As we treasure the legacy of one of Africa’s founding heroes, we will remember the words he left us in his mission to see the liberation and development of a United Africa. This week, we continue to write the story of a nationalist and pan-Africanist, Patrice Eméry Lumumba. He was the founder and leader of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) party, which led the Congo to its independence.
Lumumba dedicated his life to fighting colonialism, exploitation and injustices and hoped to see the birth of a United Africa. A few days after independence, Lumumba, as Prime Minister of the Congo, took some action that the army (Force Publique militaire) was discontent with; and on the 5th of July 1960, the soldiers mutinied in Leopoldville and Thysville (present day Mbanza-Ngungu) in protest, beginning the well-known Congo Crisis.
On the 25th of August, 1960, as the Congo Crisis was deepening, Patrice Lumumba hosted the All-African Conference in Leopoldville, which was a follow-up conference of the pan-African movement to liberate and unite the African continent. That was hosted by Nkrumah in April 1958, in Accra, Ghana.
In his opening remarks at the conference, Patrice Lumumba reiterated once again his desire for African leaders to unite the continent into one nation.
He said: “We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian; that it is Africa. We know the objects of the West. Yesterday, they divided us along tribal, clan and village lines…They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites. …African unity and solidarity are no longer dreams. They must be expressed in decisions...”
At this conference, Lumumba spoke of his hopes on the actions the free African states were taking for the solidarity of the African continent.
He said: “Today Africa must take action. This action is being impatiently awaited by the peoples of Africa. …Your confidence in the future of our continent will unquestionably help you to complete your work successfully. Your principal purpose is to prepare a meeting of our Heads of State, who will in deed establish African unity, for whose sake you have responded to our appeal…”
He continued to express his hopes that the African leaders will achieve the unification of the African continent by saying: “…From this rostrum I express my gratitude to President Bourguiba, His Majesty Mohammed V, President Sekou Toure, President Tubman, President Nkrumah and President Olympio, whom I had the honour to meet at this decisive moment. …All of them, fighting for African unity, have said “No” to the strangulation of Africa…”
In this meeting Lumumba also spoke of the assistance that was required and was being provided by the Heads of States of free African States to resolve the Congo Crisis.
He said: “…All of them immediately realised that the attempts of the imperialists to restore their rule threaten not only the independence of the Congo but also the existence of all the independent states of Africa.
They all realised that if the Congo perishes, the whole of Africa will be plunged into the gloom of defeat and bondage. That is further striking proof of AFRICAN UNITY. It is concrete testimony of the unity that we need in the face of imperialism’s monstrous appetite…”
Lumumba concluded his speech by promoting the spirit of the African unity: “…United by a single spirit, a single aspiration and a single heart, we shall turn Africa into a genuinely free and independent continent in the immediate future.
Long live AFRICAN UNITY and solidarity! Forward, Africans, to complete liberation!...”
Dr Kafumu is the Member of Parliament for Igunga Constituency