|Sunday, July 22, 2018|
Pontifical Urban University, Vatican City (Rome)
“[…] For this independence of the Congo, although being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no 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 depth 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.”(Patrice Lumumba’s impromptu Independence Day Speech as first Prime Minister of Democratic Republic of Congo, June 30, 1960).
he above citation is from the famous impromptu speech of Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), as Prime Minister, during the first Independence Day celebration when Congo got its political independence from Belgium. The Independence Day was celebrated on June 30, 1960 in a ceremony attended by many dignitaries, including King Baudouin of Belgium and Foreign Press. After the speech of President Joseph Kasa-Vubu (President of the newly independent Republic of Congo), Lumumba, who had not been scheduled to speak, mounted the rostrum and delivered an impromptu speech that reminded the audience that the independence of the Congo had not been granted magnanimously by Belgium.
Most European journalists were shocked by the stridency of Lumumba’s speech. The Western media lashed out at Lumumba. “Time” spoke of a “venomous attack.” Indeed, in the West, many saw this speech as a call to arms opening up Belgium – Congolese hostilities, plunging the former Belgium colony, and the most colonial-abused African country into chaos. Thus, it was not long before Western conspiracy made Lumumba paid dearly with his life for this intransigence. Congo, like many other African states, had ever since been plunged into punitive wars, post-colonial plundering and exploitation, the end of which no one knows.
By all standard, Lumumba’s independence speech is yet to be matched in the annals of African freedom fighters and founding fathers’ of the continent’s political independence. His Independence Day speech reminds us of the extra-ordinary courage, determination, strength of character and vision of this great African leader.
To be modest, however, Lumumba’s rare speech is comparable only to the likes of Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Nnamdi Azikiwe of Nigeria, Léopold Sédar Senghor of Senegal, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Amilcar Cabral of Guinea-Bissau, Sékou Touré of Guinea (Conakry), Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, and a few others of the Pan-Africanism, African Nationalism and Negritude of the pre-independence struggle and the African freedom fighters .
January 27, 1960 was the declaration of Congolese independence from Belgium. June 23, 1960, after the first general elections, Patrice Lumumba, only 34 year-old became the Prime Minister and Joseph Kasa-Vubu as President. From June until September 1960, Lumumba was the Prime Minister of the newly independent Republic of Congo. Ideologically, an African nationalist and Pan-Africanist, he led the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) Party, which he was a founding father, from 1958 until his violent death in 1961.
Shortly after Congolese independence in 1960, a mutiny broke out in the army, marking the beginning of the post-independence Congo crisis. Lumumba appealed to the United States of America (USA) and the United Nations (UN) for help to suppress the Belgium-supported Katangan secessionist. Both refused. So, Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union for support. This led to growing differences with President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and Chief-of-Staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, as well as the USA and Belgium.
Thus, with international complot of the Western powers, the United Nations and Belgium, Lumumba was subsequently removed from office through coup d’état, imprisoned by Congolese State authorities now under Chief-of-Army Staff, General Mobutu, and executed by a firing squad in a secret place under the command of Katangan authorities supervised by the Belgium authorities. Following his violent death, and principles he espoused and represented, he was widely seen as a martyr for wider Pan-African movement.
In general, however, Lumumba’s political ideology and rhetoric might not have espoused a comprehensive political or economic platform. Nevertheless, he was the first Congolese to articulate a narrative of the Congo that contradicts the traditional Belgium views of colonization, highlighting the suffering of the indigenous population under European rule.
Indeed, Lumumba was alone among his contemporaries in encompassing all Congolese people in his narrative (the others confined their discussions to their respective ethnic-nationalities or region). Lumumba in his political ideology and rhetoric offered a basis for national identity predicated upon the survival of colonial victimization, dignity, humanness, strength, and unity.
The African humanism that Lumumba advocated also included the values of egalitarianism, social justice, liberty, brotherhood, and recognition of fundamental rights. Lumumba viewed the state as a positive advocate for the public welfare and its intervention in Congolese society necessary to ensure equality, justice, freedom and social harmony.
No doubt, Lumumba’s position in history and struggle for freedom is well established. Unfortunately, Belgium literature and scholars in the decades following the Congo crisis portrayed him as incompetent, demagogic, aggressive, ungrateful, undiplomatic, and communist. Most European historians, such as Jean-Claude Williame and David Van Reybrouck, view Lumumba as an intransigent, unrealistic idealist without any tangible program, who distanced himself from his contemporaries and alienated the Western world with radical anti-colonial rhetoric. They see him as greatly responsible for the political crisis that resulted in his downfall.
A minority opinion, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, share the belief that Lumumba’s goals were unattainable in 1960 but nevertheless view him as a Martyr of Congolese Independence at the hands of certain Western interests and the victim of events over which he had little control. According to historian Ludo De Witte, both of these perspectives overstate the political weakness and isolation of Lumumba. Lumumba’s exploits are usually celebrated as the work of an individual, not that of a large movement – because long after his death few political entities had attempted or succeeded in incorporating his ideas into a comprehensive political program.
Moreover, due to his relatively short career in government, quick removal from power, and controversial death, Lumumba’s political legacy has not been widely discussed. His brutal assassination by the world powers and Belgium authorities was detrimental to African nationalism movements, and he is generally remembered only for his murder.
In popular culture, the image of Lumumba appears frequently in social media and is often used as a rallying cry in demonstration of social defiance. His figure is prevalent in art and literature, mostly outside of the Congo. Among most prominent works featuring him are Aimé Césaire’s 1966 play “Une Saison au Congo”, and Raoul Peck’s 1992 documentary and 2000 feature film, “Lumumba, la mort d’un prophéte” and “Lumumba”, respectively. In popular painting, he is paired with notions of sacrifice and redemption.
In 1966, Patrice Lumumba’s image was rehabilitated, – ironically by the Mobutu regime, and he was proclaimed a national Hero and Martyr in the Democratic Republic of Congo. By a presidential decree, the Brouwez House, site of Lumumba’s brutal torture on the night of his murder, became a place of Pilgrimage in the Congo. A major transportation artery in Kinshasa is named after his honor. And the first Kabila regime erected a tall Statue of Lumumba with a raised hand, greeting people coming from N’djili Airport.
In 1964, Malcolm X declared Patrice Lumumba “the greatest black man who ever walked the African continent.” A Lumumba is a popular name for hot or cold long drink of chocolate with rum.
Thus, despite his brief political career and tragic death – or perhaps because of them – Lumumba entered history through the front door: he became both a flag and a symbol. He lived as a free man, and an independent thinker. Everything he wrote, said and did was the product of someone who knew his vocation to be that of a liberator, and he represents for the Congo what Nkrumah does for Ghana, Nasser for Egypt, Mandela for South Africa, Sankara for Burkina-Faso, Mao tse-tung for China and Lenin for Russia.
Today, some unbiased historians and journalists are beginning to testify: Lumumba’s cruel murder and assassination happened under the watch of the ‘almighty’ world powers. The world powers are also accused of hiding the report of the assassination of Lumumba.
Here we are confronted with the question: Who is keeping or rather hiding the reports of what happened to Lumumba? Who killed Lumumba and why was he killed? Where are his corpse? Where was he buried? Who buried him? Where is the tomb of Lumumba?
The so-called international community, or the world powers – their secret agents are fingered as being behind the mysterious plane crash that also killed Dag Hammarskjod, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, when the later came to the Congo to investigate the assassination of Lumumba. Till date, the reports of the mysterious plane crash that killed Hammarskjod had remained a mirage.
This is in spite of the fact that it was only after some serious criticisms from some quarters, especially, the defunct Soviet Union and Organization for African Unity (OAU, now African Union), were levelled against UN that the Hammarskjod decided to come to the Congo with the presumed aim to investigate the assassination of Lumumba. Was it in a bid to hide the truth behind the assassination of Lumumba that the world powers and their sponsoring modern imperial nations had to sacrifice its own Secretary General, who happened to be one of them in all respect?
The courage and vision of Lumumba, his ardent dedication to total liberation of Africa from the colonial yoke, were seen as ‘crossing the red-line’ by the imperial powers, former colonial masters of Africa. Lumumba was barely 34 years of age when he gained the political independence of the Congo from Belgium. Few months after the political independence when he was elected Prime Minister of his country, he was assassinated through international complots of the powerful nations, controlling Congolese’ abundant rich natural and mineral resources.
Looking at the current situation of total failure of leadership in many African states today, there is need to refresh our mind about the sacrifices of the founding fathers of African political independence in the 1960s and thereafter. This is why our focus in the present article is on Patrice Lumumba.
Moreover, seeing the leadership failures responsible for the ongoing ethnic-cleansings and violence in the troubled spots of modern African states, there is urgent need to project such a model leader and martyr of African freedom and political independence like Patrice Lumumba to all those aspiring for leadership role in Africa today. It is an open secret to say that activities of many modern African politicians show that majority of them, unlike Lumumba, are merely there as heads of states or prime ministers, serving as spinoffs and agents of neocolonial projects in the continent.
Although Lumumba’s stay in office as Prime Minister was cut short by his cruel murderous assassination, the country he left behind had never recovered from the effects of that devastating incident. Democratic Republic of Congo is yet to found its soul after what was done to its founding father in the nascent republic in 1961.
Lumumba, the first Prime Minister and founding father of Democratic Republic of Congo, would have celebrated his 93rd Birthday Anniversary this July, having been born on July 2, 1925. , and assassinated. Unfortunately, his brutal assassination on January 17, 1961, after few months in office as Prime Minister, the complicity of the world powers in the assassination of Lumumba could not allow the celebration of his 93rd Birthday Anniversary to happen.
Furthermore, the undisclosed mystery that still surrounds Lumumba’s atrocious murder and whereabouts of his corpse or tomb, meant that nothing had been contemplated at both continental and world levels, about instituting an annual ‘International Day Celebration’, or Birthday Anniversary of this great African leader and Pan-Africanist of first hour.
Painfully too, is that since the murderous assassination of Lumumba in 1961, Congo has never been the same again, and one wonders if it will ever be! Lumumba remains enigma and an open-wound to the conscience of the world, his people as well as to all Africans, and especially, to those at the world centers of power and present African leadership.
This is the reason why the world centers of power, and the African Union (AU) in particular, should think seriously of instituting “Patrice Lumumba International Day Annual Celebration.” The world longs for “Lumumba International Day’ annual celebration in honor of this greatest of African Martyrs of the continent’s Political Independence and post-colonial struggle for total liberation and unification of African peoples.
Lumumba reminds us all how unfinished, the African project of struggle for total liberation and freedom is: Africa’s struggle for liberty, equity, justice and fair-play, still hangs on the balance. Lumumba’s martyrdom or sacrifices for the African people tells us that without resolving the fundamental issues of the evils of the neocolonial project, which still hold Africa down, peace will continue to elude us in the continent. Lumumba is telling the present African leadership that the problem with the continent today is the neocolonial project of Africa’s former colonial masters, the promoters of neo-geopolitics of globalization in Africa.
The collaboration of current African leaders as local agents of neocolonial projects in the continent leaves one with the greatest sour in the mouth. The betrayal of the ideals of the founding founders of Africa’s political independence by the current crop of sell-outs and tyrannical regimes in many African states is a crime that cries out to the highest heavens.
Lumumba’s brutal assassination is a reminder of all these. The secrecy that still surrounds his assassination, what exactly happened to his corpse, tells us that the neocolonial project in Africa is still very much with us and is not about to go away.
Patrice Lumumba: A Pan-Africanist of Anti-Neocolonial Project
Let us begin with the question: ‘What was the offense of Lumumba and why was he treated in this most cruel way never seen in history by the agents of neocolonial projects in Africa?’ The answer to this question is not far-fetched.
To answer it, however, I would like to begin with a brief reference to a personal testimony of a student of mine in Rome. Few years ago, in my seminar class on “Ecology and Mission”, an African student (priest) from the Democratic Republic of Congo made an intervention that was very revealing. The priest was almost in tears when he was making his submission before other students in the classroom. He told the class, inter alia:
“Each time I see someone with cellphone, it reminds me how many blood of my people are shed on daily basis for that cellphone! No cellphone can do or function without the coltan (mineral resource) from the Congo. That mineral resource is found only in my region and country, Congo. To the best of my knowledge, there is no other place of the world that it is discovered till date, except in the Congo. … We have been disseminated, maimed and are being killed on daily basis just for your cellphone to be on your hands. … This is what the Mining Companies and Multinationals are doing in my country on daily basis and which does not attract any attention in the International and mainstream media or scholarship They do this, of course, in tactics alliance with their sponsoring imperial rich nations. Even a good number of the Non-Governmental Organizations operating in Africa, are sponsored by these foreign powers and Multinationals for the same purpose, even though they hide under the camouflage of being providers of philanthropist aid to the poor and war displaced people. Again, some of them, including those who hide under the camouflage of human-rights groups, have been discovered to be agents of international arms-trafficking and sponsored regime-change in those vulnerable African countries. … No one, however, should rule out the participation of local politicians they put there in the first place as local agents, and provide them with protection.”
Continuing his submission, the student said:
“This is why the wars in my country Congo seem endless, and all the talk about environmental protection in Africa, serve only for political correctness. … Our local politicians or leaders with pro-African agenda are never allowed to rise, or raise their heads against this injustice, and if they do, they are either assassinated through coup d’état or subjected to an orchestrated campaign for ‘regime change’, which results in most cases, in foreign sponsored civil wars or economic isolation and hardship for the local population. … Last time, my Bishop was openly, assassinated by the rebels in his residence. His offence was that he exposed and criticized the alleged international conspiracy, which planned to terminate or reduce the local population of my people through secret means, alter the demographic contour of the area and in their stead, resettle other people from some neighboring countries. Our Bishop spoke against this secret international co-plot and they sent the rebels to assassinate him … For me, this is one of the major problems militating against tackling the question of ecological and environmental crisis in Congo and the whole of Africa today!”
There is no doubt that this situation is not peculiar to Congo alone. This is the situation in most parts of Africa with abundant mineral and natural resources. Be it in the Niger Delta of Nigeria, or in Angola, Mozambique, South Sudan, Southern Cameroun, Somalia, to mention just a few, the story is the same. Moreover, most discussions on ecological crisis today seems to ignore this or rather play down this aspect of the problem, at least in the African context. Often corruption and poverty are blamed. Nobody talks of the present political and economic systems or unresolved historical experiences and injustices that are fueling poverty, corruption, wars or political instability in African countries.
Therefore, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated in 1961 for no other reason than that he stood up for Africa against the continued colonial exploitation of the human and natural resources of the continent. He was martyred for this reason. Thus, it may not be an over-exaggeration to say that among our revered founding fathers of modern African independence, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the Congo, stood apart as the greatest of all. His equal in recent time could be Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, among few others who were brutally and unjustly murdered or assassinated for the same reason. But unlike Sanakara who has a tomb to his name, Lumumba has none. He was not only murdered but his killers made sure that his corpse were grinded, reduced to ashes and all traces of his remains phased out of the face of the earth.
That was the cruelty of the agents of neocolonial projects in Africa. It is still their way of dealing with anybody who dares to stand on their way in Africa.
Lumumba for standing up for Africa in the community of nations on the day the Congo was granted its political independence from Belgium in 1961, was marked him out as number one enemy of the neocolonial project in Africa. Was it surprising therefore that just few months after his inauguration as the first elected African Prime Minister of the Congo, Lumumba had to pay the prize with his blood in a most cruel way never recorded in history!
Lumumba’s inhuman and cruel assassination, unbiased historians are now beginning to tell us was a joint-complot of the powerful nations, controlling Congolese rich natural and mineral resources. The assassination of Lumumba was alleged, and rightly too, to have taken place under the watch of the United Nations (UN). Till today, the world body has not released the reports about what happened to Lumumba, how and why he was assassinated, and why nobody could account for what happened to his corpse or where his tomb is located?
Lumumba’s case continues to be for us all a reminder of the root causes of the drama of wars, political instability, socio-economic crisis, religious terrorism, and excessive foreign powers’ exploitation of natural and mineral resources of Africa that does not pay any attention to development that are more humane and naturally environmental oriented. Added to this is the exploitative activities of the Multinationals and Mining Companies in Africa.
Lumumba’s political ideology and rhetoric did not go well with the Belgium, the Congo’s ex-colonial masters as well as the entire Western powers, agents of neocolonial projects in Africa. He was seen as threat to the Western interest in the Congo and by extension in Africa as a whole. Moreover, he was both a Nationalist and Pan-Africanist to the core. His first project as Prime Minister of the Congo was the unification of all the ethnic-groups of the country. This did not go well also with the agents of the neocolonial projects. This tells us that all the noise by foreign powers about promoting peace and unity in Africa is only a deception.
None of the foreign powers – agents of the neocolonial projects wants a united Africa or worse still, a united African nation-state. African unity is a big threat to the neocolonial agenda. This was why Kwame Nkrumah, the father of African Nationalism and Unity was not allowed to stay longer than necessary in office as the first Executive President of Independent Ghana. He was toppled through a foreign sponsored coup d’état and left to die in exile. So were the story of many other first generation Pan-Africanists and fathers of African political independence in the 1960s.
The neocolonial projects prefer African states anchored on fragile intra-ethnic tensions and disunity which favors their tactics of ‘divide-and-rule’ in post-independent Africa. Is it surprising that Lumumba was assassinated when he was on unification peace mission in the North East region of Congo. That is, the famous Katanga region with its abundant natural and mineral resources. Lumumba went there to sue for peace and quell the uprising among Congolese warring soldiers, which was later alleged to have been insinuated by the Belgium authorities’ who felt dissatisfied with Lumumba’s pro-African agenda and desire to nationalize the mining industries and rubber plantations in the Congo, uniting the country under common African agenda.
This confirms the belief by many that modern African states are nothing but death traps left behind by the ex-colonial powers, meant to continue serving their colonial interests and neocolonial agenda in Africa. Modern African nations with their artificial colonial boundaries created at the Berlin Conference of 1885 by the European nations at the instance of the Belgium King Leopoldo II have continued to cause wars and difficulties in achieving real nationhood in modern African states. This is the root cause of the atrocities and violence of wars and terrorism going on in different African states today.
Any attempt to address the abnormality of modern African nation states created by the colonial masters at the Berlin Conference of 1885 is often today, resisted vehemently by the West and their Arab allies. Thus, the colonial artificial boundaries of modern African states have continued to cause wars and genocides in many African countries.
Because of its abundant natural and mineral resources without which the industrial and technological advancement in the West and world over will not be possible today, the world centers of power – their sponsoring modern imperial nations have vowed that Congo will never be totally, free or experience tranquility and peace. The powerful nations controlling Congo’s rich natural and mineral resources have vowed that never will Congo and its people, be governed by a patriotic and visionary African leader like Lumumba.
This is Lumumba’s offense! This is the major reason why the world body has not summoned the courage to publish and make public the report of the murder and assassination of Lumumba; tell the world what exactly happened to him and why the wars in the Congo, seemed endless. Again, like the case of many other African countries with similar story of wars and instability of governments, the problem of Congo is its rich abundant natural and minerals resources.
This is the problem with Congo and with African continent in general. It is the root of the problem we have in Nigeria too. Nigeria’s abundant Petroleum and Gas mineral and natural reserves are at the root of what the country is passing through today.
The inhuman activities of the Multi-Nationals and their sponsoring powerful nations as well as the United Nations’ international institutions hypocritical role in neocolonial agenda in Africa, point to one fact: There is urgent need for Africa to intensify efforts towards achieving its second independence from all these agents and masters of neocolonial and globalization agendas in the continent. The struggle is for Africa’s second independence from European interference, arbitrary political and economic neocolonial interests and agenda in Africa today.
The existing colonial structures and neocolonial projects in Africa are the reasons why many marginalized ethnic-nationalities in the conflict ridden African countries are today fighting and struggling for a kind of second independence from the domineering ethnic-groups in their respective African states. Typical examples are the Biafran pogroms during the Nigeria-Biafra War (1967-1970), Rwandan genocide of 1994, and the ongoing South Sudan crisis, Southern Cameroun, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo crises respectively, etc.
It is the question of how to overcome the trappings of the arbitrary colonial boundaries of the Berlin Conference of 1885 in Africa. The colonial boundaries have continued to be a source of tension and fighting in various modern African states. The colonial boundaries are maintained today by the world powers for no other reason than the fact that they help to sustain the neocolonial agenda in Africa. Period!
The continued presence in Africa of the colonial boundaries and structures of domination is the bane of the continent! The earlier dismantled, replaced with something more humane, in accordance with the wishes of the peoples themselves, the better for us all in Africa. Their continued presence and maintenance in Africa have continued to breed wars and sufferings for the African people. They are evil structures that must be uprooted from inside-out for the sake of continued human existence and value in Africa.
This is the problem with Congo! Congo is one country in the world where almost all the natural and mineral resources for modern science and technology abound in large quantity. There is hardly any natural or mineral resources Congo does not have. This is the major reason the country is given any chance to breath fresh air even for once from colonial era to the present time.
For the masters of the neocolonial projects, without Congo and its rich abundant natural and mineral resources under strict neo-colonial control and tutelage, the West may lose its control and strong hold of resources and raw materials needed for modern technology. For instance, it is now an open secret that if not for the Uranium from Congo, which was used in manufacturing the Atomic Bomb that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World War II could not have been won.
Furthermore, as we saw before, without the coltan from the Congo, the Cellphone and Computer industries of Bill Gates and others, which we all have in our houses and hands today, will not function. Coltan is found nowhere else except in the Congo. What of the famous Congo Rubber Plantation of King Leopoldo II. Without the Congolese Rubber, the automobile industry and technological advancement in the West and their allied countries would not have been a reality.
Until Africa gets a second independence from neocolonial strategists and agenda, their spinoffs and local agents – the most favored domineering ethnic-groups in different African states, the continent will never know peace and development. The road to freedom, equity, peace and justice in the continent will continue to elude us all until Africa achieves some level of second independence from all that is still holding it down and underdeveloped.
This is the new mission of African liberation for all those who aspire for authentic leadership in Africa today: The liberation of Africa from the crucibles of the neocolonial projects in the continent. New crops of African leaders should allow themselves be inspired by the ideals and sacrifices of such first generation African leaders like Patrice Lumumba. His martyrdom and vision of African nationalism and leadership written in marbles for new leaders that may emerge in our most abused and troubled African continent today.
Lumumba was assassinated in the most cruel and mysterious way never recorded in history, his body burnt with acid, grinded into ashes, that up till now, nobody could account where he was deposited or buried. Lumumba suffered all these indignation because he set out to correct the colonial wrongs and trappings in the Congo.
Did Lumumba succeed in his mission for African liberation? Yes! He set the pace and did his best. Both the Congo and entire African continent have never remained the same after Lumumba’s martyrdom. His martyrdom was the seed for African renaissance and therefore, an inspiration for emerging authentic African leaders.
Furthermore, like the Galilean peasant, Jesus of Nazareth, and the great Moses of the Exodus, Lumumba’s tomb is still empty and unknown. In other words, Lumumba is Africa’s conscience to the world before God and man! This is the most token and parting gift of Lumumba to Africa and the world. He lives in the conscience of Africa and the world. He is “the candle on the wind” for African liberation struggle today.
The question about what happened to Lumumba and why, is the same question Africa is asking today: “Who is keeping Africa down from developing and attaining its total freedom and liberation, and why?” Related to this is the question: “Who will be the African leader today to begin a new struggle for modern African liberation and redemption?”
The answer to above questions will go a long way in putting into right perspectives the current difficulties Africa is passing through today in its struggle for second independence from neocolonial agenda and their local agents – all those who are holding the Spirit captive in Africa. Our answers to the above questions must also proffer solutions to those problems and difficulties besetting Africa today. That is, the problem of leadership that is African-oriented!