[News] Letter to Patrice Emery Lumumba - 52nd Anniversary of his assassination

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 17 11:48:41 EST 2013

    Letter to Patrice Emery Lumumba

        Ama Biney

        2013-01-16, Issue 613 <http://www.pambazuka.org/en/issue/613>


My dear Patrice,

On the 52nd anniversary of your brutal assassination on 17 January 1961, 
your people of 60 million have continued to see no peace, justice, nor 
liberation. The people have continued to profusely bleed to death. Rape 
has become a weapon of war against thousands of Congolese women. Between 
August 1998 and April 2007, up to six million Congolese have died 
through unspeakable atrocities, disease, starvation and malnutrition. 
This figure is almost the same number as the Jews who died in the 
Holocaust, which leads one to ask: is it because they are black skinned 
Africans that global humanity responds with paralysis and indifference? 
If they had been Europeans, would the killings have been averted or 
lessened? Surely the unfolding catastrophe in the Congo is of similar 
proportions to that of the Cambodian and Rwanda genocides, the Vietnam 
War, the wars in Europe known as the First World War, Second World War 
and the Balkans war? If you were alive today what would you say to the 
Congolese women who have been gang raped by fellow Congolese? How would 
you comfort the children left orphaned by the multitude of vicious male 
warlords seeking self-aggrandisement and personal riches from the wealth 
of the Congo? What would you say to the hundreds of street children, 
uneducated and unemployed youths who were enticed into the rebel armies 
to commit horrific crimes against fellow Congolese? How is it possible 
that after 50 odd years of so-called independence the life expectancy of 
a Congolese woman is 47 years and that of a Congolese man is 42 years?


Che Guevara was correct when he wrote in his diary in 1965 that 'the 
Congo problem was a world problem.' [1] Furthermore, Che could also see 
that 'Victory [in the Congo] would have repercussions throughout the 
continent, as would defeat'. [2] Indeed the Congo remains a 'world 
problem' when it continues to provide 64 percent of the world's reserves 
of coltan used in cellular phones, laptops, pacemakers, video cameras, 
jet engines, prosthetic devices, rockets, hearing aids, amongst other 
products. [3] Mos of these products are only affordable in the developed 
world, yet the raw material is to be located in the Congo. This 
reinforces the reality that Africans produce what they do not consume 
and consume what they do not produce. To put it differently, the 
consumer lifestyles of most Westerners is dependent on the cheap 
exploitation of Africans and African wealth whilst most Africans remain 
impoverished due to the structural linkages of this relationship. Much 
has not changed since the era of colonialism. In the 19th century, the 
Congolese were being forced by the Belgians in savage conditions to 
produce quotas of rubber from which up to 10 million Congolese died and 
many lost their limbs for failure to meet production quotas. Now the 
pillage, plunder and looting of coltan by Congolese rebel groups with 
their backers in Rwanda, Uganda, US, Britain and various Western 
multi-national companies profit enormously from this wealth at the 
expense of the Congolese people who see little of this wealth invested 
in their country. As individuals upgrade their cellular phones as a 
matter of 'natural' entitlement, it seems 'blood diamonds' now co-exist 
with 'blood coltan.'


Your close colleague Kwame Nkrumah wrote of the challenge of the Congo. 
You and I know that many of those challenges remain today in new and 
complex permutations; the challenge to create and sustain a democratic 
centralised or federalised government in which all of Congo's 200 ethnic 
groups have a voice in governance; that the phenomenal economic 
resources of the Congo primarily meet the needs of the Congolese masses 
instead of being siphoned out of the country to meet the needs of 
outside interests; that the imperialists are fully aware of the fact 
that the Congo -- the size of Western Europe - borders nine African 
countries and if one controls the Congo, one controls Africa. The 
balkanisation, disunity and secession of Africa are tragically 
epitomised in the Congo, which Nkrumah emphatically cautioned against.

On 8 August 1960 Nkrumah declared to the Ghana National Assembly: 'If we 
allow the independence of the Congo to be compromised in any way by the 
imperialist and capitalist forces, we shall expose the sovereignty and 
independence of all Africa to grave risk. The struggle of the Congo is 
therefore our struggle. It is incumbent on us to take our stand by our 
brothers in the Congo in the full knowledge that only Africa can fight 
for its destiny.' [4] Nkrumah's words remain as relevant in 1960 as they 
are today. Today one asks: why is it that one cannot find one African 
leader who echoes Nkrumah's words and deeds in relation to the Congo? 
The reality is that not only is a revolutionary collective leadership 
and vision wholly lacking in Africa but continental unification is 
difficult to realise when Zimbabwe, Angola, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda 
have all supported one or other warring rebel group in the Congo or the 
Congolese government for their own national interests alongside outside 
interests that have sought to benefit from the continued pillage and 
plunder of Congo's enormous mineral wealth. It is also difficult to 
achieve when the obsequious African petty bourgeois comprador class 
continue to exist on hand-outs from their former colonial masters and 
are entrapped in complex bilateral and multilateral arrangements that 
have further subordinated Africa to the global neo-liberal capitalist 


On 8 August 1960 you entered into a secret agreement with Nkrumah 
affirming your joint 'determination to work in the closest possible 
association with the other Independent African States for the 
establishment of a Union of African States, with a view to liberating 
the whole continent of Africa from colonialism and imperialism.' [5] 
Tragically the agreement was never implemented due to the breakdown of 
your government and your murder at the hands of lackeys of 
neo-colonialism and imperialist forces represented by the Belgians and 
Americans. [6] You and Nkrumah both envisioned that the Independent 
African States would establish a 'Combined High Command of military 
forces to bring about a speedy withdrawal of foreign troops from the 
Congo'. [7] Alas this was not to happen. Since the Congo debacle, 
perhaps you and Nkrumah are convulsing in your graves at what is 
happening not only in the Congo but over much of Africa as 
neo-colonialism has entrenched itself deeper into the pores and soil of 
Africa as well as the psyche of some Africans. Nkrumah's African High 
Command has become parodied in the Africa Command or AFRICOM led by the 
United States of Aggression -- America, established by former President 
George Bush, Jr. It is now led by Barack Obama who hails from a Kenyan 
father and American mother and now unreservedly services US imperialist 
interests under the figleaf of AFRICOM. Under the euphemistic buzzwords 
such as 'mutual security', 'cooperation', 'piracy' in Somalia, 'joint 
military training exercises', the fight against the 'Global War on 
Terrorism', the armies of myriad neo-colonial African governments have 
engaged in such training exercises across the continent under the 
auspices of AFRICOM and those of their former colonial masters. AFRICOM 
has a military outpost - Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, in the Horn of 
Africa with more than 2000 American troops stationed there.

Since your savage assassination new gas and oil reserves have been found 
in several African countries and will only lead to further imperialist 
and neo-colonial intrigues in Africa, if Africa does not unite to use 
these resources for her people. In addition, the rise of Boko Haram in 
Nigeria, Al-Shabaab in Somalia and the alliance of Islamists in Mali 
with Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb portend the further militarisation and 
disunity of our continent as pretexts for intervention by outsiders 
bearing Trojan gifts. The savage murder of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi on 20 
October 2011 is not only a profoundly retrogressive step for the 
oil-rich nation of Libya but the entire continent as the African Union 
was carelessly and arrogantly sidestepped by NATO, France and Britain in 
their pretext of 'Responsibility to Protect' (R2P) doctrine in which the 
plight of dark-skinned Libyans and African migrants became targets for 
torture and detention in the unfolding mayhem. These Africans were not 
protected by the NATO forces. Such an ostensible humanitarian doctrine 
in R2P is simply the 21st century version of the 19th century's 'white 
man's burden' which conceals the motives of empire builders. The 
mistreatment of dark-skinned Libyans and African migrants in Libya 
undermines Pan-African unity; it is an issue belying national unity in 
places such as Mauritania and Sudan when Arabs oppress Africans.

Since your assassination, the Congolese people have not suffered alone 
in this world. Conflicts elsewhere on the African continent in Darfur, 
the Horn of Africa, Liberia, Burundi, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere; the 
war in the Balkans; the first Iraq war; the invasion of Afghanistan in 
October 2001 followed by the grotesque invasion of Iraq in March 2003, 
despite international opposition to the warmongering governments of 
Britain and America; the abuses in Abu Ghraib; rendition by British and 
American governments all in the name of the Global War against Terror 
that has now replaced the Cold War of your era; alongside hundreds of 
detainees languishing at the US military camp at Guantanamo in Cuba. In 
short, many have died, been wrongly imprisoned and tortured. In 
addition, there has been the slow genocide inflicted on the people of 
Gaza in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, whereby the 
declining infrastructure is negatively impacting on the lives of the 
Palestinian people and the food crisis is adversely affecting the old, 
children and pregnant women.

Meanwhile, the anniversary of your assassination coincides with 53 years 
of the US vicious blockade against the small island of Cuba, imposed in 
October 1960. Yet, on 13 November 2012, of the 193 member states of the 
UN General Assembly, 188 voted unanimously to support the ending of the 
blockade. Three countries voted against the uplifting of the embargo: 
the US, Israel and Palau and therefore the embargo remains place. If 
democracy means rule of the majority where is the democratic fairness 
and justice in this instance? Put differently, why is it that America 
can have normal trade relations with 'communist' China and not with 
communist Cuba?


You and Nkrumah were profoundly aware that on account of its size, 
geo-strategic position, and vast economic resources, the Congo was 
critical to the quest for Pan-African unity. However, the imperialists 
could not tolerate a single leader in the developing world utilizing the 
resources of their country in the interests of their people. In your era 
one was dubbed a communist for doing this or even thinking of doing such 
a thing. The consequence of devoting one's national resources for a 
people orientated development was that leaders like yourself, Nkrumah, 
Cabral, Pierre Mulele, Sankara, Machel and many others in our rich 
history had to be eliminated and often with the collaboration of what 
Malcolm X aptly called 'house Negroes' or 'Uncle Toms' of the day. The 
threat of a good example continues to imperil imperialism, capitalism 
and current day neoliberalism, for theirs is a unipolar world order in 
which alternative political and economic systems cannot be tolerated for 
fear that such an example will inspire others.

That is why Fanmi Lavalas , the popular political party of the Haitian 
majority remains banned in Haiti; why former, twice democratically 
elected Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide was atrociously 
vilified and presented as 'a cross between Ayatollah and Fidel' [8] and 
was exiled from his native land for seven years until March 2012. The 
'assault on democracy in Haiti' [9] has been orchestrated by the Haitian 
ruling elite and their murderous accomplices in the US, Canada and 
France. Similar to the Palestinians who elected Hamas in January 2006, 
Fanmi Lavalas should not - in the eyes of the West - have won landslide 
victories at all levels of government in 1990 and 2000. Hence, the 
attempts to crush the genuine democratic will of the Haitian people and 
their organisations continues in the vicious operations of paramilitary 
forces as a cruel punishment of the Haitian people by neo-colonial and 
imperialist backed forces. It is not the Haitian people who are not 
ready for genuine democracy but the Haitian neo-colonial elite and their 
Western collaborators.


In the vortex of the conflict in the Congo that has enmeshed the region 
and several African leaders with rapacious self-interest, there are 
various bogus messiahs claiming to lead the Congolese to the promised 
land. Perhaps this has been a problem not only of the Congo but the 
post-colonial African condition: the people are falsely led to believe 
they need a magic man (rarely a 'magic woman'), a messiah to deliver 
them from oppression. We look for messiahs only to end up in a new form 
of dictatorship, cult of personality which engenders a wretched 
patriarchal phallocratic dispensation. A democracy that is not genuinely 
inclusive of women, youth, all ethnic groups and political opinions has 
been a pitfall of which our failure to heed Fanon's prescience has cost 
us dearly. Similarly a failure to address the neo-colonial and 
patriarchal edifices in place since physical decolonization occurred, 
has only given rise to new systems of domination and repression, 
including that of gender oppression. Consequently, the diverse voices of 
Congolese women must be heard and also their silences. They must be at 
the forefront of peace-building and reconstructing a new Congo in every 
sphere of the society.

It is time for the people to work and organise for themselves; define 
their interests, needs and programmes on a collectivist principle and 
approach as opposed to the fixation with leaders and individuals. In 
addition to this, the reality is that many of our people have yet to 
emancipate themselves from mental slavery and a psychosis of dependency 
in which there is a desire for outsiders to come and 'save' us. To 
reiterate Nkrumah: 'only Africa can fight for its destiny.' It is only 
the Congolese people who can save themselves.


As the first Prime Minister of the Congo, a committed Congolese patriot 
and Pan-Africanist, in your short life you represented a new Congolese 
consciousness, with the audacity to envision a new Congo as part of a 
united and genuinely free Africa. I take you back to your independence 
speech of 30 June 1960 in which you said 'The Congo's independence marks 
a decisive step towards the liberation of the entire African continent' 
-- to which you received a mighty applause. You were prepared to 
organise for that unity but were not given the chance due to larger 
neo-colonial and imperialist forces. You also spoke truth to the 
powerful and powerless in that audacious address before the King of 
Belgium. In the eyes of the king you were simply one uppity nigger. In 
the eyes of the Belgians that speech sealed your assassination and hence 
their complicity in your murder. Yet, your name lives on in the 
revolutionary pantheon of freedom fighters from all over the world, 
alongside Toussaint L'Ouverture, Nanny, Sojourner Truth, Haydée 
Santamaria, Nzinga, Nehanda, Víctor Lidio Jara Martínez, Ganga Zumba, 
Luisa Mahin, Che Guevara, Simón Bolivar, Frank Pais, Gasper Yanga, Paul 
Bogle, Hatuey, Mary Muthoni Wanjiru, and many others that would fill the 
pages of this letter to you.

Some argue that gone is the era of ideology that steeped your 
generation. Indeed what noble ideology drives the rebel groups in the 
Congo? There is none other than naked greed, egotism, violence, ruthless 
power and vengeance. No nation nor continent can be built on such 
despicable and destructive 'values'.


Some may also believe that the Pan-African sentiment based on what 
affected one African affected all Africans and people of African descent 
has also vanished. Yet, I do not believe this. Surely the struggle in 
the Congo for peace, social and economic justice must be mobilised as a 
global movement among all Africans, people of African descent and peace 
loving people, in a similar way the moral repugnance of apartheid and 
the crimes it wreaked on the lives of black South Africans in South 
Africa spawned the global anti-apartheid movement? We cannot separate 
the conflict in the Congo from world peace when the resources of that 
land provides the pillar of Western lifestyles; when few people realise 
that the Congo possesses the second largest rainforest in the world, 
after the Amazon rainforest and it is therefore vital to global 
collective efforts to save the planet from its continuing destructive 
path of wanton capitalist exploitation. As Jeannette Winterson 
succinctly expressed in The New York Times, on 17 September 2009: 
'Nuclear, ecological, chemical, economic -- our arsenal of Death by 
Stupidity is impressive for a species as smart as Homo sapiens.'

You continue to inspire a new generation, for there are genuine peace 
loving Congolese, Pan-Africanists and internationalists who are quietly 
working around the globe for peace and social justice for the people of 
the Congo. Similarly, in the land of your birth there are a plethora of 
political parties that claim your spiritual and political legacy. It is 
for the people to decide which of them genuinely represent your true 


The work to be done in terms of building peace, reconciliation, 
socio-economic development that benefits women, the poor, young people, 
child soldiers, the physically mutilated, the disabled, those infected 
with HIV/AIDS as a consequence of rape, healing the physical and mental 
wounds of trauma and war, is colossal. Integral to that work must be 
reparative justice and reconnecting people to an understanding of a 
wider continental history which has not always been soaked in blood, for 
as Marcus Garvey tells us, 'We have a beautiful history, and we shall 
create another in the future that will astonish the world.' You yourself 
once wrote, 'history will one day have its say, but it will not be the 
history that is taught in Brussels ... it will be a glorious and 
dignified history.' We must look to the past, but as that other great 
Pan-Africanist, the late Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem, implored us: 'Life must 
be understood backwards but lived forwards.'

And so, Patrice, on the 52nd year of your murder that deeply pains and 
causes one to reflect on the past and present in the Congo and Africa, I 
remember you as a human being and a political leader with a principled 
vision. Your values, dedication to the Congo and commitment to 
improvement in the lives of your people are part of your legacy that we 
must realise not only for the Congo but all Africans and human beings on 
this planet of ours. All that remains for me to say is: 'a luta continua!'


1. Cited in The African Dream: the Diaries of the Revolutionary War in 
the Congo by Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, New York: 2000, p. 86.
2. Ibid.
3. See http://friendsofthecongo.org/pdf/coltan_facts.pdf
4. Cited in Revolutionary Path by K. Nkrumah, 1973, p.147-148
5. Ibid, p. 148.
6. Ibid, p. 149.
7. Ibid, p. 149.
8. See Damming the Flood Haiti and the Politics of Containment by P. 
Hallward, 2007, p. 35.
9. See Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti by J. 
Sprague, 2012.


* Ama Biney (Dr) is a scholar-activist and Acting Editor-in-Chief of 
Pambazuka News.

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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