The Congo gained independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960, and immediately a struggle for power took place between individuals, tribes and political groups. As conflict spread, Belgium was drawn in to protect its mineral investments, as well as the United States, keenly aware of the Congo’s vast resource wealth. Again, the United States framed events as being the threat of a Communist takeover, with CIA Director Allen Dulles warning that this would pose “disastrous consequences” for the “free world.” In 1960, Patrice Lumumba had become the first Prime Minister of the Congo following democratic elections, and he immediately prompted the animosity of the U.S. National Security State. Lumumba had called for both the economic as well as political liberation of the Congo. At the Independence Day ceremony, attended by an array of foreign former-imperial dignitaries, including the Belgian King, Lumumba publicly decried the former imperial powers, much to their horror at being publicly embarrassed by an African leader.
Soon after, the province of Katanga, home to the majority of the Congo’s vast mineral wealth, most of which was ‘owned’ by Belgium, announced that it was seceding, an act that was instantly supported by Belgium, which then deployed its military in the region with the full support of the United States. This prompted many international cries against the operation, and the United Nations suggested withdrawing Belgian forces and replacing them with a United Nations military force, an action the US was happy to carry out, as the operation was led by US officials acting in secret collaboration with the State Department. Lumumba attempted to turn to the US and UN for help in putting down the rebellion, both of which refused, prompting him to seek aid from the Soviet Union, which obliged.
On September 5, 1960, the President of the Congo, closely allied to the CIA, dismissed Lumumba as Prime Minister. Lumumba contested this, and spoke in his usual articulate manner, gaining the support of the legislature to reinstate him. Allen Dulles had, meanwhile, ordered the assassination of Lumumba, referring to it as “an urgent and prime objective.” Within days of being reinstated as Prime Minister, Joseph Mobutu took power in a military coup directed by the United States. Lumumba escaped, yet was tracked down by the CIA, and subsequently detained by Mobutu and handed over to the rebel leader of Katanga province, “Lumumba’s bitter enemy. Lumumba was assassinated the same day.” The Congo (eventually renamed Zaire, and then now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo) has never had a democratically elected leader since.
The Ford Foundation undertook major programs in public administration in Nigeria, East Africa and the Congo. The Congo was of particular interest, with its massive reserves of mineral wealth and resource riches. In 1961, Ford founded the National School of Law and Administration in the Congo, which was “designed to train an elite cadre of public administrators.” The objective worked quite well, as “by 1968, the 400 odd graduates of the school made up an elite corps of civil servants who [were then] holding important administrative and judicial posts throughout the Congo.” The first secretary-general of the school was a man named James T. Harris, who was also reportedly a CIA agent at the time.
As one Ford Foundation official in the 1960s stated:
From the standpoint of the United States government, Ford activity in the Congo has been useful in furthering foreign policy objectives. The United States has been successful in its main political objectives of helping create an independent Congo not subject to Communist influence. It has been able to do this by relying on the United Nations for peacekeeping and on the Ford Foundation for helping initiate the key institutions for the training of administrators… Ford assistance has therefore been an important element in furthering United States interests in Africa.
It is hard to come by a more blatant statement of interests and ideology within the major foundations. The official’s concept of an “independent” Congo simply means “subservient” to American and Western interests. As the official acknowledged himself, the Ford Foundation was “an important element in furthering United States interests in Africa,” thereby implicating the foundation not as a benevolent philanthropy, as we are made to believe via the savvy PR campaigns of foundations, but rather, to understand the foundation (as an institution) as an integral aspect of the modern imperial system of domination and control.