. But the latter flatly refused to produce their identification papers and hurled coarse language at the Congolese officials.

And even graver was the fact that Swedish troops of the U.N. force prevented the legal authorities from carrying out this check.

It was, first and foremost, this attitude of the passengers and then the behaviour of the European troops of the U.N. that started the incident.

Let me point out that every day troops of the National Army are attacked and unjustly insulted by U.N. European military personnel. The latter seek to take the place of the Government of the country and the legal authorities.

Moreover, some days ago I notified Mr. Bunche, the General-Secretary's special representative, of the Government's decision to have all the airfields in the Republic turned over to the exclusive control of troops of the National Army.

The United Nations representatives refused to comply with this decision of the supreme authority of the Republic.

In view of this insolent attitude of the United Nations white troops sent into the Congo, the Government was compelled to demand their immediate withdrawal and allow only African troops to enter the Congo under U.N. control. This will enable us to avoid a cold war, because some states are now using units sent to the Congo from certain European countries to further their own interests. This has already been proved, and for the benefit of the Security Council I stress once again that the Government of the Republic has passed a decision on the withdrawal of all military units belonging to European nations.

We have stated, on the other hand, that the United Nations special representative in the Congo has distributed U.N. armbands among Belgian nationals and that they have used this badge to attack the Congolese population.

The U.N. Secretary-General declares in his note that he will be obliged to ask the Security Council to reconsider the entire United Nations action in the Congo. This blackmail by the Secretary-General does not surprise us.

To this my reply is that for its part the Government of the Republic is prepared to renounce the services of the United Nations, because the Congo, a sovereign and independent country, is nobody's property. We can easily and quickly restore order by ourselves and with the direct assistance that we can get from a number of countries, which have already given us their selfless support.

The Government of the Republic:

1. condemns the personal actions of the U.N. Secretary-General;

2. demands the immediate withdrawal of white troops, who were behind the latest incidents and who have shown bad intent with regard to the Republic;

3. demands and repeats its request that a group of observers from neutral countries, a list of which has already been submitted to the Security Council, be sent to the Congo;

4. confirms its desire loyally to co-operate with the United Nations in establishing peace on earth.

Patrice Lumumba concluded his statement by pointing out that it was only the intervention of some African states that forced the Secretary-General to give up his intention of placing the Congolese Government before an accomplished fact by convening the Security Council before the arrival of a Congolese delegation.

He confirmed the trust of the Congolese Government in the United Nations and the Security Council. "We appealed for the services of the United Nations ourselves," he emphasised. "If some countries aspire to use the Secretary-General for their own purposes, we say to them that they will be condemned by the African peoples." Lumumba pointed out that even if circumstances compelled the Congolese Government to renounce the services of the United Nations, it would not mean that the Congo would withdraw from that organisation because it did not identify the actions of individuals with the ideals of the United Nations.