The drive for independence in the Belgian Congo began in earnest during the 1950s with the independence of neighboring territories and the formation of a number of Congolese political groups, including ABAKO, BALUBAKAT, and CONACAT. Most of these groups were based upon regional and/or tribal and cultural affiliation, but an exception to this was the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), a national party whose leadership included Patrice Lumumba. All of these groups sought independence from Belgium, but they were divided over whether the new nation should form a central or federalist government. Belgium granted full independence on June 30, 1960, and set the stage for elections in May.

During the pre-independence period, the Eisenhower administration grew increasingly wary of the potential for Communist-bloc interference in the election process and the new government. The administration was particularly concerned about Lumumba, who it viewed as harboring pro-Communist sentiments. Since Lumumba enjoyed broad national support in the Congo, the administration feared he posed a potential threat to U.S. interests and goals in Sub-Saharan Africa. In response, the U.S. Government began to consider a political action program in March 1960, designed to support pro-Western candidates and marginalize Marxist groups.