Moïse Tshombe

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Moïse Tshombe
26.2.63. Moise Tshombe arrive a Toulouse (1963) - 53Fi5440 (cropped).jpg
Tshombe in France, 1963
5th Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
In office
10 July 1964 13 October 1965
President Joseph Kasa-Vubu
Preceded by Cyrille Adoula
Succeeded by Évariste Kimba
Personal details
Born10 November 1919
Musumba, Belgian Congo
(Now Congo-Kinshasa)
Died29 June 1969(1969-06-29) (aged 49)
Algiers, Algeria
Political party CONAKAT

Moïse Kapenda Tshombe (sometimes written Tshombé) (10 November 1919 – 29 June 1969) was a Congolese businessman and politician. He served as the president of the secessionist State of Katanga from 1960 to 1963 and as prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1964 to 1965.

State of Katanga unrecognised historical state in Africa

The State of Katanga, also sometimes denoted as the Republic of Katanga, was a breakaway state that proclaimed its independence from the Republic of Congo-Léopoldville on 11 July 1960 under Moise Tshombe, leader of the local Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga (CONAKAT) political party. The new Katangese state did not enjoy full support throughout the province and was constantly wracked by ethnic strife in its northernmost region. It was dissolved in 1963 following an invasion by United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC) forces, and reintegrated with the rest of the country as Katanga Province.

Democratic Republic of the Congo Country in Central Africa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, East Congo, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes anachronistically referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. It is, by area, the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, the second-largest in all of Africa, and the 11th-largest in the world. With a population of over 78 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populous officially Francophone country, the fourth-most-populous country in Africa, and the 16th-most-populous country in the world. Currently, eastern DR Congo is the scene of ongoing military conflict in Kivu, since 2015.


Early life

A member of the Lunda tribes, Tshombe was born near Musumba, Belgian Congo, the son of a successful businessman. He received his education from an American missionary school and later trained as an accountant. In the 1950s, he took over a chain of stores in Katanga Province and became involved in politics.

Lunda people ethnic group

The Lunda originated in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo along the Kalanyi River and formed the Kingdom of Lunda in the 17th century under their ruler, Mwata Yamvo or Mwaant Yav, with their capital at Musumba. From there they spread widely through Katanga and into Eastern Angola, north-western Zambia and the Luapula valley of Zambia.

Musumba is a city in Lualaba Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the former capital of the Kingdom of Lunda. The Lunda empire was destroyed by Leopold II and his Force publique.

Belgian Congo former Belgian colony corresponding to modern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Belgian Congo was a Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present-day name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 1964.

Political career

He founded the Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga (CONAKAT) party, with Godefroid Munongo. CONAKAT promoted a federal Congo independent of the Belgian colonial empire. [1]

The Confédération des associations tribales du Katanga, or CONAKAT, was one of the three main political parties in the Belgian Congo and was led by the pro-Western regionalist Moïse Tshombe and his interior minister, Godefroid Munongo.

Godefroid Munongo Democratic Republic of the Congo politician

Godefroid Munongo Mwenda M'Siri (1925–1992) was a politician of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was a minister and briefly interim president, in 1961. It has been claimed he was involved in ethnic cleansing and in the assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, during the Congo Crisis.

Belgian colonial empire Former colonies of Belgium, 1908—1962

Belgium controlled two colonies during its history, the Belgian Congo from 1908 to 1960, and Ruanda-Urundi from 1922 to 1962. It also had a concession in China, and was a co-administrator of the Tangier International Zone in Morocco.

President of Katanga

CONAKAT won control of the Katanga provincial legislature in the May 1960 general elections. One month later, the Congo became an independent republic. Tshombe became President of Katanga. [2] Patrice Lumumba was tasked with forming a national government. Members of Lumumba's party, the Mouvement National Congolais, were given charge of the portfolios of national defence and interior over Tshombe's objections. [3] The portfolio for economic affairs was awarded to a CONAKAT member, but this was undercut by the positioning of nationalists in control of the Ministry and Secretariat for Economic Coordination. Mines and land affairs were placed under separate portfolios. Tshombe declared that this diluting of CONAKAT's influence rendered his agreement to support the government "null and void". [4]

Patrice Lumumba 20th-century Congolese Prime Minister and leader

Patrice Émery Lumumba was a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo from June until September 1960. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. Ideologically an African nationalist and Pan-Africanist, he led the Congolese National Movement (MNC) party from 1958 until his assassination.

Lumumba Government

The Lumumba Government, synecdochically known as the Lumumba Ministry or Lumumba Cabinet, was the first set of ministers, ministers of state, and secretaries of state that governed the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from 24 June until 12 September 1960. Weak and divided, its tenure was dominated by a widespread mutiny in the army and two secessions. The government suffered from and inherited many problems from the era of the Belgian Congo, a tightly-administered colony which for most of is existence had few political freedoms. In the late 1950s an independence movement suddenly emerged, led by figures such as Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasa-Vubu. Fears that the situation might turn violent led the Belgian government to agree to relinquish the Congo and grant it independence on 30 June 1960. A provisional constitution, providing for a parliamentary regime with a responsible government and prime minister and an irresponsible head of state, was instituted, and general elections were hastily organised. Lumumba's nationalist party, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), won a plurality of the seats in Parliament. After much hesitation, King Baudouin of Belgium appointed Lumumba formateur, tasking him with creating a government. On 23 June Lumumba announced his completed government, a broad coalition consisting of 23 ministers, 4 ministers of state, and 10 secretaries of state, and presented it to the lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. The vote of confidence succeeded by only a small margin. The Senate gave a more decisive vote of approval the following day, and the Lumumba Government was officially invested. With Lumumba's backing, Parliament elected Kasa-Vubu President.

Mouvement National Congolais political party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Congolese National Movement is a political party in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On the evening of 11 July Tshombe, accusing the central government of communist leanings and dictatorial rule, announced that Katanga was seceding from the Congo. [5] Favoring continued ties with Belgium, he asked the Belgian government to send military officers to recruit and train a Katangese army.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Tshombe in Katanga, 1962 Tshombe with Operation Unokat casualty cropped.jpg
Tshombe in Katanga, 1962

Tshombe demanded UN recognition for independent Katanga, and he announced that any intervention by UN troops would be met with force. [6] Nonetheless, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and his successor, Cyrille Adoula, successfully requested intervention from UN forces. UN forces were sent under the direction of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld.

Cyrille Adoula Congolese Prime Minister, Ambassador

Cyrille Adoula was a Congolese trade unionist and politician. He was the prime minister of the Republic of the Congo, from 2 August 1961 until 30 June 1964.

France, wishing to take advantage of Katangese minerals, sent Moïse Tshombe the reinforcement of the mercenary Bob Denard and his men. It is supported by the networks of Jacques Foccart, the "Mr. Africa" of the Elysée [7]

Lumumba's government was overthrown, and Lumumba taken prisoner by Mobutu and detained at Camp Hardy in Thysville. Harold d'Aspremont Lynden  [ nl ] (Belgian minister for African Affairs) sent a highly confidential telegram on 16 January 1961 to the government in Léopoldville (President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu) to send Lumumba to Katanga. That would have stemmed from Lumumba's increasing popularity among soldiers, who might release him. Meanwhile, soldier mutinies and unrest increased by the day, at Prison Camp Hardy in Thysville. The telegram has still not been shown to exist.

While being flown in a Sabena DC-4 air plane to Katanga, Lumumba was beaten by the Congolese soldiers escorting him. In custody in Katanga, Lumumba was visited by Katangese notables and Belgian officers, who included Tshombe, Godefroid Munongo, Kibwe, Kitenge, Grandelet, Son, Gat, Huyghé, Tignée, Verscheure, Segers and Rougefort. Lumumba's execution was carried out by a firing squad led by a Belgian mercenary, Julien Gat. [8]

Prime Minister of the Congo

Prime Minister Tshombe touring Stanleyville in 1964 Moise Tshombe touring Stanleyville.jpg
Prime Minister Tshombe touring Stanleyville in 1964

In 1963, UN forces succeeded in suppressing Katanga, driving Tshombe into exile in Northern Rhodesia, later to Spain. In July 1964, he returned to the Congo to serve as prime minister in a new coalition government.[ citation needed ] Tshombe's national support was derived from the backing of provincial political bosses, customary chiefs, and foreign financial interests. [9] In a New Year's message at the beginning of 1965, Tshombe rejected conciliation with the Simba rebels and called for their total defeat. [10] He was received in Paris by President de Gaulle in November 1964. He was dismissed from his position in October 1965 by President Kasa-Vubu. In November, General Mobutu, who had staged a successful coup against Kasa-Vubu, brought charges of treason against Tshombe, who again fled the country and settled in Francoist Spain.

Later life

In 1967, Tshombe was sentenced to death in absentia. On 30 June 1967, he was in a Hawker Siddeley jet aircraft that was hijacked by Francis Bodenan, an agent of the SDECE of France. According to the Congolese government, Tshombe was going to Africa. [11]

Tshombe was taken to Algeria, jailed, and placed under house arrest. The pilots of the plane, Britons Trevor Coppleston and David Taylor, were released and returned to the United Kingdom. The Congolese government demanded his extradition to Congo, and his Western supporters agitated for his release. [11] The Algerians resisted both demands.

Death and legacy

"Moïse Tshombe nearly became the 'savior' of the Congo on his return from exile. But history decided otherwise, and the Congolese people found themselves under the leadership of Mobutu".

Thomas Kanza, 1972 [12]

Tshombe died in 1969, the official cause of death was listed as "death from heart failure". He was buried in a Methodist service at Etterbeek Cemetery, near Brussels, Belgium. [13] Due to his role in the death of Lumumba and association with Western interests, Tshombe's surname became synonymous with "sellout" to black African nationalists. [14] [15] [lower-alpha 1]



  1. A derivative of Tshombe's name, chombe, was incorporated into the Shona language as a word for "sellout". Kuchomba is the verb form. [16]


  1. The Congo from Leopold to Kabila, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, 2002, ISBN   1-84277-053-5, accessed February 2009
  2. "Congo (Kinshasa) provinces". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  3. Hoskyns 1965, p. 79.
  4. Gérard-Libois 1966, p. 85.
  5. Hoskyns 1965, p. 99.
  6. "Katanga Premier Warns U.N. Force" (PDF). The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. Reuters. 21 July 1960. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
  8. The Assassination of Lumumba, Ludo De Witte, 2003, ISBN   1-85984-410-3
  9. Semonin 1968, p. 20.
  10. O'Ballance 1999, p. 85.
  11. 1 2 Gibbs, David N. (1991). The Political Economy of Third World Intervention. University of Chicago Press. pp. 152, 167–168. ISBN   0-226-29071-9.
  12. Kanza 1994, p. 327.
  13. "Tshombe is Buried in Brussels; Sons Weep at His Grave". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. UPI. 6 July 1969. p. 6. Retrieved 18 January 2016.
  14. Sibanda 2005, p. 116.
  15. Fouéré 2015, p. 158.
  16. Pekeshe, Munhamu (15 January 2015). "Tshombe, Geneva and détente in the village". The Patriot. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  17. The Cold War, 1945-1991: Leaders and other important figures in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and the Third World/ p. 339

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Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Cyrille Adoula
Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
10 July 1964 – 13 October 1965
Succeeded by
Évariste Kimba