Patrice Lumumba: The living legacy of an important African Figure

Born on 2 July 1925, Patrice Émery Lumumba was a Congolese politician and leader of independence who served from June to September 1960 as the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then the Republic of the Congo). In the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent country, he played a significant role. From 1958 until his assassination, he headed the Congolese National Movement (MNC) party, he is politically an African nationalist and pan-Africanist.

For decades, there was a lot of debate more about issue of how Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo, died, and the issues involving of who killed him and why. The simple comment is that, on January 17, 1961, Lumumba was assassinated by a firing squad. It takes a longer discussion to understand just how he was killed, taking into account the political environment in the then Congo and the state of international relations at the time. The Prime Minister delivered an “impassioned speech” against the Belgian colonisation of his country on 30 June 1960, Independence Day. It was the spark that caused his “end”.

Also, based on various reports on the assassination of Patrice Lumumba and “how he was dissolved in acid”, it is revealed thereon that no one has been held responsible since January 17, 1961, for the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s independence leader and first prime minister, who was fatally shot with two of his ministers, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo.

His struggle tailored out after attending the All-African Peoples’ Conference in Ghana in 1958, as he was influenced by Africa’s independence movement. This inspired him to oversee nationalist demonstrations in his country, leading to lethal protests that caused his arrest, though later released, but the negotiation for independence of the Congo spurred out.

In particular, the independence celebrations of the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 June 1960 left a very well-deserved, bitter bit of a sour taste for King Baudouin of Belgium. After his speech praising Leopold II, during whose rule an estimated ten million innocent Congolese died, Prime Minister Lumumba resisted humiliating King Baudouin and condemning the massacres committed by the Belgians against the people of Congo with a very surprising and “damning speech”.

Lumumba was arrested a year later and assassinated. In his assassination, the United States, the United Nations and the former colony of Belgium were complicit as they looked on as he was humiliated despite letters he wrote during the Congo Crisis for security.

Lumumba Still Lives

After independence from Belgium in 1960, Lumumba came to be the country’s first democratically elected prime minister. His regime lasted just three months before he was overpowered by a firing squad and assassinated. The only part of his body that had ever been retrieved was “a tooth seized from a Belgian policeman who took it on his own account when helping to dispose off the body.” There has been a demand however, to Belgium to return the tooth to its family after partially apologizing for the role played in its assassination.

12/4/1960-Leopoldville, The Congo-Premier Patrice Lumumba is transported in a Congolese army truck through Léopoldville (now known as Kinshasa) after his arrest. (Bettmann Archive)

He attained history through the front entrance, despite his short political career and disastrous death. Lumumba became a sign, having existed as a free man and an individual thinker. What people write about, and what people talk about – is what he became. As a liberator, he shares the same shadow with Nasser of Egypt,  Nkrumah of Ghana, Lenin of Russia, Castro of Cuba, and Mao Tse-tung of China.

The death of Lumumba started to take on considerable significance in the Congolese people’s collective memory in the years immediately following his passing. It is perceived that Lumumba was killed because he defended the self-determination of the Congo by Western machinations. In the sense of memory, the killing is seen as a symbolic moment in which the Congo lost its independence in the international realm and the right to decide its future, which the West has dominated since then. The resolve of Lumumba to accomplish his goals is deduced to the Congolese people as their own – conserving the independence and self-determination of the Congo, safeguarding their “redemption” by Western powers from victimization.

Lumumba is seen as one of the Congo’s “fathers of independence”. The picture of Lumumba regularly emerges on social media and is also used in protests of social resistance as a mobilization cry. In art and literature, particularly outside of the Congo, his figure is prevalent. Many African-American writers of the American civil rights movement has referred to him, especially in their works from the post-civil rights period. There have been many songs and plays devoted to him, and many adored his character.

An Appraisal of His Feats

The motives why Lumumba prompted such tough beliefs were not immediately visible. In fact, his outlook was not remarkable. Though, he was for a united Congo – and he really did that against division of his country. He advocated pan-Africanism and the liberation of colonial lands, like many other African leaders. He declared his regime a ‘positive neutralism,’ which he described as a return to the ideals of Africa and a rejection of any ideology imported.

Congo was a crucial country in terms of Africa’s geopolitics, and Lumumba’s rivals had rationale to worry about the implications of a radicalized Congo regime because of “its power, scale, and proximity to white-dominated southern Africa.”

Recently, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) honours Patrice Lumumba 60 years after his assassination. He was honoured as an independence hero, marking 60 years since his assassination in a plot linked to Belgium, the fledgeling country’s colonial master.

But as Lumumba himself put it sometime in 1960 that, “Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity”, so is his story has been inscribed on the glorious rocks of Africa – telling us of his semiotic force: a birth of inspirational quotes, and the necessity to revisit the political potential of past movements.

Lumumba in His Own Words

“The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches”.

Lumumba’s speech at the All-African Conference in Leopoldville August, 1960.

 “The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations…Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity”.

Lumumba’s letter from Thysville Prison to his wife.

“[T]he only thing which we wanted for our country is the right to a worthy life, to dignity without pretence, to independence without restrictions. This was never the desire of the Belgian colonialists and their Western allies…”

Lumumba’s letter from Thysville Prison to his wife.

“Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty. Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!”

Lumumba’s letter from Thysville Prison to his wife.

 “These divisions, which the colonial powers have always exploited the better to dominate us, have played an important role — and are still playing that role — in the suicide of Africa”.

African Unity and National Independence speech, March, 1959

 “We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African. We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village…They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites…”

Lumumba’s speech at the opening of the All-African Conference in Leopoldville August 25, 1960.

 “African unity and solidarity are no longer dreams. They must be expressed in decisions”.

Speech at the opening of the All-African Conference in Leopoldville August 25,1960.

Educator, writer and legal researcher at Alafarika for Studies and Consultancy.

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