What did Patrice Lumumba accomplish in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Patrice Lumumba was an African nationalist and the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The DRC gained its independence from Belgium in 1960 after having been colonized for almost 100 years.

First, a bit of history about the DRC. This territory, landlocked in the center of Africa, was claimed by the Belgians at the Berlin Conference of 1888. It became a personal territory for Belgian King Leopold II, and its people were subjected to intense slavery, genocide, and exploitation. Stories and images of Congolese men, women, and children with missing limbs shed light on the horrors of colonization and imperialism in Africa.

In the mid twentieth century, after WWII, many African countries began to negotiate for or fight for their independence. The DRC gained its independence in 1960; nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba became its Prime Minister.

Lumumba encouraged Congolese-based economic development and isolation in terms of foreign affairs, but shortly after independence, there was a crisis when another rival political party claimed power. This type of political instability is common in nations that gained independence in the wake of colonization; we see similar problems in Latin America after its independence movements (that mostly occurred from 1810-1826). In an attempt to consolidate power, and because Lumumba was also fighting Belgian forces, Lumumba looked to the Soviet Union for support. In an effort to suppress him and prevent the spread of communism in Africa (remember, all of these events occur during the Cold War), Lumumba was assassinated.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team