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Another tribute to Patrice Lumumba from a fan

By Dominic Odipo | February 10th 2014

By Dominic Odipo

Kenya: After reading my column on Patrice Lumumba, one of our readers wrote the following: “My name is Eliud Biegon. While reading for my History degree, I took an interest in Patrice Emery Lumumba and searched and read and watched materials on him, thanks to the Internet.

“I quickly understood the weight of the issue at stake, and why Patrice Emery Lumumba had to be killed by the white man.

“I became very happy at reading your article that you have penned in The East African Standard today (02/02/2014). It was good for me to know that i am not alone on my thoughts about “The Meaning of Patrice Emery Lumumba to the Black Person”.

Black Africa

“At the time of his death, Lumumba was allowed to write a letter to his children. He wrote; ‘The future of Africa is bright, and I expect each and every one of you to play your sacred duty.’ I have never felt about my ‘Africanness’ they way i felt the day i read those words. 

“As was said in that piece, for the black person, especially in the former Belgian Congo, Lumumba’s message and memory were huge. He put more meaning to their existence than they had ever dreamt possible.

“Only death could have stopped Lumumba. His message would have resonated in every corner of black Africa if he had not been killed at that time.

“Since January 1961, there has not arisen another Lumumba on the entire African continent, and we may have to wait another fifty years before another such African arises. The problem is that most of the histories that black African countries today teach their children do not cover such topics as the real import of colonisation.

“No black African country suffered from white colonialism more than DRC, Lumumba’s homeland. And so, in a sense, Lumumba’s reaction to colonialism was direct and personal. He had seen his own relatives and friends destroyed or killed by Belgian colonial rule.

“He had tasted Belgian jails in his own country. When he spoke about colonial brutality upon the Congolese, he knew what he was talking about. As Martin Meredith writes in his history: ‘The fate of Lumumba was central to the Congo crisis.  Even in prison he remained a potent force – a rallying symbol to his supporters, a persistent danger to his enemies.’

 “After his capture, the Belgian government and Congolese politicians in Leopoldville alike became increasingly fearful on the impact that Lumumba’s release would have. On 4 January 1961, Count d’Aspremont Lynden in Brussels sent a telegram to Andre Lahaye, the Belgian advisor to Mobutu’s head of security, Victor Nendaka, drawing ‘special attention’ to ‘the disastrous consequences of releasing Lumumba’. A few days later d’Aspremont Lynden stressed again that Lumumba’s release had to be avoided ‘at all cost, I repeat, at all cost.’

“To the ordinary Congolese of the day, Lumumba personified not only their liberation from the Belgians but their entire economic independence from all foreign powers. In that sense, therefore, he was bigger in their minds than any of the other black politicians of the day, including General Mobutu.

“The murder of Lumumba turned him into one of the most famous political martyrs of modern times. It sent shockwaves through much of the Congo and led to worldwide protest. The Belgian embassy in Cairo was shut down and there were demonstrations in more than thirty cities including London, New York and Washington. 

“To many protesters he was a heroic figure struggling to free his country form the iron grip of imperialism, the victim of a neo-colonial conspiracy, cut down by Western powers because he challenged their hegemony. Overnight he entered the pantheon of liberation heroes.”

No experience

“Certainly, the difficulties that Lumumba faced were immense. Belgium’s abject failure to devise any coherent policy for bringing independence to the Congo meant that this vast and complex country passed into the hands of ill-assorted politicians lacking all experience of government, parliamentary life and administration and suddenly required to deal simultaneously with a mutinous army and a secessionist movement intent on appropriating the main source of its wealth.”

Viva Lumumba viva! Viva Lumumba, viva! 

Dominic Odipo is a lecturer and consultant in Nairobi.

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