Pierre Mulele

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Pierre Mulele (11 August 1929 – 3 or 9 October 1968) was a Congolese rebel active in the Simba Rebellion of 1964. Mulele had also been minister of education in Patrice Lumumba's cabinet. With the assassination of Lumumba in January 1961 and the arrest of his recognised deputy Antoine Gizenga one year later, Mulele became one of the top Lumumbists determined to continue the struggle. He went to Cairo, Egypt, as the representative of the Lumumbists' Congo National Liberation Committee based in Brazzaville. From Cairo he proceeded to China in 1963 to receive military training, and also took a group of Congolese youths with him, who received training in guerrilla tactics.[1] He was a member of the Bapende ethnic group.[2]


Mulele (third from the right) with the Lumumba Government, 1960

Simba Rebellion[edit]

In January 1964, a new conflict broke out as Congolese rebels calling themselves "Simba" (Swahili for "lion") rebelled against the government. They were led by Mulele, Gaston Soumialot and Christophe Gbenye, former members of Antoine Gizenga's Parti Solidaire Africain (PSA).

During the Simba Rebellion, Mulele, who had previously undergone training in the Eastern bloc as well as the People's Republic of China, led a Maoist[3] faction in the Kwilu District. This came to be known as the Kwilu Rebellion. Mulele was an avowed Maoist, and for this reason his insurgency was supported by communist China. By the end of April 1964, Mulele's rebellion had been rendered somewhat less dangerous by the government. The USSR, with an embassy in the national capital of Leopoldville, did not support Mulele's Kwilu revolt and had no part in its preparation: lack of support from the Soviets was in the first place responsible for Mulele turning to China as his patron.[4]

Nonetheless, by August the Simba insurgents had captured Stanleyville and set up a rebel government there. However, the Congolese central government requested foreign intervention, and the troops fighting under the command of Soumialot and Gbenye were routed in November 1964, after intense drives by central government troops officered by foreign mercenaries. The landing of Belgian paratroopers in Stanleyville also proved instrumental in the rebels' defeat, as did key military assistance from the United States. On 24 November 1964, five US Air Force C-130 transports dropped 350 Belgian paratroopers of the Para-Commando Regiment onto the airfield at Stanleyville to rescue 2,000 European civilians being held hostage by the Simbas.[5] This move made the United States very unpopular in Africa at the time.[6] After the rebellion's defeat, Mulele fled into exile in Congo-Brazzaville.

In 1968, then-President Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) lured Mulele out of exile by promising him amnesty. Mulele returned to Congo-Kinshasa, believing he would be granted amnesty. Instead, he was publicly tortured and executed: his eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one, all while he was alive. What was left was dumped in the Congo River.[7][8]

Ideology and Maoism[edit]

When the Kwilu rebellion broke out in 1964, the revolt was led by Mulele in a way reminiscent of the Chinese communist revolutionary tactics during the Chinese Civil War. Mulele required his fighters to adhere to a very strict moral code, emphasising self-discipline and respect for civilians. The tribal peasant fighters proved difficult to control and many disregarded Mulele's orders. The eight instructions on conduct Mulele issued to his guerrilla fighters showed the great influence Mao Zedong's writings regarding "people's war" had on the Kwilu insurgency. Mulele's code of conduct was as follows:[9]

  1. Respect all men, even bad ones.
  2. Buy the goods of villagers in all honesty and without stealing.
  3. Return borrowed things in good time and without trouble.
  4. Pay for things which you have broken and in good spirit.
  5. Do not harm or hurt others.
  6. Do not destroy or trample on other people's land.
  7. Respect women and do not amuse yourselves with them as you would like to.
  8. Do not make your prisoners of war suffer.

The attempt to adapt Maoist Chinese practice to African conditions also extended to Mulele's use of the peasants as the mainstay of his revolution.

Personal life[edit]

Mulele was born in Isulu-Matende. He married Leonie Abo, a fellow fighter who spent five years in the underground rebel movement alongside guerrillas loyal to Mulele. In 1968, after her husband's assassination, she fled to Congo-Brazzaville where she has since lived. Abo has made a great effort to preserve the memory of her slain revolutionary husband, Pierre Mulele.[10] The Belgian book Une Femme du Congo (A Congolese Woman), by Ludo Martens, tells Abo's life story.


  1. ^ China's Policy in Africa 1958-71. By Alaba Ogunsanwo. ISBN 0521134404. Page 175.
  2. ^ Congo, David van Reybrouck, 2010
  3. ^ http://www.irinnews.org/print.asp?ReportID=52245
  4. ^ China's Policy in Africa 1958-71. By Alaba Ogunsanwo. ISBN 0521134404. Page 175.
  5. ^ Van Reybrouck, David. Congo. p. 326. ISBN 978-0-00-756291-6.
  6. ^ China's Policy in Africa 1958-71. By Alaba Ogunsanwo. ISBN 0521134404. Page 177.
  7. ^ Michela Wrong. In The Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo. p. 90.
  8. ^ Michela Wrong (2000). In the footsteps of Mr Kurtz: living on the brink of disaster in the Congo. Fourth Estate Ltd (Harpercollins Publishers). p. 86. ISBN 1-84115-421-0.
  9. ^ China's Policy in Africa 1958-71. By Alaba Ogunsanwo. ISBN 0521134404. Page 175.
  10. ^ Gender and Decolonization in the Congo: The Legacy of Patrice Lumumba (2010), Tosin Abiodun, NotEvenPast, Retrieved 26 March 2015