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Frank Carlucci and the Last Days of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo

Long before he was President Reagan’s Secretary of Defense, Frank Carlucci was a young State Department political officer in Kinshasa, Congo (then known as Leopoldville).  He got to know Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and was among the last Americans to see him alive before Lumumba’s 1961 murder. Multiple theories surround Lumumba’s death, which remains controversial […]

The collapse of Zaire at the end of the First Congo War 1997

In the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, ethnic Hutu refugees -- including génocidaires -- who had crossed into East Zaire to escape persecution from the new Tutsi government carried out attacks against ethnic Tutsis from both Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Rwandan refugees. The Zairian government was unable to control the ethnic Hutu marauders, and indeed lent them some support as allies against the new, Tutsi-led Rwandan government.  In response, the Tutsis in Zaire joined a revolutionary coalition headed by Laurent-Désiré Kabila.  Kabila’s aim was to overthrow Zaire’s one-party authoritarian government run by Mobutu Sese Seko since 1965.  With Kabila’s forces on the march,  Zaire was soon engulfed in conflict.  These hostilities, which took place from 1996-1997, are known as the “First Congo War” and lead to the creation of Zaire’s successor state The Democratic Republic of Congo. The United States, who had supported Mobutu until the end of the Cold War, recognized how potentially dangerous the situation was as Kabila gained control of most of the country and advanced rapidly towards the capital city of Kinshasa. In 1997, the United States sent a small group of diplomats to broker negotiations and attempt to come to a peaceful agreement between Mobutu and Kabila.

Crazy Train — A Congolese Victory Tour

What’s a party without prostitutes, undrinkable whiskey, and the best seats in the house, cleared for you at sword-point? Following the successful defeat of a secessionist movement by the breakaway province of Katanga in the newly formed Republic of the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), the new prime minister of the region […]

Oil, Blood and Steel: The Failed Attempt to Create a Democratic Congo

This is the story of how a corrupt multinational oil company, a self-centered dictator,  lingering ethnic tensions, and lack of attention from the West all served to undermine efforts to transform a Marxist-Leninist client state into a democratic African nation. Congo’s struggles have for years been complicated by outside influence from its former colonial ruler, […]

Losing “The Congolese Bet” — The Belgian Congo’s Violent Road to Independence

Remembered as one of the most tragic victims of European imperialism, the Belgian Congo suffered decades of exploitation, violence, racism and repression. By restricting access to higher education and monopolizing political and military leadership positions, the Belgians maintained an iron hold over their resource-rich colony. Then, after a wave of African independence movements and without […]

Escape from the Congo

During the Congo Crisis (1960-1966), which began after the colony was granted independence from Belgium, the province of Katanga declared itself a sovereign state. The situation in the Congo became so grave that in November 1961, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 169 to remove foreign military and other personnel not under the U.N. Command, […]

Born in the Congo: The Experience of Giving Birth During a Civil War

Emergency medical care in developing countries can be problematic, if not wholly inadequate. Even more so in the 1960s. When you’re expecting twins. In a country in the midst of a civil war. However, when Terry McNamara’s wife went into labor in the conflict-ridden Province of Katanga in the Congo (now the Democratic Republic of […]

House for Rent in the War-torn Congo–Three Baths, no Squatters

Housing for FSOs was not always provided on assignments abroad. Francis Terry McNamara had to find housing for himself and his family in many different places, some under unconventional situations. McNamara tells about his house-hunting in Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi), Congo in 1962 after the city had been ravaged by an attempted insurrection and continued unrest […]

Captive in the Congo

Michael Hoyt was Commercial Officer in Leopoldville from 1962 until 1965 and was serving as interim Principal Officer in Stanleyville (now Kisangani) when he and his staff, along with 320 other people, were taken hostage by the rebel Simbas.  Held for 111 days, they were eventually rescued in a joint U.S.-Belgian operation code-named Dragon Rouge on November […]