The political situation in the Congo deteriorated rapidly after it gained independence on June 30, 1960. By July Belgian paratroopers had arrived in Stanleyville, the capital of Katanga province, attacking the Congolese army and police in a bid to aid the province in resisting the new central government. Lumumba in response visited Katanga to try to keep the mineral-rich region within the Congo nation. Here is his radio address to the Congolese nation on July 19 after his return from Stanleyville.
Mv dear compatriots,
We have just come back to Leopoldville this evening, after a two- day stay in Stanleyville, where I arrived last Saturday with the chief of state. During these two days we made important appointments within the army, the police force, and the administration. When we arrived in Stanleyville, the situation was particularly calm in Orientale Province. But Belgian paratroopers landed at Bunia at 2:30 P.M. on Monday to pursue their mission of aggression and provocation. They immediately opened fire on Congolese troops. Two Congolese soldiers were killed. The Belgian troops, moreover, seized arms and ammunition belonging to your national army. Similar acts were committed in Coquilhatville, where one soldier and one policeman were killed, and in Kindu. The Belgian troops are creating panic and unrest throughout the Congo.
Everywhere they go they mount surprise attacks on our troops. For ten days now the chief of state and I have been traveling all over the country to preach calm and examine the situation more closely. Our presence in the interior of the Congo has been beneficial in many respects and has allowed us to uncover many secret plots that threatened to plunge our country into an even graver situation than is generally believed. Having witnessed the acts committed today by the Belgian government in our country, we cannot believe what it told us yesterday for a single instant. Belgium recognized the independence of the Congo yesterday; today she is sabotaging that independence. The ministers of Belgium who signed the document recognizing the Congo’s attainment of international sovereignty on June 30, before all the nations of the world, before the Congolese nation, are the same ministers who sent us occupation troops a few days after the independence of the Congo. The Belgian government, which made it the Fundamental Law that the Congo and its six present provinces formed an indivisible and indissoluble political entity, is the same government that has instigated the secession of Katanga, for the sole purpose of keeping the Union Minière. The proof of the criminal acts of Belgium in the Congo has been clearly established by the arrest of General Victor Lundula, who was appointed by the chief of state and was in Jadotville, and now is a prisoner in Elisabethville, by the appointment of a Belgian commander-in-chief in Katanga, and by the sending of Belgian troops and special envoys to that province.
One thing is certain: Belgium has damned itself in the eyes of the entire world. Its schemes will fail. The valiant Congolese people will be the victors. We would rather die for our freedom than continue to live in slavery. All the life forces of this country have been mobilized to save the honor of the country and courageously defend its independence. The tide of solid support for the young republic is visibly mounting. Every day we receive messages of affection and solidarity, from every corner of the globe, for the just cause we are defending. History never takes a step backward. The Congolese people will let nothing stand in their way in their effort to wipe out every vestige of colonialism and imperialism from their soil. Nothing matters to us, to the Congolese government that you have elected, except the interest of our nation. And our government is determined to defend this sole interest to the very limit, even at the cost of the lives of its members.
In a letter we sent the secretary-general of the United Nations, a letter signed by the chief of state and myself, we set a deadline for the withdrawal of the Belgian troops. We had been promised that the Belgian troops would withdraw as soon as the UN troops arrived in the Congo. ‘The UN troops have been in the Congo for more than a week and the Belgian troops refuse to withdraw. They are continuing their aggression. This time limit that we set expires today, July 19, at midnight. If the United Nations cannot satisfy our people, our government will be obliged immediately to call on troops of other nations. We cannot continue to live under the unjustified military occupation of a foreign power.
I inform public opinion in the Congo and throughout the world that Katanga will not he separate from the Congo. The province of Katanga is an integral part of the independent Congo, from the point of view both of internal public law and of international law. Just as the province of Antwerp in Belgium will not become independent, neither will the province of Katanga become independent in an independent Congo. Our great, rich country will remain united, in order to play a primary role in the association of free nations of Africa.
My dear compatriots, we are standing firmly on our feet day and night with you to defend the integrity of our national territory. Those who still look upon the Congo as a conquered country, as an international market where they can come looking for gold, are mistaken. The Congo is a free country. Its women and children, its workers, its intellectuals will defend it, because the riches of the Congo belong to them. And we are going to exploit them ourselves so as to make the Congo a great and prosperous nation in the center of Black Africa. And tomorrow the Western countries that envy us today will come and seek asylum here. We will welcome them, for we are a peace-loving country.
Long live the sovereign and independent Republic of the Congo!