No, ‘they’ being the educational system, did not teach me about Patrice, like they didn’t teach me about the Warrior Queen, Nzinga of Angola who fought against the invading Portuguse or Queen Nanny of the Maroons, who lead a resistance against slavery. There’s so much more they didn’t teach you and I, it’s a mis-carriage of education. No wonder why so many of us grow up thinking all our ancestors were subjected to nothing but slavery and colonialism. Yes these inhumane events occurred – which we must never forget, no matter how profound or traumatic it is, but our ancestors were Kings and Queens before this time period, and when this period was taken over by the Europeans, our ancestors fought for their survival. They fought for their freedom. They fought to preserve their spiritual and cultural customs and traditions. They fought for the next generations to come – me and you, they fought to pave the way for the next generations to have a chance to uplift a nation, and a continent. They fought to protect their rich, natural resources the Europeans so greedily wanted. So, let us remember what they did. Let us learn for ourselves about the bravery and sacrifices our people endured. Let us know about Patrice Lumuba.
Today marks 55 years since Patrice Lumumba was assassinated. Until today I had not known of this brother. It was via Dynamic Africa’s tweet that I came to discover who he was. Patrice Emery Lumumba (2nd July 1925 – 17th January, 1961), was born, Élias Okit’Asombo in the Kasai province of Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), in the village of Onalua. Lumumba was a leader of Congolese Independence, who stood for the unity of his people and his continent. He became the first democratically elected leader of the Congo in 1960, the same year his country were declared independent from Belgium. What struck me whilst doing my research, was seeing the words ‘Congo’ and ‘Belgium’ in the same sentence. A shiver wet down my spine. Just last year I had learnt about Belguim’s King Leopold II and how he ruled over the Congo with unmeasurable horror. Up to 10 million Congolese people are said to have died under his inhumane regime. Murder, poor living & working conditions, death by disease or lack of food led to the inevitable deaths of these innocent people, who were brutally worked on rubber plantations to feed the greed of European colonialists. This was the scramble for Africa at it’s disturbing extreme.
It was at the Berlin Conference 1884-5 where King Leopold II secured his claim to the Congo on the basis that his aim was to ‘protect the natives from Arab slaves, and to open the heart of Africa to Christian missionaries’. This sick and twisted lie allowed this evil man to torment the Congo until 1908, when his horrors finally became clear to the international world. Leopold had wanted the Congo for its rich abundance of raw materials – the very same reason why Europe did not want to leave the Congo in Lumumba’s control. During the official Independence Day celebrations, Lumumba publicly denounced Belgium for it’s brutal colonial grip over the Congo. Lumumba wanted to free his country from it’s colonial shackles. He wanted to unite the divided ethnic groups again and take control of Congo’s resources, so he could use them to improve the quality of life for his own people.
The Belgians did not like to hear Lumumba denounce them because his words were the truth. They saw Lumumba as a threat. A threat. Since what right did a European have to invade, steal and control something that clearly does not belong to them? A threat – yes, to European greed and control, something that hasn’t changed at all, yet society chooses to sweep it under the carpet like it’s all ‘in the past’. It’s not, when white people are still benefiting from this greed whether they care to acknowledge it or not, and my melanated brothers and sisters are still reaping the scars.
Despite independence, Belgian officers were still in charge. The Congolese army revolted against them in the mineral rich region of Katanga. This became known as the Katanga crisis which turned into a civil war. What makes this crisis twisted is the fact that the involvement of the two super powers at the time – USA & the Soviet Union came about not only because of the on-going Cold War tensions, but because of Congo’s resources. As well as the UN, Lumumba called for military support from the Soviet Union, which the US saw as an excuse to claim the Congo was going communist. What they were really ‘concerned’ about was the Russians getting their hands on the rich minerals of the country and Africa in general, (it is said that the uranium from the atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was taken from the Congo). To prevent Russian advancement, the US installed the puppet-sell-out army chief, Joseph-Desire Mobutu.
America’s devious ways of control hindered Lumumba’s dreams and inevitably lead to his murder. This is what happens when a melanated being stands up to the greedy, twisted and corrupted west. The legacy of his death had damaging reverberations for the Congo. Look at the person who replaced him – Mobutu, who morphed into a military dictator, a manifestation of the greed and corruption of colonial Europe.
Lumumba died a martyr. He stood up to colonial Europe and the west for what they did to his country and continent. He stood up for himself and his people. He should be known to us all, as of all the histories of Congo before and after colonisation. For today, let us know Patrice Lumumba.
Resources on Patrice Lumumba:
- May our People Triumph: Poem, Speeches & Interviews, by Patrice Lumumba
- Death in the Congo: Murdering Patrice Lumumba, by Emmanuel Gerard and Bruce Kuklick
- The Assassination of Lumumba, by Ludo De Whitte
- MI6 and the death of Patrice Lumumba – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22006446
Resources on King Leopold:
- King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild
- The Butcher of Congo – http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/35/181.html
- King Leopold’s Legacy of DR Congo violence – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3516965.stm