74. Telegram From the Consulate in Elizabethville to the Department of State1
Since hardly any thinking person here accepts official Katangan version of death of Lumumba and associates,4 it appears persistent rumors first reported in Contel 420 were, if not correct, at least prophetic. [less than one line not declassified] other Consulate officers have heard many stories including that deaths occurred January 17, 18, or 19 from effects of initial bad treatment, on January 26 as result intentional execution, after February 8 as result of announcement US support of liberation of Lumumba and other political prisoners and finally at time of escape on February 10. Speculating on these versions, I would accept as most likely original stories that Lumumba and associates died on January 17 to 19 as result of miscalculation concerning amount of physical punishment they could endure. Reason for my choice is story given me from creditable source that Lucas Samelenge, Secretary State for Information, told associates in this period they must prepare believable story concerning Lumumba’s accidental death. Samelenge and associates immediately silenced by Surete but not before certain of them had leaked story to close friends.
Latest information from ONUC here indicates investigative team composed of Ethiopian General Iyassu and Knecht, Swiss Surete official who worked on Jacquinot case, have made little progress against solid opposition by Katangan authorities. Sole element to date was Knecht’s interview with UPI cameraman who alone accompanied Katangan investigating committee to alleged place of escape. Cameraman indicated conditions in farm house cast certain doubt on stories of Katangan [Page 102] Government concerning escape, although locale provided no conclusive evidence as to truth or falsity of story.
- Source: Central Intelligence Agency Files, [text not declassified], Folder 3. Confidential; Priority. Received at 11:22 a.m. Also sent to Leopoldville; repeated (information) to Brussels.↩
- In telegram 420 from Elizabethville, January 20, U.S. Consul William Canup stated that he thought it was impossible to disregard the persistent rumors that Lumumba had died as a result of mistreatment shortly after his arrival. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, 770G.00/1–2061) See Document 6, Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, Vol. XX, Congo Crisis, pp. 17–18.↩
- In telegram 507 from Elizabethville, February 11, Canup reported widespread skepticism concerning the Katanga Government’s story that Lumumba and his two associates had escaped from custody. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Files, 770G.00/2–1161) See footnote 2 to Document 26, Foreign Relations, 1961–1963, Vol. XX, Congo Crisis.↩
- On February 13, the Katanga government announced that Lumumba and his companions had been captured and killed by hostile villagers.↩