[News] Remembering Lumumba
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 8 15:59:40 EDT 2010
2010-07-08, Issue <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/489>489
As the DRC commemorates 50 years of independence,
Mwaura Kaara finds theres little official
acknowledgement of the life of Patrice Lumumba,
Congos first and only elected prime minister,
removed from office after two months and
eventually assassinated. The celebration should
have reflected on Lumumbas main contribution to
the Congolese struggle, writes Kaara, his
articulation of the idea of a united Congo, a
vision that sought to build a united nations
across all ethnic and tribal divisions despite fierce European opposition.
On 17 January 1961 Patrice Lumumba, the
charismatic first and only elected prime minister
of Congo, was brutally murdered. The
circumstances of his death remain a mystery, the
identity of his killers unknown.
In 1956 Lumumba was a post office clerk; four
years later he would be prime minister. In
between he had been an évolué one of Congo's
tiny black middle class, a beer salesman and a
prisoner, twice for his political motivation.
His imprisonment radicalised him and by 1958 he
had co-founded a political party, the National
Congolese Movement, the MNC that was distinctively pan-Africanist.
Independence Day was celebrated on 30 June in a
ceremony attended by many dignitaries including
King Baudouin and the foreign dignitaries and
press. Patrice Lumumba delivered his famous
independence speech after being officially
excluded from the event programme, despite being
the new prime minister. The speech of King
Baudouin praised developments under colonialism,
his reference to the genius of his great
grand-uncle Leopold II of Belgium glossing over
atrocities committed during the Congo Free State.
The King continued, Don't compromise the future
with hasty reforms, and don't replace the
structures that Belgium hands over to you until
you are sure you can do better... Don't be afraid
to come to us. We will remain by your side, give you advice.
In his speech, addressed directly to Belgiums
monarch and ministers, Lumumba reclaimed the
history and dignity of the Congolese people in
their decades-long struggle for independence:
For this independence of the Congo
Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to
forget that it was by fighting that it has been
won, a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic
fight, a fight in which we were spared neither
privation nor suffering, and for which we gave
our strength and our blood
We are proud of this
struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the
depths of our being, for it was a noble and just
struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the
humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.
Lumumba was prime minister for only about two
months before he was removed illegally from
office and eventually killed. This occurred under
the auspices and coordination of a section of the
United Nations loyal to the Belgian government,
the Belgian authorities and the US Central Intelligence Agency.
On 11 July 1960, the resource-rich Katanga
province announced it was seceding under the
leadership of Moise Tshombe. Belgiums troops
promptly entered in support. This move provoked a
wave of international outrage, in particular
criticism by the socialist bloc, spearheaded by
the Soviet Union, and the decolonising nations in
Africa and Asia. The Belgians withdrew in favour
of UN troops, but the UN did not nullify
Tshombes secession. Prime Minister Lumumba
appealed to the UN and United States, but the
imperialist powers turned a deaf ear to the new
African leader. He turned to the Soviet Union,
which provided loyal forces with aid and
transported troops to help end the secession.
On 5 September, the pro-imperialist president,
Kasavubu, illegally removed Lumumba from office.
Lumumba brought his case directly to the
parliament, which reaffirmed his post. In
response, Kasavubu dismissed the parliament.
UN General Secretary Dag Hammarskjold publicly
endorsed Kasavubus move. A section of the UN
forces loyal to the Belgian government had
earlier hampered Lumumba by closing a radio
station he was using to plead his case with the
people. Amid the struggle, Colonel Joseph Mobutu
took power in a CIA-backed coup détat on the
side of Kasavubu and the United States. Lumumba
was placed under house arrest, protected by UN
troops actively intervening against his rule.
Lumumba understood that the UN was acting as the
armed forces of the Western imperialist powers.
Rather than stay under house arrest, he decided
to flee. As he was fleeing, he was captured by
Mobutus forces on 1 December 1960. Mobutu handed
over Lumumba to the secessionist Tshombe, who had
him executed on the very night of his capture.
The whole capture by Mobutu and turnover to
Tshombe was orchestrated by Belgian authorities
with the full knowledge and aid of the CIA.
Mobutu gained in power under the new government,
eventually ruling as a brutal dictator with the
support of US imperialism until he was ousted in 1997.
This year, the Democratic Republic of Congo has
celebrated 50 years of independence, and amidst
the noise and cacophony, the name of one of
Africas greatest ancestor and his significant
contributions to the African liberation movement has gone silent.
The meaning of the life and the work of Patrice
Lumumba was rooted in his determination to fight
against the forces of domination and oppression,
that were represented by the European world in
the most turbulent period of the history of the
Congo, and as such as the Democratic Republic of
Congo held festivities to mark 50 years of
independence and symbolically usher in a new era
breathing in new ethos and values, focus should
have been to reflect on the steadfast efforts of
Lumumba in his quest for the real movement of the people of Africa.
The celebration should have been to reflect on
Lumumbas main contribution to the Congolese
struggle, his articulation of the idea of a
united Congo, a vision that sought to build a
united nations across all ethnic and tribal
divisions despite fierce European opposition. A
vision that paralleled his Pan-African sentiment
of African unity, both ideals that were
unacceptable to the imperialist powers, which
sought a Congo and Africa riven with internal
strife in order to be held in submission.
As the political elite in the Democratic Republic
of Congo continue to suffer from the hangover of
toasting with their Belgian masters, after their
heavy indulgence, and celebrations marked by the
entertainment parading of their poverty-stricken
populace, who could not comprehend what was
happening, let us reflect on and walk the legacy
of Patrice Lumumba. A legacy reflected in the
pan-African aims, institutions and policies of
the African Union and in the guiding ethos behind
the adoption of the Ezulwini Consensus, which
proposes a permanent African seat in a reformed
United Nations Security Council.
His ability to evoke so powerfully the extent of
his peoples subjugation, derived from a rare
understanding of the inherent duplicity of the
colonial discourse. As Jean Van Lierde put it:
He was the only Congolese leader who rose above
the ethnic difficulties and tribal preoccupations
that destroyed all the other parties. Lumumba was the first real pan-African.
Shortly before his assassination, Lumumba penned
the following words in a farewell letter: The
only thing we wanted for our country was the
right to a decent existence, to dignity without
hypocrisy, to independence without
restrictions... The day will come when history will have its say.
In conclusion, we can say that the external
enemies, (or the enemies from without), and
internal enemies (or the enemies from within),
led to the demise and death of Patrice Lumumba.
But, fortunately, his legacy lives on.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS
* Mwaura Kaara is the youth focal point at United
Nations Millennium Campaign, Africa.
* Please send comments to
<mailto:editor at pambazuka.org>editor at pambazuka.org
or comment online at <http://www.pambazuka.org/>Pambazuka News.
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