The Lumumba Plot: The Secret History of the CIA and a Cold-War Assassination
Stuart Reid in conversation with Uzodinma Iweala
On Tuesday, October 24th, join us at The Africa Center for a discussion with author Stuart Reid on his acclaimed new book, The Lumumba Plot, which explores the circumstances surrounding the 1961 death of Patrice Lumumba, the first elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He will be joined in conversation by Uzodinma Iweala, writer, and CEO of The Africa Center. The assassination, which strongly implicates the Belgian, American, and Congolese governments, has had a lasting legacy on the continent – not only for its impact on Congolese government and politics since, but also for the significant blow that his passing dealt to the wave of pan-Africanism that accompanied independence movements sweeping across the continent at the time.
It was supposed to be a moment of great optimism, a cause for jubilation. The Congo was at last being set free from Belgium—one of seventeen countries to gain independence in 1960 from ruling European powers. At the helm as prime minister was charismatic nationalist Patrice Lumumba. Just days after the handover, however, the Congo’s new army mutinied, Belgian forces intervened, and Lumumba turned to the United Nations for help in saving his newborn nation from what the press was already calling “the Congo crisis.” Dag Hammarskjöld, the tidy Swede serving as UN secretary-general, quickly arranged the organization’s biggest peacekeeping mission in history. But chaos was still spreading. Frustrated with the fecklessness of the UN and spurned by the United States, Lumumba then approached the Soviets for help—an appeal that set off alarm bells at the CIA. To forestall the spread of Communism in Africa, the CIA sent word to its station chief in the Congo, Larry Devlin: Lumumba had to go.
Within a year, everything would unravel. The CIA plot to murder Lumumba would ﬁzzle out, but he would be deposed in a CIA-backed coup, transferred to enemy territory in a CIA-approved operation, and shot dead by Congolese assassins. Hammarskjöld, too, would die, in a mysterious plane crash en route to negotiate a cease-ﬁre with the Congo’s rebellious southeast. And a young, ambitious military officer named Joseph Mobutu, who had once sworn fealty to Lumumba, would seize power with U.S. help and misrule the country for more than three decades. For the Congolese people, the events of 1960–61 represented the opening chapter of a long horror story. For the U.S. government, however, they provided a playbook for future interventions.
Q&A with the audience to follow discussion.
This event is free but registration is required to secure in-person attendance.
STUART A. REID is an executive editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine. He has written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg Businessweek, Politico Magazine, Slate, and other publications. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and children.
UZODINMA IWEALA is an award-winning writer, filmmaker, and medical doctor. As the CEO of The Africa Center, he is dedicated to promoting new narratives about Africa and its Diaspora. Uzodinma was the CEO, Editor-In-Chief, and co-Founder of Ventures Africa magazine, a publication that covers the evolving business, policy, culture, and innovation spaces in Africa. His books include Beasts of No Nation, a novel released in 2005 to critical acclaim and adapted into a major motion picture; Our Kind of People, a non-fiction account of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria released in 2012; and Speak No Evil (2018). His short stories and essays have appeared in numerous publications like The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and The Paris Review among others. He sits on the boards of the Sundance Institute, The International Rescue Committee, and the African Development Bank’s Presidential Youth Advisory Group.