In his book, 'Congo, My Country' written in 1956-7 but published in 1962 after his assassination on 17 January 1961 in Lubumbashi, it is obvious that Lumumba was a man with an undying love for his home country Congo and indeed Africa in general.
But how did a man who was loved by everyone including the colonial masters - Belgium, a man who rose from being a Beer salesman to becoming the first Prime Minister of Congo suddenly become so hated by the Belgians and the west leading to his assassination on 17 January 1961, barely 5 months after he gave an impromptu speech at the Independence ceremony on June 30, 1960?
What was the true reason behind the assassination of Patrice Emery Lumumba?
Patrice Lumumba’s impromptu Independence Day Speech as Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo during the first celebration after Congo got its political independence from Belgium on June 30, 1960 was the real reason behind his assassination five months later.
In attendance of the Independence Day ceremony were many dignitaries, including King Baudouin of Belgium and a large representation of 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 podium and delivered an impromptu speech that reminded the audience that the independence of the Congo had not been granted magnanimously by Belgium. He was visibly angered by the praise which President Kasa-Vubu had heaped on the colonial masters as the president tried to give them credit for 'allowing' Congo to gain independence. For this reason, Lumumba needed to set the records straight right there and then.
On the podium was Lumumba in the symbolic shadows of Kwame Nkrumah speaking just as Kwame would have spoken, but his guts was most surprising because he didn't have the connections, wealth or experience at the disposal of Nkrumah. He was just a 35 years old 'Beer salesman' but his love for Congo and the length he would go to uphold the country's independence was never in doubt.
Speaking with fire in his ears, and his voice like the roar of Lion, he had said:
“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.”
Everyone was shocked! The representatives from the West, King Baudouin of Belgium, the Europeans and the large contingent of Foreign Observers and Press could neither believe their ears nor their eyes. Where did he get such audacity? They asked themselves. They were dumbfounded and deeply angered by the stridency of Lumumba’s speech. The Western media lashed out at Lumumba. TIME Magazine spoke of it as a “venomous attack.” Thus, it was not long before Western conspiracy made Lumumba pay dearly with his life for this intransigence.
Where did a 35 year-old Beer salesman from little Congo get the boldness to speak in such manner when he knew the world was watching and his actions would not go unpunished? The simple answer to this is, 'his love for Congo and Africa in general!'
By all standards, 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 extraordinary 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 .
Sadly, as was the case of many African freedom fighters, Lumumba was assassinated after he was captured in his attempt to flee house arrest. Intelligence sources show that both the US and Belgium had implications in the complot against Lumumba. The Belgian government officially apologized to his family in 2002, but a number of unanswered questions remain. Congo's chaotic transition to independence, marked by episodes of great violence, cast a shadow on Lumumba's image.
Did Africa learn anything from Lumumba, and has his death changed anything? The answers to these questions leave a sad taste in the mouth.
Until Africa decolonizes her mind and gets a 'second independence' from Neo-colonial strategists and agenda, their spin-offs 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 the outside influence.
Long live Africa.
In seeking help, Lumumba made one grave mistake. He sought help from the Soviet Union. This was to orchestrate a string of events that would ravage Co…
Credit: Tamara Wackernagel, Saleh Mwanamilongo, Gwendolin Hilse (DW); Ismail Akwei (Face2Face Africa); FRANCIS OBORJI (The Cable)
Image Credit: Patrice Lumumba – BitMari – Medium