Tag Archives: Patrice Lumumba

Historic event with Venezuelan Foreign Minister on “Canadian Interference”

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Join an historic event on Thursday, August 20. The foreign minister of a country of 30 million that’s had diplomatic relations with Canada for seven decades will discuss Ottawa’s efforts to overthrow his government.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza will talk about “Canadian Interference in Venezuela.” The event promotion reads:

“Nearly two years ago, the Trudeau government threw their wholehearted support behind a US-backed plan to declare an opposition politician, Juan Guiadó, ‘Interim President’ of Venezuela.   Since then, the Trump administration has orchestrated numerous coup attempts and appealed for an army mutiny against Nicolás Maduro. It has also adopted extreme unilateral coercive economic measures against the country. The Canadian government has sanctioned Venezuelan officials and built up an oppositional international coalition.

“Trump and Trudeau’s sanctions and efforts to stoke a revolt are having an ever-greater impact on ordinary Venezuelans livelihood and ability to feed themselves. At the same time, Guaidó’s chances of taking power are slimmer today than at any point since he claimed the presidency. “Still, Trudeau supports Washington’s regime change efforts.

“Is there a limit to what the Liberals will support?”

One reason Canadians have an inaccurate view of their country’s role in the world is that other countries’ politicians generally avoid publicly challenging Canadian policy. They do so for a series of reasons, some of which are tied to Canada’s somewhat unique position in global politics. Canada is a G7 nation that has been particularly close to the two main empires of the past two centuries. Yet it has never had formal colonies (First Nations aside) and has almost always played second or third fiddle to acts of US or British aggression. Partly because it doesn’t get criticized internationally and the Canadian Left prefers to focus on US foreign policy, Ottawa has a comparatively clean reputation. As such, it’s generally not considered strategic for any specific government to highlight Canada’s bad behavior.

There are few, if any, historic equivalents to Arreaza’s planned talk. I’m unaware, for instance, of a foreign politician delivering a lecture at a Canadian university critical of Canada’s international policy. Here are the closest equivalents I came up with.

In September 1956 Egyptian leader Gamal Nasser condemned Ottawa for selling Israel F86 jets a month before invading its neighbor. He declared, “the supplying of Israel with arms despite her repeated aggressions against Arab frontiers is considered a hostile act aimed at the whole Arab nation.” In the lead-up to the 1967 Israeli invasion Nasser again complained about Ottawa’s “biased stand in favour of Israel.”

In 1960 Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba told a crowd he went to Canada but was “disappointed to find that although honest, Canada was just another imperialist country.” A decade later Salvador Allende’s Minister of Finance criticized Canada’s “banker’s attitude” after Export Development Canada refused to finance Canadian exports to Chile. Ottawa did so as part of a broader US-led effort to isolate the socialist government.

Days after I poured fake blood on foreign affairs minister Pierre Pettigrew’s hands and yelled “Pettigrew lies, Haitians die” during a June 2005 press conference on Haiti, ousted president Jean Bertrand Aristide was asked about the incident. In an interview in South Africa Aristide told journalist Naomi Klein the Canadian government had Haitian “blood on its hands.”

In a similar vein popular opposition senator Moise Jean-Charles has repeatedly criticized Canada’s role in the 2004 coup against Aristide. At a major 2013 demonstration against President Michel Martelly Jean-Charles told Haiti Liberté, “we are asking the Americans, French, and Canadians to come and collect their errand boy because he cannot lead the country any more.”

After Canada backed the 2009 military coup against Manuel Zelaya, the ousted Honduran foreign minister told TeleSur that Ottawa and Washington were providing “oxygen” to the military government. Patricia Rodas called on Canada and the US to suspend aid to the de facto regime. During an official visit to Mexico with Zelaya, Rodas asked Mexican president Felipe Calderon, who was about to meet Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama, to lobby Ottawa and Washington on their behalf. “We are asking [Calderon] to be an intermediary for our people with the powerful countries of the world, for example, the US and at this moment Canada, which have lines of military and economic support with Honduras.”

The above examples are the closest parallels I could think of to Arreaza’s talk on Canada’s interference in Venezuela. But what distinguishes the Venezuelan foreign minister’s upcoming event is the scope of the discussion. In addition, he is a sitting foreign minister and will talk directly to a Canadian audience.

The Venezuelan government appears ever more willing to push back against Canada’s brazen campaign to overthrow it. As I detailed in “How Venezuela helped defeat Canada’s Security Council bid”, the only country’s diplomats — from what I saw — that publicly campaigned against Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council were Venezuelan.

The international community’s rejection of Canada’s bid for a seat on the Security Council offers internationalist minded Canadians an important opportunity to re-evaluate this country’s international policies. Following Canada’s second consecutive Security Council defeat a growing coalition of organizations and prominent Canadians have signed on to an open letter calling for a “fundamental reassessment of Canadian foreign policy.”

One of its 10 questions asks: “Why is Canada involved in efforts to overthrow Venezuela’s UN-recognized government, a clear violation of the principle of non-intervention in other country’s internal affairs?”

Arreaza’s talk will offer a unique opportunity for Canadians who are troubled by the Trudeau Liberals’ empowering of a bully president to hear directly from a government standing up against a campaign of intimidation by Canada and USA.

You can register for the webinar here.

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Filed under Justin Trudeau, Venezuela

Canada’s ‘peacekeeping’ mission killed an African independence hero

Fifty-six years ago this month the United Nations launched a peacekeeping force that contributed to one of the worst post-independence imperial crimes in Africa. The Organisation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC) delivered a major blow to Congolese aspirations by undermining elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. Canada played a significant role in ONUC and Lumumba’s assassination, which should be studied by progressives demanding Ottawa increase its participation in UN “peacekeeping”.

After seven decades of brutal rule, Belgium organized a hasty independence in the hopes of maintaining control over the Congo’s vast natural resources. When Lumumba was elected to pursue a genuine de-colonization, Brussels instigated a secessionist movement in the eastern part of country. In response, the Congolese Prime Minister asked the UN for a peacekeeping force to protect the territorial integrity of the newly independent country. Washington, however, saw the UN mission as a way to undermine Lumumba.

Siding with Washington, Ottawa promoted ONUC and UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. 1,900 Canadian troops participated in the UN mission between 1960 and 1964, making this country’s military one of its more active members. There were almost always more Canadian officers at ONUC headquarters then those of any other nationality and the Canadians were concentrated in militarily important logistical positions including chief operations officer and chief signals officer.

Canada’s strategic role wasn’t simply by chance. Ottawa pushed to have Canada’s intelligence gathering signals detachments oversee UN intelligence and for Quebec Colonel Jean Berthiaume to remain at UN headquarters to “maintain both Canadian and Western influence.” (A report from the Canadian Directorate of Military Intelligence noted, “Lumumba’s immediate advisers…have referred to Lt. Col. Berthiaume as an ‘imperialist tool.'”)

To bolster the power of ONUC, Ottawa joined Washington in channelling its development assistance to the Congo through the UN. Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah complained that this was “applying a restriction to Congo which does not apply to any other African state.” Ottawa rejected Nkrumah’s request to channel Congolese aid through independent African countries.

Unlike many ONUC participants, Canada aggressively backed Hammarskjold’s controversial anti-Lumumba position. External Affairs Minister Howard Green told the House of Commons: “The Canadian government will continue its firm support for the United Nations effort in the Congo and for Mr. Hammarskjold, who in the face of the greatest difficulty has served the high principles and purposes of the charter with courage, determination and endless patience.”

Ottawa supported Hammarskjold even as he sided with the Belgian-backed secessionists against the central government. On August 12 1960 the UN Secretary General traveled to Katanga and telegraphed secessionist leader Moise Tchombe to discuss “deploying United Nations troops to Katanga.” Not even Belgium officially recognized Katanga’s independence, provoking Issaka Soure to note that, “[Hammarskjold’s visit] sent a very bad signal by implicitly implying that the rebellious province could somehow be regarded as sovereign to the point that the UN chief administrator could deal with it directly.”

The UN head also worked to undermine Lumumba within the central government. When President Joseph Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba as prime minister — a move of debatable legality and opposed by the vast majority of the country’s parliament — Hammarskjold publicly endorsed the dismissal of a politician who a short time earlier had received the most votes in the country’s election.

Lumumba attempted to respond to his dismissal with a nationwide broadcast, but UN forces blocked him from accessing the main radio station. ONUC also undermined Lumumba in other ways. Through their control of the airport ONUC prevented his forces from flying into the capital from other parts of the country and closed the airport to Soviet weapons and transportation equipment when Lumumba turned to Russia for assistance.

In addition, according to The Cold War “[the Secretary General’s special representative Andrew] Cordier provided $1 million — money supplied to the United Nations by the U.S. government — to [military commander Joseph] Mobutu in early September to pay off restive and hungry Congolese soldiers and keep them loyal to Kasavubu during his attempt to oust Lumumba as prime minister.”

To get a sense of Hammarskjold’s antipathy towards the Congolese leader, he privately told officials in Washington that Lumumba must be “broken” and only then would the Katanga problem “solve itself.” For his part, Cordier asserted “[Ghanaian president Kwame] Nkrumah is the Mussolini of Africa while Lumumba is its little Hitler.”

(Echoing this thinking, in a conversation with External Affairs Minister Howard Green, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker called Lumumba a “major threat to Western interests” and said he was “coming around to the conclusion” that an independent Western oriented Katanga offered “the best solution to the current crisis.”)

In response to Hammarskjold’s efforts to undermine his leadership, Lumumba broke off relations with the UN Secretary General. He also called for the withdrawal of all white peacekeepers, which Hammarskjold rejected as a threat to UN authority.

A number of ONUC nations ultimately took up Lumumba’s protests. When the Congolese prime minister was overthrown and ONUC helped consolidate the coup, the United Arab Republic (Egypt), Guinea, Morocco and Indonesia formally asked Hammarskjold to withdraw all of their troops.

Canadian officials took a different position. They celebrated ONUC’s role in Lumumba’s overthrow. A week after Lumumba was pushed out prominent Canadian diplomat Escott Reid, then ambassador to Germany, noted in an internal letter, “already the United Nations has demonstrated in the Congo that it can in Africa act as the executive agent of the free world.” The “free world” was complicit in the murder of one of Africa’s most important independence leaders. In fact, the top Canadian in ONUC directly enabled his killing.

After Lumumba escaped house arrest and fled Leopoldville for his power base in the Eastern Orientale province, Colonel Jean Berthiaume assisted Lumumba’s political enemies by helping recapture him. The UN chief of staff, who was kept in place by Ottawa, tracked the deposed prime minister and informed Joseph Mobutu of Lumumba’s whereabouts. Three decades later Berthiaume, who was born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec, told an interviewer:

“I called Mobutu. I said, ‘Colonel, you have a problem, you were trying to retrieve your prisoner, Mr. Lumumba. I know where he is, and I know where he will be tomorrow. He said, what do I do? It’s simple, Colonel, with the help of the UN you have just created the core of your para commandos — we have just trained 30 of these guys — highly selected Moroccans trained as paratroopers. They all jumped — no one refused. To be on the safe side, I put our [Canadian] captain, Mario Coté, in the plane, to make sure there was no underhandedness. In any case, it’s simple, you take a Dakota [plane], send your paratroopers and arrest Lumumba in that small village — there is a runway and all that is needed. That’s all you’ll need to do, Colonel. He arrested him, like that, and I never regretted it.”

Ghanaian peacekeepers near where Lumumba was captured took quite a different attitude towards the elected prime minister’s safety. After Mobutu’s forces captured Lumumba they requested permission to intervene and place Lumumba under UN protection. Unfortunately, the Secretary-General denied their request. Not long thereafter Lumumba was executed by firing squad and his body was dissolved in acid.

In 1999 Belgium launched a parliamentary inquiry into its role in Lumumba’s assassination. Following Belgium’s lead, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs should investigate Canada’s role in the Congolese independence leader’s demise and any lessons ONUC might hold regarding this country’s participation in future UN missions.

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Filed under Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Canada in Africa, The Truth May Hurt