A new book reveals the CIA’s use of famed jazz pianist Louis Armstrong and his band to carry out some of the most controversial spying operations in the history of Africa during the Cold War.
The famous musician Louis Armstrong did not know that he was being used as a “Trojan horse” by the US intelligence to carry out espionage missions in Africa during the Cold War, this is announced by University of London researcher Susan Williams in her remarkable book “White Malice” that tracks the activities of the intelligence agency America in Central and West Africa during the fifties and sixties of the last century and reveals the long and shocking extent of those activities.
On one evening included in Armstrong’s tour of the Congo in 1960, he and his wife and a diplomat from the US Embassy were seated at a restaurant in the then newly independent capital for dinner.
“White Malice”. The new “page turner” by Susan Williams (School of Advanced Study, University of London) on CIA operations in Africa and this incredible story: Louis Armstrong’s tour of the Congo in the fall of 1960, entirely instrumentalized by the Centrale . https://t.co/D4gzkRfqg9 pic.twitter.com/P1UiiUmJWi
– Maurin Picard (@MaurinPicard) September 12, 2021
The famous trumpeter, singer, and bandleader was conducting a tour of several months in Africa, organized by the US State Department as part of a plan to improve the image of the United States in the countries that had just liberated from colonialism, especially the Congo.
But what Armstrong did not know was that his host that night was not the political attaché of the American embassy, as he had told him, but rather was Larry Devlin, the head of American intelligence in the Congo. The most controversial operations in the entire history of the Cold War.
Writer and researcher Susan Williams says: “It’s heartbreakingly true, Armstrong was brought in to pursue an interest that is completely at odds with his sense of right or wrong,” according to her speech to the British newspaper “The Guardian”.
Williams was able to collect documents from the archives of the United Nations, which revealed that the CIA used the Armstrong choir as a cover that allows it access to the strategic and rich province of Katanga.
The province of Katanga represented a vital target for US intelligence in the Congo, from its quest to communicate with senior officials there, to the infrastructure rich in vital minerals. The United States had eyes on 1,500 tons of uranium and a huge potential to buy more.
All of these goals prompted Devlin and other officers and collaborators with him to travel with Armstrong and his famous band to exploit the influence of the famous musician in achieving their goals, and among those goals that Armstrong did not know was planning to assassinate the first democratically elected prime minister of the Congo, Patrice Lumumba, for fear of the United States of his position. “Neutral” during the Cold War.
Two months after Armstrong’s concert tour, Lumumba was already killed by officials of the breakaway province and forces loyal to Belgium, to take over Mobutu, who tightened his grip on the Congo and at the same time was a “loyal agent of the United States.”
Devlin later admitted that the entire operation was conducted under the supervision of US intelligence, and a congressional investigation stated that “Mobutu’s coup was entirely orchestrated and supported by US intelligence.”
The CIA began developing a network of agents, hired assistants, collaborators, and agents in Africa shortly after its creation in 1947, building on work done during World War II, and by 1960 this vast network included union leaders, businessmen, cultural and educational organizations, corporations, and even corporations. aviation, knowing that the intelligence agency was implicated in some of the most important events in the continent’s post-colonial history.
In 1962, “advice” from a CIA spy to officials in South Africa’s oppressive apartheid regime may have led to Nelson Mandela being arrested and imprisoned for 27 years, while the agency was also blamed for ousting Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah. Military coup of 1966.
The tragedy is that Nkrumah, Lumumba, and a number of other African leaders in the book were not anti-American. They wanted friendly relations with the United States, but because they had not been anti-Soviet either, Washington considered them enemies.
Armstrong did not know anything about all this, but he may have had some doubts, as he expressed mixed feelings about his participation in activities that promoted the United States on the continent.
“Although I represent the US government, that government does not represent some of the important policies that I support and live for,” he said at the time.