The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is famous the world over for covert operations, the details of which remain for the most part foggy.
For this reason the recent revelations that suppose that the 1962 arrest of Nelson Mandela was based off a tip off from a CIA agent is not entirely shocking.
In fact a more deliberate look through history is sure to unearth some other ways that the CIA meddled in African affairs.
The reasons for why the CIA meddled in African affairs were varied but were often rooted in the vested interest that the US often had towards African countries and actually the whole world, in what was at the time (during the Cold War) a battle between the US and the Soviet Union for influence.
The covert operations of the CIA are far from easy to prove but examples do exist by way of research into the agency’s work and revelations from past CIA agents into some other cases were the CIA meddled in African affairs.
Three examples of how the CIA meddled in African affairs;
Patrice Lumumba’s Assassination in Congo (1961)
Patrice Lumumba was the first prime minister in the then newly-independent Congo in 1960. He however managed to last only a few months as he was overthrown and assassinated in January 1961. Former colonial power Belgium took responsibility for its role in the killing in 2002, but the US kept silent on its role, though suspicions persisted.
It turned out that then US president Dwight D Eisenhower, concerned about communism, was worried about Congo following a similar path to Cuba. A source who was quoted in Death in the Congo, which is a book about the assassination, President Eisenhower simply gave “an order for the assassination of Lumumba. There was no discussion; the [National Security Council] meeting simply moved on”.
Lawrence Devlin, who was a station chief in Congo at the time, told the BBC in 2000 that despite this, a CIA plan to lace Lumumba’s toothpaste with poison was never carried out.
Add to that a survey of declassified US government documents from the era which noted that the CIA “initially focused on removing Lumumba, not only through assassination if necessary but also with an array of non-lethal undertakings” and you have a surefire assurance that the CIA wanted Lumumba dead but there is no further indication that there was direct US involvement in his eventual killing.
Overthrowing Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana (1965)
Kwame Nkrumah was Ghana’s first President and was overthrown in a military coup in 1966 while away from the country. He later voiced suspicions that US had a role in his overthrow and a former CIA intelligence officer, John Stockwell backed this theory up in a 1978 book.
The book named ‘In Search of Enemies’ purports that an official sanction for the coup does not appear in CIA documents, but he writes “the Accra station was nevertheless encouraged by headquarters to maintain contact with dissidents…It was given a generous budget, and maintained intimate contact with the plotters as a coup was hatched.”
One declassified US government document shows awareness of a plot to overthrow the president, but does not indicate any official backing and another written after the coup describes Nkrumah as “doing more to undermine our interests than any other black African”.
Opposition To The MPLA In Angola (1970s)
After Angola’s independence from Portugal in 1975, three competing groups; MPLA, FNLA and Unita, fought for control. The MPLA under Agostinho Neto finally took the capital Luanda.
Mr Stockwell, chief of CIA’s covert operations in Angola in 1975 wrote that the US decided to oppose the MPLA because it was seen as closer to the Soviet Union and instead backed the FNLA and Unita even though all three had help from communist countries.
The CIA then helped secretly import weapons, including 30,000 rifles, through Kinshasa in neighboring Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mr Stockwell says in a video documentary, also adding that CIA officers trained fighters for armed combat.
A declassified US government document detailing a discussion between the head of the CIA, the secretary of state and others indicates the support the CIA gave to the forces fighting the MPLA. The US continued to support Unita through much of the civil war as Cuba was backing the MPLA.