Jean Schramme (March 25, 1929, Bruges, Belgium – December 14, 1988, Rondonópolis, Brazil) was a Belgian mercenary and planter. He managed a vast estate in the Democratic Republic of the Congo until 1967.
|Birth name||Jean Schramme|
|Born||March 25, 1929|
Bruges, West Flanders, Belgium
|Died||December 14, 1988 (aged 59)|
Rondonópolis, Mato Grosso, Brazil
|Years of service|
|Other work||Technical Adviser, Exército de Libertação de Portugal|
When the Belgian Congo gained its independence in 1960, the country quickly descended into civil war. Several hundred white people were held hostage, and Belgium sent troops to Congo to free them and to protect its interests. Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo, was murdered. The rich province of Katanga, soon followed by the eastern part of Kasai, were trying to gain independence. As they were rich in copper, cobalt and diamonds, they believed that they would be better off without the rest of Congo. A violent clash between pro-secession and pro-unity movements soon broke out.
In 1965, Colonel Mobutu became president and from then on Belgium started protecting his regime against rebellion. Mobutu immediately began to arrest the former government ministers of Congo. In 1971, he changed the name of the country to "Zaire".
On June 30, 1967, president Moise Tshombe's jet aircraft was hijacked to Algiers, before he could return to Congo after his exile in Spain. He was imprisoned in Algeria and two years later he died in suspicious circumstances. For Schramme, this was a sign that he was fighting the wrong enemy and on July 3, 1967 he began to lead an uprising in Katanga against Mobutu.
On the morning of 5 July 1967 10 Commando ANC, Schramme's unit, launched surprise attacks on Stanleyville, Kindu, and Bukavu. Schramme tried to take control of Stanleyville, Congo. By August 10, his troops conquered the border town of Bukavu and had grown considerably in number. Schramme was able to hold Bukavu for seven weeks and managed to defeat all ANC troops who were sent to retake the town. The ANC suffered from a lack of artillery and was frustrated and demotivated over its continuous losses. By accident, some ANC T-28 flying missions even attacked their own troops instead of Schramme's. Extra forces helped the ANC to finally defeat Schramme on October 29, 1967. The surviving rebel troops fled towards Rwanda.
On April 24, 1968, Schramme and all the other European mercenaries returned to Belgium. Almost 20 years later, on April 17, 1986, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for a murder. Schramme was not living in Belgium at the time of the sentence: he died in 1988 in Brazil.