Moise Tshombe

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Moise Tshombe
Moise Tshombe cropped.jpg
Prime Minister of Congo-Léopoldville
In office
10 July 1964 – 13 October 1965
President Joseph Kasa-Vubu
Preceded by Cyrille Adoula
Succeeded by Évariste Kimba
Personal details
Born 10 November 1919
Musumba, Belgian Congo
(Now Congo-Kinshasa)
Died 29 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 politician, in the country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.[1]


A member of the Lunda tribe, Tshombe was born near Musumba, in the then-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. He founded the CONAKAT party with Godefroid Munongo; the party promoted an independent, federal Congo.[2]

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 the government of the province of Katanga.[3] In the resulting strife and chaos following independence, Tshombe and CONAKAT declared Katanga's secession from the rest of the Congo. The Christian, anti-communist, pro-Western Tshombe declared that "we are seceding from chaos." Favoring continued ties with Belgium, Tshombe asked the Belgian government to send military officers to recruit and train a Katangese army.

Tshombe demanded United Nations recognition for independent Katanga, and he announced that any intervention by UN troops would be met with force.[4] Nonetheless, the Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and his successor Cyrille Adoula requested intervention from UN forces, which they received. U.N forces were sent under the direction of Irish representative (to Dag Hammarskjöld), Conor Cruise O'Brien.

Patrice Lumumba's government was overthrown and Lumumba taken prisoner by Mobutu and detained at Camp Hardy in Thysville. It has been alleged (but never proved) that Harold d'Aspremont Lynden (Belgian minister for African Affairs) sent a highly confidential telegram on 16 January 1961 to the government in Léopoldville (Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Mobutu) to send Lumumba to Katanga. This would have stemmed from Lumumba's increasing popularity amongst soldiers who might release him; during this time soldier mutinies and unrest increased by the day at prison camp Hardy in Thysville. To date, this telegram has never 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. While in custody in Katanga, Lumumba was visited by Katangese notables and Belgian officers which included Tshombe, Godefroid Munongo, Kibwe, Kitenge, Grandelet, Son, Gat, Huyghé, Tignée, Verscheure, Segers, Rougefort and others. Lumumba's execution was carried out by a firing squad led by a Belgian mercenary named Julien Gat.[5]

In 1963, UN forces succeeded in capturing 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. Scarcely a year later he was dismissed from his position in October 1965 by President Joseph Kasavubu. In late 1965, Prime Minister Joseph Mobutu, who had staged a successful coup against President Kasavubu, brought charges of treason against Tshombe. Tshombe again fled the country, this time settling in Spain.

In 1967, he was sentenced to death in absentia. On 30 June 1967, a Hawker Siddeley jet aircraft he was traveling in was hijacked by Francis Bodenan, a SDECE agent. According to the Congolese government Tshombe was going to Africa.[6] Tshombe was taken to Algeria, jailed, then placed under house arrest. The pilots of the plane, Englishmen Trevor Coppleston and David Taylor, were released and returned to England. The Congolese government demanded his extradition to Congo, while his Western supporters agitated for his release.[6] The Algerians resisted both demands. Tshombe died in June 1969, the official cause of death was listed as "death from heart failure." He is buried in Etterbeek cemetery near Brussels in Belgium.


Rumours and speculation following the 1968 landing of a mysterious aeroplane in Rhodesia, which was said to have been full of mercenaries and an ill Tshombe, were the basis for Daniel Carney's book that later became the 1978 film The Wild Geese, which starred Richard Burton. In the film, Winston Ntshona plays a pro-western, deposed African president, who is imprisoned following the hijacking of his plane.


  1. Frank Villafaña Cold War in the Congo: The Confrontation of Cuban Military Forces 2009 Page 20 "The five-year smooth transition originally envisioned by Belgian politicians became a five-month reluctant and tumultuous ... not protect their interests, and nominated Moïse Tshombé, a wealthy plantation owner, as their man-in-Katanga."
  2. The Congo from Leopold to Kabila, Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, 2002, ISBN 1-84277-053-5, accessed February 2009
  4. "Katanga Premier Warns U.N. Force". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times Company. Reuters. 21 July 1960. Retrieved 10 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. The Assassination of Lumumba, Ludo De Witte, 2003, ISBN 1-85984-410-3
  6. 6.0 6.1 Gibbs, David N. (1991). The Political Economy of Third World Intervention. University of Chicago Press. pp. 152, 167–168. ISBN 0-226-29071-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Further reading

  • De Witte, Ludo (2003). The Assassination of Lumumba. Verso. ISBN 1-85984-410-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
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