Torch of Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba was a Congolese independence leader and the first democratically elected leader of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who carried strongly the torch of liberation and Pan-Africanism, until his assassination on 17 January 1961. In one of his post-independence speeches, he declared, ¨Belgium is destroying us, Belgium is sabotaging us, Belgium is stealing our money. ¨

In murderous treachery, the West conspired to have him killed and thus ensure the country and continent would return once again to an affair of deprivation. We must remember Lumumba and carry his torch of liberation, else we allow the West a horrifying victory.

When Lumumba became Prime Minister in 1960, he hoped to implement measures that would liberate the Congolese people. Unable to rapidly deconstruct the Belgian militaristic influence, a series of internal mutinies broke out against him. In response, he announced: "Thoroughgoing reforms are planned in all sectors. My government will make every possible effort to see that our country has a different face in a few months, a few weeks."

In any view, Lumumba was a man who cared deeply for the nation he fought and died for. However, he found himself periled by internal conflict. Most notably, the region of Katanga, which had declared its independence from Congo. The conflict was funded and spurred by Belgians within the mineral-rich Katanga who possessed ownership over the region´s mineral wealth. Lumumba promised to equitably distribute the resources of the region across the newly decolonized Congo. This was certainly threatening to the wealth of these Belgians. After all, Lumumba did not only wish to be politically free from the Belgians but also desired economic liberation for the people of his country and continent.

Former coloniser, Belgium deliberately supported the mutinies and its war-mongering leaders! It was their intention to destabilise the independent Congo to reap benefit from unstable conditions (A political tool that is still employed today i.e. Libya, Iran). They hoped to establish a pro-Western Congo rather than a Congo under the African nationalist ideals of Lumumba.

Katanga seceded from Congo soon after it gained independence, in 1960. Lumumba recognised the economic wealth of Katanga and its necessity to ensure economic prosperity in Congo. He decided to fight back against the secession. He stated, “How, is it possible for Belgium, which has recognized our country as an independent state…to plot the secession of Katanga?”

Understandably, Lumumba appealed for assistance from Western powers. He appealed to the United Nations and to the United States of America (although not wanting to adopt an explicit position in the Cold War) for assistance and he appealed to Belgium to cease its support of the mutiny and withdraw its troops from the region. The United Nations complied by condemning the Belgians and sending a peace-keeping force. But, the Belgians remained and the conflict persisted.

Under conditions of great instability and in truth, at war with the Belgians, Lumumba was in urgent need of assistance. The United Nations blocked the use of its military forces to reclaim Katanga. With no assistance, Lumumba relied on the Soviets to invade the region and reclaim the territory.

At the time, the United States held strongly that communism should be contained. They feared that Soviet success in Katanga would grant the Soviets access to the region's mineral wealth. So, Eisenhower and the CIA instructed a coup against Lumumba, through Mobutu Sese Seko, the Congo’s anti-soviet Army Chief of Staff. This coup was also largely supported by Belgium. Mobutu was himself a murderous power-hungry man who soon became the Congo´s totalitarian dictator.

Lumumba was arrested and kept in harsh conditions along with his political associates. The end goal of the coup was to dethrone and assassinate Lumumba. This was achieved in early 1961 when he was lined against a tree and killed by a firing squad. It is widely reported that his body was then hacked to pieces and dissolved in sulphuric acid by two Belgian police officials.

Lumumba, who wished to truly liberate the continent was murdered by the West and by oppressive African leaders supported by the West. What followed was a long disastrous dictatorial regime that would never have occurred if Lumumba ruled over Congo.

This should anger us. It should motivate our will to achieve true economic independence. It should inspire guilt for bare thoughts of appeasing to the apathetic West. But, most of all we should remember the treachery of the West.

Lumumba’s legacy is certainly of Pan-Africanism and liberation. His ideas were of nationalism and economic emancipation. However, the lesson we must learn from his ordeal and the torch that we must carry is far grimmer. Still, they are destroying us, they are sabotaging us, they are stealing our money”.