“We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African.” - Patrice Lumumba
Critics who favor Pan Africanism argue that it is declarations such as this by Patrice Lumumba that cost him his life; they claim that there exists an underground war against African unity which has resulted in the deaths and assassinations of many great Pan African activists.
Patrice Lumumba’s last words contained in a letter to his wife before he was assassinated, further credits the assertion that the erstwhile colonial masters have set up an organized network to quench the voice of leading figures who favor Pan Africanism by any means possible.
A part of his infamous letter reads:
“…But what we wanted for our country — its right to an honorable life, to perfect dignity, to independence with no restrictions — was never wanted by Belgian colonialism and its Western allies, who found direct and indirect, intentional and unintentional support among certain high officials of the United Nations, that body in which we placed all our trust when we called on it for help.
“They have corrupted some of our countrymen; they have bought others; they have done their part to distort the truth and defile our independence. What else can I say? ‘That whether dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the colonialists, it is not my person that is important. What is important is the Congo, our poor people whose independence has been turned into a cage, with people looking at us from outside the bars, sometimes with charitable compassion, sometimes with glee and delight.”
Lumumba was assassinated shortly after, and sadly, his beloved Congo has not changed much to date because “Belgian colonialism and its Western allies” as he called it, still have a stronghold on the country.
Patrice Lumumba was not the only one to die for Pan Africanism; from Martin Luther to Malcolm X, from Tom Mboya to Thomas Sankara, the forces against Pan Africanism is alive and well – and sadly, too many good men have died for the cause.Below is a list of some of the great Pan African heroes who were assassinated:
1. Patrice Lumumba. (DR Congo, 1961)
Patrice Lumumba was announced Prime Minister in June 1961 at the age of 34. He endured a tumultuous tenure plagued by the Congo Crisis, which comprised of mutiny in the Army, secession of important mineral-rich regions-Katanga and South Kasai-with Belgian support, rebellion in some parts of the country, and inter-ethnic fights.
After failing to get the support of the US and the UN in fighting the secession, Lumumba turned to the Soviets-a cardinal sin in the era of the cold war. This led to division within his government and his subsequent deposition by Army Chief, Joseph Mobutu (a.k.a Mobutu Sese Seko).
Patrice Emery Lumumba was executed by firing squad on January 17, 1961. According to Wikipedia, his body was later dug up and ‘dissolved in sulfuric acid while the bones were ground and scattered’ in a bid to eradicate his legacy.
Patrice Lumumba’s assassination was described by Luddo De Witte, as “the most important assassination of the 20th century.”
2. Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara (Burkina Faso, 1987)
Thomas Sankara seized power in a popular coup in 1983 in an attempt to break the country’s ties to its French colonial power. He gave the country its new name — Burkina Faso, formerly Upper Volta.
Sankara had an ambitious agenda to eliminate corruption and encourage economic and social progress, but this resulted in an increasingly authoritarian approach to power.
Though he remained an icon to the poor, his policies aggravated the middle class, as well as traditional tribal leaders. He was overthrown and assassinated in a coup led by the French-backed Blaise Compaoré in October 1987.
When the revolutionary president of Burkina Faso was assassinated in 1987, his successor prevented an inquest into his death.
Sankara’s life was however cut short on October 15, 1987, when he was murdered along with 12 soldiers and buried in an unmarked grave by military men. He was only 37 years old.
3. Fred Hampton (the United States of America, 1969)
Fredrick Allen Hampton was an American activist and revolutionary socialist. He came to prominence in Chicago as chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, and deputy chairman of the national BPP.
Fred Hampton was killed in his apartment during a police raid while sleeping, unarmed in 1968.
On the morning of December 4, 1969, lawyer Jeffrey Haas received a call from his partner at the People’s Law Office, informing him that early that morning Chicago police had raided the apartment of Illinois Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton at 2337 West Monroe Street in Chicago.
Tragically, Hampton and fellow Panther Mark Clark had both been shot dead, and four other Panthers in the apartment had critical gunshot wounds. Police were uninjured and had fired their guns 90-99 times. In sharp contrast, the Panthers had shot once, from the shotgun held by Mark Clark, which had most likely been fired after Clark had been fatally shot in the heart and was falling to the ground.
The police raid was in retaliation for a previous shoot out the police had with members of the Black Panther Party that killed two policemen. The policeman who killed Hampton was acquitted in court, but members of the Black Panther Party would call it an assassination. He died aged 21.
4. Malcolm X (The United States of America, 1965)
Malcolm X, one of the most prominent Black leaders of the 20th Century rose from prison inmate to spokesman for the Nation Of Islam.
He started a newspaper called "Muhammad Speaks," and called for radical change such as black separatism, whereby black people would remove themselves from predominantly white institutions and even nations.
In 1960, Malcolm X's reputation continued to grow. He spoke with international leaders from Africa and the Middle East during the UN General Assembly.
In late 1963, Malcolm X left America and spent two months in Africa and the Middle East. He traveled to Mecca and saw Muslims of different races peacefully united. The experience was a life-changing moment for him.
On February 21, 1965, he was due to speak at the Audubon Ballroom, in New York. Despite the firebombing at his home a few weeks earlier, there was no police presence outside, and two officers were in another room.
This was despite his rallies usually warranting up to 24 officers. He also told his staff to not check people for guns as they entered, which had been protocol at his earlier meetings.
Before he could speak, he was shot 15 times. All 6 feet 4 inches of him fell like a tree, according to NPR. An ambulance was called, but it never arrived.
In his autobiography, he wrote, "If I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help destroy racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America then, all of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine."
5. Martin Luther King (The United States of America, 1968)
Martin Luther King was the face and voice of the civil rights movement. Martin would serve as a martyr for the movement after he was killed in Memphis in 1968 while supporting striking black sanitary public works employees.
King would be shot while outside his hotel room in Memphis. Escaped convict, James Earl Ray would confess to killing King but would later recant his confession. While there have been allegations of a conspiracy, no charges were ever made.
At 6:05 P.M. on Thursday, 4 April 1968, Martin Luther King was shot dead while standing on a balcony outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. News of King’s assassination prompted major outbreaks of racial violence, resulting in more than 40 deaths nationwide and extensive property damage in over 100 American cities.
James Earl Ray, a 40-year-old escaped fugitive, later confessed to the crime and was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. During King’s funeral, a tape recording was played in which King spoke of how he wanted to be remembered after his death: “I’d like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others” (King, “Drum Major Instinct,” 85).
King had arrived in Tennessee on Wednesday, 3 April, to prepare for a march the following Monday on behalf of striking Memphis sanitation workers. As he prepared to leave the Lorraine Motel for a dinner at the home of Memphis minister Samuel “Billy” Kyles, King stepped out onto the balcony of room 306 to speak with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues standing in the parking area below. An assassin fired a single shot that caused severe wounds to the lower right side of his face.
6. Amilcar Cabral (Guinea-Bissau, 1973)
Amilcar Lopes da Costa Cabral is considered one of the greatest revolutionaries and anti-colonialist in the continent. Born in Guinea-Bissau to Cape Verdean parents, Cabral led a guerrilla movement against the Portuguese colonial government. With support from Kwame Nkrumah, he set up training camps in Ghana and as an agronomist, taught his troops to teach local farmers better farming techniques to increase food productivity both for the larger populace and the troops.
In one of his speeches, he said, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”
Though not a Marxist, he was heavily influenced by Marxist ideologies. He founded the Portuguese for the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC) in 1956 but launched its first military attack in 1963, claiming lands from the Portuguese and gaining support from the masses.
Fidel Castro said of him, “one of the most lucid and brilliant leaders in Africa, who instilled in us tremendous confidence in the future and the success of his struggle for liberation.”
Patrick Chabal, a professor of Lusophone studies in his book Amilcar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War said, “In less than twenty years of active political life, Cabral led Guinea-Bissau’s nationalists to the most complete political and military success ever achieved by an African political movement against a colonial power. At the time of his death in 1973, months before Guinea-Bissau became independent, his influence extended well beyond the Lusophone world and Africa. Friends and foes alike admired his political acumen and skills and saw in him a potential leader of the non-aligned movement. His writings have shown him to be a sophisticated analyst of the social, economic, and political factors which have affected and continue to affect the developing world.”
On January 20, 1973, Amilcar Cabral was assassinated. His famous quote “Tell no lies, claim no easy victories, tell it to the people the way it is,” is often reiterated by student union leaders.
7. Tom Mboya (Kenya, 1969)
Thomas Joseph Adhiambo Mboya was a former Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, a trade unionist, Pan Africanist, and one of Kenya’s founding fathers. He served as a sanitary inspector for the Nairobi City Council and faced racism many times.
In his book Freedom and After he said, “Several times I was physically thrown out of premises which I had gone to inspect by Europeans who insisted they wanted a European, not an African, to do the job. The City Council had to prosecute a number of them for obstructing African inspectors in the course of their duties” At the age of 28, he was elected the chairman of the All-African People’s Conference convened by Kwame Nkrumah.
Mboya played a crucial role in establishing the trade unions in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda and also in creating the ‘students’ air-lift’ which helped many Kenyan students go to the United States for studies. Described as erudite and intelligent, Mboya designed the flag of Kenya and organized various labour union platforms across the continent. While serving as the Minister for Economic Planning and Development, Mboya was assassinated on July 5, 1969, at the age of 38.
8. Ruben Um Nyobè (Cameroon, 1958)
Ruben Um Nyobè was an anti-colonialist Cameroonian leader, slain by the French army on 13 September 1958, near his natal village of Boumnyebel, in the department of Nyong-et-Kellé in the maquis Bassa. He created on 10 April 1948 Cameroon's People Union (UPC), which used armed struggle to obtain independence from French colonial rule. After his death, he was replaced by Félix-Roland Moumié, who was assassinated by an agent of the SDECE (French secret service) with thallium in Geneva in 1960. Until the 1990s, any mention of Ruben Um Nyobè was prohibited in Cameroon.
The party then created a women's branch in 1952, the Democratic Union of Cameroonian Women, in particular, to combat discrimination specific to women, and then a youth organization in 1954, the Jeunesse démocratique du Cameroun. He particularly insisted on "efforts to raise the ideological level of militants and leaders", and party schools are created. On the organizational level, he defended the strengthening of "base committees" to build a party acting from below and preferred to speak of a "movement" rather than a "party" for this reason.
On June 13, 1955, the UPC was banned by the French government and its militants went into hiding. Ruben Um Nyobe was killed by the French army on 13 September 1958
9. Steve Biko (South Africa, 1977)
Stephen Bantu Biko was one of the greatest young leaders of South Africa who fought against the apartheid regime in South Africa. In July 1969, Biko was elected as the first president of the South African Students Association (SASO) and in 1970 he was elected as the Chair of SASO Publication and he started publishing articles under the pseudonym Frank Talk, under the heading, I Write What I Like, which eventually became a book.
Biko, later on, quit his medical studies and became fully involved in the Black Community Programmes (BCP) which was an arm of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Biko was banned in 1973 but that didn’t restrict the influence of BCM in the political sphere of South Africa.
On August 27, 1976, during the Soweto Uprising, Biko was arrested and put under solitary confinement for 101 days. In 1977 Biko was arrested. He was badly beaten and suffered a brain hemorrhage. The police still kept him chained despite his condition and drove him for 12 hours, naked at the back of a van, on a 700km distance to Pretoria. Biko died on 12 September 1977.
Donald Woods, a close friend of Steve said, “In the three years that I grew to know him my conviction never wavered that this was the most important political leader in the entire country, and quite simply the greatest man I have ever had the privilege to know.” Biko died at the age of 30.
10. Mehdi Ben Barka (Morrocco)
Mehdi Ben Barka was a Moroccan politician, head of the left-wing National Union of Popular Forces, and secretary of the Tricontinental Conference. He was a renowned opposition to French Imperialism and King Hassan II.
According to Wikipedia, he "disappeared" in Paris in 1965.
However, the eyewitness account has brought light into the assassination of the anti-colonial and Pan African activist, after reports sufficed that he was assassinated with help from French intelligence.
Mehdi Ben Barka, the charismatic Moroccan opposition leader who disappeared in Paris 36 years ago, was tortured and killed in a house south of the French capital by the Moroccan interior minister of the day, with the complicity of the authorities in France, according to a new report.
According to Le Monde and the Moroccan daily, Le Journal, the astonishing account of Barka's abduction and assassination has come from a former Moroccan counter-subversion operative, Ahmed Boukari, who approached the publications last autumn with his story, based on first-hand information about what happened.
At midday on October 29, 1965, Ben Barka was stopped outside the Brasserie Lipp on the Boulevard Saint-Germain by two French policemen working for Morocco's secret services. He was never seen alive again and his body was never found, the perfect crime.
Mr Boukari - a top operative selected by the three CIA agents who reorganized King Hassan's secret service in 1960 - says the body was taken back to Rabat and dissolved in acid.
Are there any other Pan African activists whose assassination you want to talk about? Let us know in the comment session.
Credit: Wikipedia, Guardian, Variety.com, thisisafrica.me, medium.com, kinginstitute.stanford.edu, history.com, blackpast.org, face2faceafrica, newafricanmagazine.com