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Lumumba: The truth comes slowly. (Congo/Belgium).

The Experts whose report will form the basis of the Belgian parliamentary Commission of Enquiry into Patrice Lumumba's assassination on 17 January 1961, are making good progress. They presented their interim report to the Commission on 6 June, and, as expected, the contents were shocking.

It is revealed that Belgium did not leave Lumumba the slightest chance to escape. There were three parallel plots in place to kill him. The final report of the Experts is due in September, but they have enough now for the Commission to start its work.

At the end of April, the chairman of the Commission, Geert Versnick, instructed the Belgian police to search the homes and offices of several individuals who were deemed not to have surrendered all the documents needed by the Experts.

There was high excitement when the news broke that the police, armed with a warrant, were about to search the castle of Princess Lilian de Rethy, the widow of King Leopold III (and father of King Baudouin I under whose reign Lumumba was murdered).

It turned out that the police were not after the princess but Colonel Guy Weber who had an office in the castle. Weber once served as military adviser to Moise Tshombe, leader of the secession in Katanga that led to the doom of Lumumba.

Also searched was the home of Victor Nendaka, head of security in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) at the time of Lumumba's death. Nendaka is suspected to have ordered Lumumba's transfer to Katanga where he was finally killed.

The police also searched the house of the Belgian historian, Jo Gerard, who was in charge of a radio station in Brazzaville that broadcast anti-Lumumba propaganda across the river to Leopoldville.

The home of the daughter of the late police officer, Gerard Soete, the man who confessed last year to have cut Lumumba's body into pieces and dissolved it in an acid bath, was equally searched.

The searches were extremely useful, according to the Experts. In their view, Belgium's support for the Katangese and Southern Kasai secession from 11 July 1960 onwards, was the first phase of a plan to reconquer Congo which, only 11 days previously, had been granted independence by Belgium.

The Experts say as early as September 1960, Etienne Davignon, (who in later life became a European Commissioner and one of the top men of the Societe Generale de Belgique), was sent as a junior diplomat to convince the ceremonial president, Joseph Kasavubu, to dismiss Lumumba as prime minister.

By then, plans to carry out "Lumumba's physical elimination" were already underway. There were three Belgian plots running concurrently. One was called "Operation L" which involved the "substitution" of Lumumba's medicines -- in other words, to poison him.

The Belgian attempts were quite separate from the plots hatched by the Americans to kill Lumumba at the same time.

Between September and October 1960, the Experts say, a professional killer called "Georges", a coloured man, was hired by unidentified Belgian individuals in Brussels to kill Lumumba. Belgian military intelligence sources, according to the Experts, have confirmed that "Georges" was helped by Lt-Col Louis Marliere, then adviser to Colonel Joseph Mobutu, commander in chief of the Congolese army at the time.

There was yet another plot, in October 1960, by a group of Belgians and Congolese supported by "certain Brussels authorities" to kill Lumumba.

Interestingly, the Experts say, Mobutu was reluctant to arrest Lumumba until he was promised Belgian technical and military support to the Congolese army on 10 October 1960.

From that day, the Belgian government stridently opposed any reconciliation between Lumumba, Kasavubu, Tshombe and Mobutu.

Telexes between Lt-Col. Marliere (Mobutu's adviser) and Major Jules Loos, military adviser to Harold d'Aspremont Lynden, the Belgian minister for African Affairs, show that both men were involved in supplying arms to Mobutu's army and to "Operation 58316", the code name for one of the plans to eliminate Lumumba, involving a network of intelligence agents.

Major Loos is also said to have conveyed an instruction from Gen. Charles Cumont to another officer in Leopoldville, Commander Noel Dedeken, to organise the kidnapping of Lumumba with Marliere's support.

So far, the Experts say they have found extensive evidence of the involvement of different members of the Belgian state apparatus in an elaborate plan of destabilisation against Lumumba.

For example, in December 1960, the Belgian parliament voted a "secret fund" of BF30m to be used exclusively by the African Affairs Minister. A total sum of BF50m was finally committed -- all geared towards the elimination of Lumumba.

The Experts have also found a "parallel circuit of information" between the Belgian Royal Palace and Elisabethville, capital of the secessionist state of Katanga. According to the Experts, by the end of October 1960, the Belgian Royal Palace already knew from that "circuit of information" that Mobutu had met with Tshombe in Elisabethville on 16 October 1960 and that both men had agreed on Lumumba's "total neutralisation".

The Experts say though Belgium wanted Lumumba out by any means necessary, this does not mean that all the Belgian plots were coordinated. "We don't have evidence corroborating the theory of a single big conspiracy," the Experts say. They will wait until September when they publish their final report to draw their "final conclusions". This will only be after listening to the testimonies of witnesses due to appear before them.

The witnesses will include Jean Van Lierde, Lumumba's Belgian adviser and friend; Thomas Kanza, one of Lumumba's ministers; several Belgian academics and historians (including Benoit Verhaegen) and the relatives of Lumumba, Moise Tshombe, Harold d'Aspremont Lynden, Noel Dedeken, and former Belgian civil servants in Brussels, Katanga and elsewhere.

All said, Belgium is not about to tamely admit its responsibility in the assassination. Daniel Baquelaine, rapporteur of the Commission of Enquiry, says: There is no evidence of one plot staged by the Belgian government to physically eliminate Patrice Lumumba. So far, De Witte's thesis is not corroborated by the evidence in the hands of the Experts."

Ludo de Witte, the Belgian sociologist, is the man whose book, "The Murder of Lumumba", published in late 1999, forced the Belgian parliament to set up the enquiry in the first place. The line Baquelaine was pushing, without actually saying it, was that though Belgium wanted Lumumba's political elimination, his Congolese enemies were responsible for his assassination.

But Baquelaine's line cannot be sustained for very long. The Experts themselves admit that all the three plots to eliminate Lumumba involved Belgians -- either as "secret agents" of the Belgian state (in two of the attempts) or as the paymasters of "George", the professional killer hired to kill Lumumba.

There were also pressure from a Belgian minister on Tshombe (Lumumba's archenemy) to accept the transfer of his rival to Katanga, where Belgian civil servants controlled the police and army.

All eyes are set on the final report in September.
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Author:Misser, Francois
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Jul 1, 2001
Words:1141
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