Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The failed vision of a united Africa - Part V

Patrice Lumumba speaks at a press conference on

Patrice Lumumba speaks at a press conference on 8th September 1960. photo |file 

By Dr Peter Kafumu

Patrice Lumumba’s leadership life was too short, but in this narrative we continue celebrating his legacy and remember the words he left us in his quest to see the liberation of Congo and development of the African Unity.

In late October 1959, Lumumba was arrested for stirring an anti-colonial riot in Stanleyville. He was sued and sentenced to five years imprisonment.

Meanwhile, the Congolese Roundtable Conference to prepare the country for its independence was to begin on the 18th of January 1960 in Brussels, Belgium.

At the same time, the MNC won a majority in the December local elections. This election victory encouraged Congolese delegates to the Roundtable Conference in Brussels to pressurise for the release of Lumumba to attend the conference.

He was released and allowed to attend the conference in January 1960.

The conference declared that the Congo was to gain its independence on the 30th of June 1960, and that elections would take place between the 11th and 25th of May, 1960.

The Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party of Joseph Kasa-Vubu won a significant number of votes in Parliament, but not an outright win; and therefore, a political compromise was agreed between ABAKO and the MNC.

On the 23rd of June 1960, Patrice Lumumba became first Prime Minister and Kasa-Vubu the President of the Republic of the Congo.

On Independence Day (30th of June 1960), King Baudouin of Belgium, in his speech, promised continued support to the Republic by saying: “Don’t replace the structures that Belgium hands over to you, until you are sure you can do better. Don’t be afraid to come to us. We will remain by your side, to give you advice.”

Thrilling Pan-Africanist speech

On the contrary, Lumumba, who was not scheduled to speak on this occasion, gave a thrilling pan-Africanist speech that negated the “friendliness” speech of King Baudouin and shocked every dignitary, and the Western media.

Lumumba’s speech commenced by telling the Congolese people that the independence of the Congo was not a generosity concession that given by the Belgian King, but the freedom was conquered in a struggle by the nationalist movement of the people.

He 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”

The speech outlined the personal suffering of the people during the independence struggle, by speaking the following words: “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 depths 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.”

Towards the end of his speech Lumumba clearly showed his pan-African dream of a united Africa in the future to come when he spoke the following words: “The Congo’s independence is a decisive step towards the liberation of the whole African continent.”

And at the end of the speech, he concluded by glorifying the freedom fighters and wishing a long life of the sovereign independence of the Congo and the unity of African continent by saying: “Glory to the fighters of national liberation! Long live independence and AFRICAN UNITY! Long live the independent and Sovereign Congo.”

This Lumumba’s dramatic speech was termed as a ‘venomous attack’ to the ideals of the West.

It was also interpreted as a personal attack to King Baudouin of Belgium. The speech caused a diplomatic friction that opened the Belgian-Congolese crisis, plunging the former Belgian Congo colony into anarchy.