Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The failed vision of a United Africa - Part VII


By Dr Peter Kafumu

The army mutiny that began was forcing the Republic of Congo into a deep crisis, and President Kasa-Vubu and Prime Minister Lumumba tried to stop the mutiny by taking strategic actions. The actions included Africanising the army by appointing Congolese soldiers in high army positions.

Despite these actions, the mutiny continued to spread throughout the country. Lumumba then appealed to the United States and the United Nations for assistance to stop the mutiny. Both parties refused, so Lumumba turned to the Soviet Union (USSR) for support.

When Lumumba sought the assistance of the USSR, President Kasa-Vubu as well as the US, the UK and Belgium accused Lumumba of being a Marxist-communist and sought to eliminate him.

On the 14th of September, 1960, Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu staged a coup d’état that deposed Lumumba as Prime Minister and was placed him under house arrest. He escaped to Stanleyville, but on the 1st of December 1960, he was captured by Mobutu’s troops in Lodi. Patrice Lumumba and his two political associates Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were imprisoned and on the 3rd of December 1960 were sent to a military prison in Thysville Barracks, 150 km from Léopoldville.

Even in prison, Lumumba’s desire to see a free Congo did not wane. He wrote to his wife the following words: “My dear wife, I am writing these words to you, not knowing whether they will ever reach you, or whether I shall be alive when you read them. Throughout my struggle for the independence of our country I have never doubted the victory of our sacred cause, to which I and my comrades have dedicated all our lives. But the only thing, which we wanted for our country is the right to a worthy life, to dignity without pretence, to independence without restrictions”

Lumumba continued to write to his wife: “…To my sons, whom I am leaving and whom, perhaps, I shall not see again, I want to say that the future of the Congo is splendid and that I expect from them, as from every Congolese, the fulfilment of the sacred task of restoring our independence and our sovereignty. Without dignity there is no freedom, without justice there is no dignity and without independence there are no free men…”

Lumumba concluded the letter to his wife by seeing a free Africa when he said: “…The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history, which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations. AFRICA will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity”. Do not weep for me. I know that my tormented country will be able to defend its freedom and its independence. Long live the Congo! Long live AFRICA!”

Lumumba and his two political associates were later send to Katanga and executed by a firing squad on the 17th January 1961, under the command of Katanga local authorities and the supervision of the Belgian Government. Their bodies were dismembered and dissolved it in sulfuric acid and the bones grounded and scattered.

Lumumba’s demise shook the world of justice and peace because after the announcement of his death, street protests broke up in several European countries including Yugoslavia; the UK and in the USA at the UN Security Council and in New York streets.

The death of Patrice Lumumba was also the beginning of even a greater turmoil in the Congo when President Kasa-Vubu witnessed a wave of army rebellions. As a result Moïse Tshombé separated the Katanga Region and he served as the president of the Secessionist Katanga State from 1960 to 1963 when it was suppressed by UN forces in 1963.

Tshombé was exile in Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia), later to Spain but in July 1964 he returned to the Congo and later served as Prime Minister in in 1965; in a new coalition government when the Congolese army, assisted by Belgium managed to reconquer the entire Congo territory.

Dr Kafumu is the Member of Parliament for Igunga Constituency