Tag Archives: Patrice Lumumba

One of the Great Negotiators

Negotiate – Word of the Day

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Dag Hammarskjold (1905 – 1961) a Swedish Diplomat, economist and from 1953 – 1961 he was the UN Secretary General. He was also a deeply spiritual person, a contemplative who loved the medieval mystics. His book ‘Markings’ a journal of his spiritual struggles was posthumously published with a foreword by his friend, the poet W.H. Auden. He called his diary – negotiations with himself and with God.

Hammarskjold was propopsed by the British Foreign Secertary Anthony Eden who was impressed with Hammarskjold’s work in diplomacy and economics. The vote was almost unanimous in the Security Council and Hammarskjold was announced as the next Secretary General. The American and Soviet delegates thought Hammarskjold was harmless. He was reelected in 1957.

Hammarskjold was unaware of the nomination, and in fact thought the media report was a joke, and because it was announced on April 1st, he quipped that it was a bad April Fools joke. But it was indeed true.

Hammarskjold believed that relationships were important and that example was one of the best forms of leadership. He tried to meet as many employees at the UN as possible, he ate regularly in the staff cafe, he refused to use his private lift and opened it for general use, he established the meditation room (which he helped to design) which was to be for withdrawal and reflection, a place for silence, and a multi-faith space. He prevented FBI intervention at the UN that his predecessor had allowed at the height of McCarthyism. And he brought order and regulatory process to an organisation in crisis.

He was an able negotiator. He made some impact on relations between Israel and the Arab states. In 1955 he successfully negotiated the release of eleven US airmen who were prisoners from the Korean War. In 1956 he played a major role in ending the Suez Crisis, There are many other negotiations that he was involved in, and which demonstrate his capacity to work hard and achieve a positive outcome. Not everything was plain sailing though, the Congo was unresolved, interrupted by his death, and the Soviet interference and then occupation of Hungary was frustrating for Hammaskjold as there was little he could do to bring a resolution forward.

His role in the Congo Crisis was cut short by his death as the result of a plane crash travelling to Congo. There are those who still believe that Congolese rebels associated with mining interests were responsible for the plane crash, but no substantive proofs have come to light, including a UN 2015 investigation into the matter. Hammarskjold made four visits to the Congo. It was, as history has shown, a tangled web of politics and power plays. The USSR and the Americans had their own people on the ground and were manipulating much of the power play. The Congo had become factionalised on independence, and the popularly elected Prime-minister Patrice Lumumba was murdered. It was utter chaos.

J.F. Kennedy said of Hammarskjold:Β “I realise now that in comparison to him, I am a small man. He was the greatest statesman of our century.” Kennedy was reflecting on Hammarskjold’s death and on his own resistance to Hammarskjold’s policy in the Congo.

Extreme left and right views are critical of Hammarskjold, and in the main these revolve around the immpossible situation in Hungary, and the seemingly intractable problem in the Congo. But for me they are the proof, by comparison, of the majority of successes he was part of and integral to. His record stands as testimony to his great ability to network, form key relationships, to maintain a consistent approach, and to believe the best in people. His commitment was to keeping peace and finding better ways for nations to negotiate their differences. He formed the UN Emergency Response Group, and initiated the first Peace Keeping force. He was posthumously awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1961.

His strength came from his contemplative stance, especially meditation, and his sheer passion for peace in the world. His personal belief was that selfless service to humanity was crucial. Whatever you may think of him, he was one of the great negotiators of the 20th century.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

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Core Values

via Daily Prompt: Core

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Are there any angels in Politics? Gandhi, but so few others. No one is perfect, as the saying goes, and perception is probably 9/10 of the problem.

There are a number of political biographies that I read in my teens and twenties, and which have haunted me ever since. Martin Luther King Jnr., Sukarno, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nelson Mandella, Steve Biko, And Patrice Lumumba (photo above). My blood still boils at the injustices they have suffered.

It was the early 1960s, African nationalist movements were in full swing, independence was coming. The Cold War was the context, and African minerals were the agenda, especially uranium, and the West would do anything to preserve their access. If you then place a leader who is a strong nationalist in power and who then pursues independence and who rails against the old colonial powers, you have the risk of losing those minerals. What to do? Kill that leader of course. But first make sure that his country, and then the world, see that leader as deeply flawed, incompetent, corrupt, a communist, an extremist, anti-western, and so on. Then shoot them.

Lumumba was a Pan-African, he wanted to see an interdependent cooperative Africa, and to be free of colonial control. He believed that african nations could be great nations under their own people. He was intensely critical of the colonial powers, in particular, Belgium, who had ruled his own country Congo and had a murky record in governance of Congo. He was for nonalignment – the stance of not choosing sides between the US and the Soviet Union. His main principle of governance was “National Unity.”

No sooner had independence been grudgingly and conditionally granted to Congo by Belgium, that Lumumba had won government with his party Mouvemnet National Congolais (MNC). But then a crisis developed over political direction and dependence on Belgium. Lumumba began to extract Congo from colonial trade and patterns, this caused anxiety in the US, UK, and Belgium, all who were worried that this young primeminister would turn to the Soviet Union for trade and support. The western nations are implicated in wanting to remove Lumumba, but none have been directly connected to the firing squad that murdered him.

Lumumba was deposed, arrested and imprisoned by the military, tortured and later shot. The man who was behind this was Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko (with western suport), who installed a government under his own control, and later in 1965, he overturned that government and became direct military ruler of the Congo until 1997. The only real winners in all of this were the western powers, notably, Congo has never thrived, it has given western nations its minerals at great cost to itself.

Patrice Lumumba had strong core vlaues, his was a selfless desire to lead Congo into a strong independent nation, he wanted his people to have access to health and education, he had hopes to provide modernization, and decolonialisation. He wanted Congo to benefit from its own natural wealth. He talked of an egalitarian community where everyone was valued. For this he was painted as a communist and as a dangerous leader. For these values he was murdered.

In his famous speech before independence, a speech highly criticized by western leaders, Lumumba said:Β “The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches.”

How prophetic! He was absolutely right. He is still right.

Patrice Lumumba’s life ended in tragedy, but it wasn’t completely in vain. He inspired his people to seek the best for Congo. Many of his political ideals have been picked up across Africa, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his thinking has been embraced on a number of fronts.

For me, Lumumba’s story is a reminder that there is a cost for integrity in political leadership. Β For Lumumba there was no other way, there would have been a cost for him personally had he caved in to Mobutu and the West. He was true to his vision and core values. He was far from perfect, but he died for his vision for the future of Congo, and that vision lives on.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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