Support SF BayView
Donate or Subscribe to SF Bay View
Follow Us Twitter Facebook

50 years after Lumumba: The burden of history

January 25, 2011

Iterations of assassinations in Africa

[Two poems by Patrice Lumumba follow]

by Horace Campbell

It wasn’t just Patrice Lumumba his assassins wanted to kill, it was the genuine self-determination, dreams and aspirations of African people, writes Horace Campbell, reflecting on the murder of the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Jan. 17, 1961.

Patrice Lumumba
In the experience of the DRC and of Africa, the iterations of assassinations were meant to kill the genuine self-determination of the African peoples. Of these crimes, the murder and cover up of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba continues to reverberate across Africa, crying out for a break from the recursive patterns of genocidal politics and economics.

Patrice Lumumba was the first democratically elected prime minister of the Congo. The DRC won its independence in June 1960, but the wishes of the Belgian colonialists were that the conditions after independence should not be different from that of the colonial era.

In the Congo, Belgium – a small divided society in Europe – had worked to get a seat at the table of imperial overlords. In the eyes of the Belgians, the crime of Patrice Lumumba was that he refuted the speech of the King of Belgium at the independence celebration in June 1960. Lumumba refused to accept the representation of the Belgian mission as one of civilizing and modernizing the Congolese peoples.

Lumumba was removed from office less than two months after independence. He was placed under house arrest; he escaped but was recaptured, beaten, tortured and eventually eliminated. This pattern of murder, torture and destruction continues today, 50 years after the assassination of Patrice Lumumba.

From the time of the assassination of Lumumba, almost every African leader who sought to chart a course for genuine independence was assassinated, whether it was Eduardo Mondlane, Amilcar Cabral, Herbert Chitepo, Samora Machel, Thomas Sankara, Felix Moumie, Chris Hani or Steve Biko. Violence against leaders was accompanied by the intimidation and assassination of journalists, students, opposition leaders and any social force that challenged oppression of Africans and the plunder of their resources.

This nested loop of genocidal thinking, genocidal economics and genocidal politics has generated 11 wars in the Congo since 1960, and all of these wars have had implications for almost all the regions of Africa in relation to genocide, militarism, dictatorship, economic plunder and patriarchal models of liberation.

Violence against leaders was accompanied by the intimidation and assassination of journalists, students, opposition leaders and any social force that challenged oppression of Africans and the plunder of their resources.

The task of reconstruction and the recovery of the dignity of the Congo and of Africa is a challenge that requires a decisive and revolutionary break with the ideas, organizations and the modes of political and economic practices that dehumanize Africans.

The youth of Africa are everywhere calling for an elaboration of their humanity and are challenging the devaluation of life. From Tunisia and Egypt in the North to South Africa and Zimbabwe in the South, the youths are seeking new organizations and ideas that can break from the centuries of oppression.

The celebration of Lumumba should be accompanied by the spirit of healing and reconstruction and calls on the peoples of Africa to draw from the determination of Patrice Lumumba to continue the struggles for emancipation and unity.

Patrice Lumumba and the burden of history

Despite the history of European plunder, looting and savagery in the Congo from the period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the present, the intellectual culture of the West represents the peoples of the Congo and Africa as uncivilized, open to atavistic violence and awaiting modernization projects from Europeans.

In November, I attended a session of the African Studies Association meeting in San Francisco, where there were some young scholars making a presentation on Eastern Congo. In the main, the quality of the work was so shallow and devoid of historical context that one Congolese scholar in the back of the room asked if the presenters were aware that there were Congolese scholars who have been doing scholarly work on reconstruction and peace in the Congo. This question is very pertinent in the present moment insofar as many of the scholars and researchers from Turkey, India, Brazil, China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan turn to the work of European and U.S. conservative scholars to orient their “humanitarian” projects in Africa.

Jacques Depelchin, Nzongola Ntalaja and countless others have documented the horrors of the forced labor, brutality and the genocide of over 10 million Africans by the Belgians, but their brand of scholarship and activist intervention was marginalized by the dominant Western intellectual institutions.

The documentation of Western atrocities in the Congo has also been brought to a wider audience by the writer Adam Hochschild, whose book, “King Leopold’s Ghost,” has reached a wider community than that which was accessible to African researchers and scholars. Hochschild built upon the work of Mark Twain in bringing to a larger audience the plunder and murder of the colonial enterprise.

Malcolm X
Patrice Lumumba
In his day, Malcolm X challenged mainstream historians and linked the history of genocide in the pan-African world to the murder of Lumumba and the search for self-determination by the peoples of the Congo.

Scholars trained in African studies centers of the West could not write clearly about the iterations of assassinations because of the ways in which the academy had been polluted by the modernizing discourse that was supposed to depoliticize Africans.

Malcolm X challenged U.S. scholars to detail the massacres in the Congo. In a well-publicized exchange at Brooklyn College on Nov. 24, 1964, the professors told Malcolm X that he was an alarmist and that King Leopold civilized the Africans in a humanitarian campaign.

It was in this intellectual climate that Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives was reared. Gingrich wrote his doctoral thesis at Tulane University on the civilizing role of the Belgians in the Congo. In some academic centers, such as the African Studies Center at the University of Wisconsin Madison, there were specialists on politics in the Congo. The students of these professors have dominated the U.S. bureaucracy and academia for the past 40 years, reproducing modernization theories and the failings of the “tribal” African.

The professors told Malcolm X that he was an alarmist and that King Leopold civilized the Africans in a humanitarian campaign.

Malcolm X himself was assassinated in February 1965 when he articulated a clear understanding of the linkages between racism and oppression in the United States and massacres and murders in Africa. His famous dictum, “You cannot understand what is going on in Mississippi if you do not understand what is going on in the Congo” is as true today as it was when he uttered these words. The current military crisis in the DRC, especially in the Eastern regions, brings out the need for activists to grasp the burden of history in order to understand the present and chart a new course for the future.

Malcolm X in Africa in 1964
These utterances by Malcolm X were part of his work as a mobilizer and truth teller. Malcolm X met with Abdurrahman Babu and Che Guevara in 1964 after the Johnson administration supported mercenaries to abort the second independence struggle in the Congo. Their meeting had agreed on a strategy to move beyond political mobilizing to put in place a plan for liberation in the Congo and in the Americas.

Malcolm X himself was assassinated in February 1965 when he articulated a clear understanding of the linkages between racism and oppression in the United States and massacres and murders in Africa. His famous dictum, “You cannot understand what is going on in Mississippi if you do not understand what is going on in the Congo,” is as true today as it was when he uttered these words.

Four months after this historic meeting between three great freedom fighters, Malcolm X was gunned down in Harlem and the CIA hunted down and murdered Che Guevara. Details are in the book by Karl Evanzz, “The Judas Factor: The Plot to Kill Malcolm X.” Professor Manning Marable is also working on a new book that exposes the conspiracy to murder and cover up.

The iterations of assassinations had taken their own roller coaster ride so that not even the president of the United States was immune to this mindset of killing and murder. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963 by the forces of the military industrial complex and the intelligence agencies that continue to promote death tendencies all over the world. James Douglass, in his book, “JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters,” has documented in extensive detail how the cover-up of the assassination has been even more elaborate and meticulous than the actual assassination. This same cover-up continues in the cases of Martin Luther King Jr. and hundreds of freedom fighters whose lives have been snuffed out at an early age.

Collusion between intellectuals in USA and Western Europe

Since the murder of Lumumba, mainstream intellectual work inside Europe and North America has covered up and distorted the conditions under which Lumumba was assassinated. Former officials of the United Nations have written a number of books on the influence of the United States over the decision making processes in international bodies dealing with the Congo at this time.

The record has been established by various authorities on the manipulation of the major international institutions in order to cover up murder. The United States manipulated the United Nations on the question of the Congo so that Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah, who had called for U.N. intervention against European mercenaries, found that the U.N. was working to support the same mercenaries and their employers in Belgium, France and the United States.

When Dag Hammarskjöld, the secretary general of the U.N., woke up to this manipulation, he himself was assassinated. Many U.N. operatives who were appalled by the callous behavior of the U.S. and the CIA have written about the sordid tale of Moose Tshombe, puppet leader of Katanga, and the secession in Katanga. Kwame Nkrumah wrote “The Challenge of the Congo” to underline the centrality of this challenge for the unification and liberation of Africa.

The United States manipulated the United Nations on the question of the Congo so that Patrice Lumumba and Kwame Nkrumah, who had called for U.N. intervention against European mercenaries, found that the U.N. was working to support the same mercenaries and their employers in Belgium, France and the United States.

Richard Mahoney, who wrote the book, “JFK: Ordeal in Africa,” had studied the tremendous energies invested in the control of the Congo in the period when the U.S. was implicated in the murder of Patrice Lumumba. Mahoney termed the whole thrust of the policy a story of stupidity. This study, the product of a doctoral dissertation at John Hopkins University, detailed how the Congo became the centerpiece of U.S. African policy in the 1960s. Mahoney made the argument that the U.S. foreign policy was confused in purpose and contradictory in execution.

But he did not challenge the fundamental realist and androcentric assumptions of graduate training. The role of the CIA and elements of the State Department in building alternatives to Patrice Lumumba leading to the massive support for Mobutism has been the subject of numerous studies. One of these, explicitly entitled, “America’s Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire,” covers the whole military, economic and intelligence apparatus that was provided to enable Mobutu to rule in a tyrannical manner over the peoples of the Congo.

President Clinton, in clear reference to the linkages between the U.S. government and Mobutu, apologized to the people of Africa in Kampala, Uganda, in March 1998 by declaring that during the Cold War, the U.S. was blinded by its confrontation with the Soviet Union and hence supported elements such as Mobutu. How can the activists ensure that these apologies of the leader of the USA are not simple political gimmickry?

Up to the present, there needs to be a clearer exposure of the U.S. establishment and these assassinations. The attempt to poison Patrice Lumumba exposed the mindset of biological warfare that was to be later experimented in Africa. One scholar also opened the reality that it was in the Congo that the U.S. first experimented with extraordinary rendition.

Neither the speech of the then President Clinton nor policy formulations from the current National Security apparatus link the present policies of transnational corporations to the kind of policies that connived to perpetrate the elimination of Lumumba. The linkages between the bureaucracy and the university in the Cold War produced a generation of scholars who were steeped in the realist paradigms and went between the foundations, the universities, the Pentagon, the think tanks and the National Security Council.

There needs to be a clearer exposure of the U.S. establishment and these assassinations. The attempt to poison Patrice Lumumba exposed the mindset of biological warfare that was to be later experimented in Africa.

It was like a revolving door where they quoted each other, supported each other and provided a barrier to truth. From time to time, the production of area handbooks provided a basis for the assembling of the ideas sanctioned by scholars. These scholars participated in an elaborate exercise to provide political legitimacy for the U.S. foreign policies in Africa.

Henry Kissinger best symbolized these realists who could be termed organic scholars of the bourgeoisie. Many of his protégés staffed the African Bureau in the State Department and have left an indelible mark on the conceptualization of war and politics in Africa. Noam Chomsky has written of the callousness and dehumanization of the officials who have overseen murder and violence in the name of strategic minerals and strategic interests.

He noted, “Self-righteousness comes naturally to those who are able to achieve their will by force. They may also rest confident that the doctrinal system will properly efface and sanitize the past, at least among the educated sectors who are its agents and, arguably, its most naïve victims.”

Let the new scholarship on truth thrive and grow

There is now a spate of books on the role of the CIA and the obsession of the U.S. government with the so-called communist threat. What many of these books did not make clear was the level of coordination between the U.S. and Belgians in the plot to eliminate Lumumba.

In Leopoldville, Belgian Congo, Patrice Lumumba, shown speaking before Parliament on June 17, 1960, won approval to form a government four days later. On June 30, the Congo won its independence from Belgium. – Photo: © Bettmann/CORBIS
The book that broke the mold and painstakingly outlined the plot in the clearest terms was that of Ludo De Witte, “The Assassination of Lumumba.” De Witte spent several years doing archival work and interviewing those involved in the assassination. It was after this book was published that the government of Belgium was forced to open up a parliamentary inquiry into the assassination. This parliamentary inquiry heard testimonies from a wide cross section of operatives in the Belgian state.

In February 2002, the government of Belgium accepted moral responsibility for the assassination of Lumumba. The Belgian Foreign Minister declared in February 2002 that, “[i]n light of criteria applicable today, certain members of the government at the time and certain Belgian actors of that period carry an irrefutable responsibility for the events that led to the death of Patrice Lumumba” (quoted from Thomas Turner, “Crimes of the West in Democratic Congo: Reflections on Belgian Acceptance of ‘Moral Responsibility’ for the Death of Lumumba,” in “Genocide, War Crimes and the West”).

The declaration by the government of Belgium came after 40 years of research and writing on the assassination. The cables from Washington and the role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in organizing the plot are now well known. In 1975 Sen. Frank Church carried out investigations on the “Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders,” published in Senate Report 94-465, 94th Congress 1975.

Despite the record of the Church Committee and this parliamentary inquiry in Belgium, the reality is that the information on the conspiracy to murder Lumumba is not widely circulated. Belgian and European scholars continue to represent their work in the Congo as that of civilizing Africans.

More significant has been the fact that this killing and the subsequent traditions left by Mobutu have poisoned the political culture and political life of the society. Mobutu’s government carried out extrajudicial killings and murdered students and trade union leaders for 30 years.

In 1990 there was an attempt to develop the basis for a national palaver in a Sovereign National Conference. Neither the Congolese political careerists nor the imperial supporters in Washington, Brussels and Paris wanted the truth to come out. The genocidal wars in the Central Africa region and the deaths of over 5 million since the removal of Mobutu attest to the fact that once the politics of impunity are embedded in a society, it takes generations to heal.

When Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, there were many discussions on the need for the U.S. to open the files on the Congo. Lawrence Devlin, the ageing head of the CIA in Kinshasa at the time of the assassination of Lumumba, turned up at one of the seminars. What was implicit in his presence was that there should be no revelation on the role of the USA in the crimes of Mobutu and that the ranks should be held.

The genocidal wars in the Central Africa region and the deaths of over 5 million since the removal of Mobutu attest to the fact that once the politics of impunity are embedded in a society, it takes generations to heal.

At the end of 1999, it was officially confirmed by a story in the Washington Post that President Eisenhower had given a direct order for the elimination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960. This revelation confirmed what had been public knowledge for 40 years, that President Eisenhower had given direct instructions to Allen Dulles, then director of the CIA, for the assassination of Lumumba. Now in the aftermath of the Cold War, there are demands for opening the files so that there can be a new beginning for the societies that were destroyed.

At the end of 1999, it was officially confirmed by a story in the Washington Post that President Eisenhower had given a direct order for the elimination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1960.

In order to distort the real truth behind the assassination, before his death, Devlin wrote his own book, “Chief of Station.” Devlin’s book reproduced what had become the defining element of the U.S. foreign policy, a lame attempt to rekindle the Cold War distortions that Lumumba was a communist and that the USA was acting to prevent the spread of communism in Africa.

This brand of intellectual work was reinforced by a section of the U.S. bureaucracy that ingratiated itself with Mobutism and the circus of “humanitarian” actors and actresses who have descended on the Congo and Eastern Africa. This circus has been underwritten by the massive investment of the World Bank to perpetuate a “conflict resolution” paradigm in Africa, to obfuscate the iterations of assassinations.

Throughout the misrule and oppression by Mobutu, the World Bank and the IMF were partners in the oppression. After Mobutu was removed, the World Bank sought to link violence and warfare in the DRC to “primary commodity production.”

After decades of foreign aid, foreign investment and economic reforms, the Development Research Group of the World Bank noted in their publication “Economic Causes of Civil Conflict and their Implications for Policy”: “[A]s of 1995 the country with the highest risk of civil conflict according to our analysis was Zaire, with a three in four chance of conflict within the ensuing five years.”

This is the last photo taken of Patrice Lumumba. It was taken by a 22-year-old photographer who bribed Congolese soldiers with Polaroid snapshots to gain access. After having led the Congo to independence in June 1960, Lumumba was arrested only a few months later and beaten and humiliated in front of diplomats and journalists. This photo shows him on the truck that would carry him to his execution. A month later, on Jan. 17, 1961, he was executed by a firing squad. His body, which was buried on the spot, was later dug up and dissolved in acid. The bones were ground up and scattered to the winds to make sure there was nothing left of him. The colonel who deposed Lumumba, Joseph Mobutu – later Mobutu Sese Seko – would rule the country despotically until 1997. – Photo: Horst Faas, AP
What was most revealing from the analysis of the World Bank on the relationship between primary commodity extraction and warfare was the extent to which questions of democratic participation on the one hand and the global armaments culture on the other are excluded from the policy alternatives offered for peace. Paul Collier, then the director of the research group of the World Bank, argued:

“[T]he most powerful risk factor is that countries which have a substantial share of their income (GDP) coming from the export of primary commodities are radically more at risk of conflict … Thus, without primary commodity exports, ordinary countries are pretty safe from internal conflict, while when such exports are substantial the society is highly dangerous. Primary commodities are thus a major part of the conflict story.”

Collier graduated from this World Bank research position to establish himself as an intellectual entrepreneur and high priest of the enterprise of studying Africa. He pontificates on warfare and violence from the safety and comfort of Oxford, where he suggests military interventions and coups as solutions for democratic governance in Africa.

William Reno, Christopher Clapham and many others have turned the study of war-lordism into an academic industry without linking the plunder, mass rape and war that support these military entrepreneurs. The conflict paradigm without historical reference to the experiences of the Belgian mining companies and the role of foreign corporations under Mobutu is represented with the full authority of the name of the World Bank to argue that countries “with Congo-like geography” and reliance on primary exports are prone to “civil conflict.”

What was also missing was clarity on the differences between the wars of plunder of elements such as Foday Sankoy’s and Charles Taylor’s and the righteous struggles for liberation that had been initiated by Patrice Lumumba. In the World Bank model, there is no room for the explanation of the struggles for African dignity. Without this kind of interrogation of the role of the World Bank, the West can continue to think of the World Bank as an institution that can formulate development plans for the reconstruction of the DRC for a new era.

Healing and reconstruction in a new era

In the experience of the Congo and Central Africa, there continues to be a distortion of the actual conditions that generate warfare, rape and plunder today. One of the outcomes of this distortion is that the U.S. military can represent itself as a force for peace by the ideas that are put forward as justifications for the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The counterinsurgency scholarship that was unleashed by the Pentagon during the cover up of the assassination of Lumumba is now being refinanced through the Africa Command Social Science Research program. However, this research agenda comes up against the new energies of organizations and individuals who want to make a break with the iterations of assassinations.

Whether it is the lobbying groups who are opposed to AFRICOM or the peace and justice campaigners organized as Friends of the Congo, there are many who are using the anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba as a platform for the exposure of the crimes of U.S. imperialism and Belgian complicity.

Lumumba’s assassination is relevant to current global politics and the struggles for social transformation in Africa. As de Witte quoted from Fanon: “If Africa was a revolver and the Congo its trigger … the assassination of Lumumba and tens of thousands of other Congolese nationalists, from 1960-1965, was the West’s ultimate attempt to destroy the continent’s authentic independent development” (xxv).

Whether it is the lobbying groups who are opposed to AFRICOM or the peace and justice campaigners organized as Friends of the Congo, there are many who are using the anniversary of the assassination of Patrice Lumumba as a platform for the exposure of the crimes of U.S. imperialism and Belgian complicity.

De Witte rightly argued: “After [Lumumba’s] death, the corrupt and dictatorial puppet regimes that popped up throughout Africa, supported by Western money and weapons, effectively stifled African nationalism and independence. Attempts to cover-up the assassination not only dishonor an innocent man, but perpetuate the violence and slavery of Africa.”

It is up to us to actualize the dream of Lumumba for the Congo and for Africa. In a letter to his wife before his assassination, Patrice Lumumba wrote:

“No brutality, mistreatment or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles. History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.”

“After [Lumumba’s] death, the corrupt and dictatorial puppet regimes that popped up throughout Africa, supported by Western money and weapons, effectively stifled African nationalism and independence. Attempts to cover-up the assassination not only dishonor an innocent man, but perpetuate the violence and slavery of Africa.”

The celebrations of the life and work of Patrice Lumumba draw heavily from his last statements on the need for Africa to make a break and move in a new direction. We can draw inspiration from the optimism of Lumumba, who stated:

“I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country is right to an honorable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions …

“They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen, they have contributed to distorting the truth and our enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.

“We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country.

“We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese.”

“To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.”

Even in captivity, Lumumba never wavered in his belief that Africa will be free from the imperial overlords and their puppets. He called on Africans to stand firm and to work for Africa’s emancipation. Lumumba ended the letter to his wife with these words:

“[D]o not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!”

Patrice Lumumba’s words give courage to the current freedom fighters of Africa who should not mourn him but organize for the freedom and unity of the continent. We must also struggle to free Africa from African leaders who have Africanized the iterations of imperialist tools of oppression and assassination.

Indeed, there must be an intensification of the struggle to make a break with the iteration of the assassination of African peoples’ dreams and aspirations. We must work harder for the kind of Africa Lumumba foresaw when he asserted that Africa will write its own history of dignity and glory. We must not rest until this dream is realized. This is the burden that history has placed on us.

Horace Campbell is a teacher and writer. Professor Campbell’s website is http://www.horacecampbell.net/. His latest book is “Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA,” published by Pluto Press. This story first appeared at Pambazuka News.

Two poems written by Patrice Lumumba

forwarded and introduced by the Official Universal Million Woman Movements

Lest we forget those who have made the necessary sacrifices for us, Africa’s children, to win, we present two poems written by one of Africa’s greatest leaders. Patrice Émery Lumumba (July 2, 1925 – January 17, 1961) was the first legally elected prime minister of the Republic of the Congo after he led the campaign to win its independence from Belgium in June 1960. Only 10 weeks later, Lumumba’s government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis. He was subsequently imprisoned and murdered with the support and complicity of the governments of Belgium and the United States.

Weep, Beloved Black Brother

by Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba’s words gave courage to freedom fighters of his day - and of ours.
O Black man, beast of burden through the centuries,
Your ashes scattered to the winds of heaven,
There was a time when you built burial temples
In which your murderers sleep their final sleep.
Hunted down and tracked, driven from your homes.
Beaten in battles where brute force prevailed.
Barbaric centuries of rape and carnage
That offered you the choice of death or slavery.
You went for refuge to the forest depths,
And other deaths waylaid you, burning fevers,
Jaws of wild beasts, the cold, unholy coils
Of snakes who crushed you gradually to death.
Then came the white man, more clever, tricky, cruel,
He took your gold in trade for shoddy stuff,
He raped your women, made your warriors drunk,
Penned up you sons and daughters on his ships.
The tom-toms hummed through all the villages,
Spreading afar the mourning, the wild grief
At news of exile to a distant land
Where cotton is God and the dollar King.
Condemned to enforced labor, beasts of burden,
Under a burning sun from dawn to dusk,
So that you might forget you are a man
They taught you to sing the praises of their God,
And these hosannas, tuned in to your sorrows,
Gave you the hope of a better world to come.
But in your human heart you only asked
The right to live, your share of happiness.
Beside your fire, your eyes reflect your dreams and suffering,
You sang the chants that gave voice to your blues.
And sometimes to your joys, when sap rose in the trees
And you danced wildly in the damp of evening.
And out of this sprang forth, magnificent,
Alive and virile, like a bell of brass
Sounding your sorrow, that powerful music,
Jazz, now loved, admired throughout the world,
Compelling the white man to respect,
Announcing in clear loud tones from this time on
This country no longer belongs to him.
And thus you made the brothers of your race
Lift up their heads to see clear, straight ahead
The happy future bearing deliverance.
The banks of a great river in flower with hope
Are yours from this time onward.
The earth and all its riches
Are yours from this time onward.
The blazing sun in the colorless sky
Dissolves our sorrow in a wave of warmth.
Its burning rays will help to dry forever
The flood of tears shed by our ancestors,
Martyrs of the tyranny of the masters.
And on this earth which you will always love
You will make the Congo a nation, happy and free,
In the very heart of vast Black Africa.

Dawn in the Heart of Africa

by Patrice Lumumba

For a thousand years, you, African, suffered like beast,
Your ashes strewn to the wind that roams the desert.
Your tyrants built the lustrous, magic temples
To preserve your soul, reserve your suffering.
Barbaric right of fist and the white right to a whip,
You had the right to die, you also could weep.
On your totem they carved endless hunger, endless bonds,
And even in the cover of the woods a ghastly cruel death
Was watching, snaky, crawling to you
Like branches from the holes and heads of trees
Embraced your body and your ailing soul.
Then they put a treacherous big viper on your chest:
On your neck they laid the yoke of fire-water,
They took your sweet wife for glitter of cheap pearls,
Your incredible riches that nobody could measure.
From your hut, the tom-toms sounded into dark of night
Carrying cruel laments up mighty black rivers
About abused girls, streams of tears and blood,
About ships that sailed to countries where the little man
Wallows in an ant hill and the dollar is king,
To that damned land which they called a motherland.
There your child, your wife were ground, day and night
In a frightful, merciless mill, crushing them in dreadful pain.
You are a man like others. They preach you to believe
That good white God will reconcile all men at last.
By fire you grieved and sang the moaning songs
Of a homeless beggar that sinks at strangers’ doors.
And when a craze possessed you
And your blood boiled through the night
You danced, you moaned, obsessed by father’s passion.
Like fury of a storm to lyrics of a manly tune
From a thousand years of misery a strength burst out of you
In metallic voice of jazz, in uncovered outcry
That thunders through the continent like gigantic surf.
The whole world surprised, wakes up in panic
To the violent rhythm of blood, to the violent rhythm of jazz,
The white man turning pallid over this new song
That carries torch of purple through the dark of night.

The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, mighty rivers
Poor African surrendered for a thousand years.
Hard torches of the sun will shine for us again
They’ll dry the tears in eyes and spittle on your face.
The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters,
The evil cruel times will go never to come again.
A free and gallant Congo will rise from black soil,
A free and gallant Congo – black blossom from black seed!

Tags

Filed Under: Africa and the World
Tags:

7 thoughts on “50 years after Lumumba: The burden of history

  1. Karen Van Wyk

    I very much appreciated this article expressing a comprehensive knowledge of Lumumba, his vision and why he would be stopped by world forces.
    Since the 'scramble for Africa' in the late 1800s, and its colonization, trouble on all counts for this country has ensued. What is most perverse is that leopold's intentions were masked by 'civilizing' and 'chrisitianizing' these people when, as is clear now, was not his true motive.

    Reply
  2. Karen Van Wyk

    Christianity (so called) left a scaring painful mark for these people who learned that the god of western christianity, as manifested in the systematic overtaking of the Congolese spearheaded by western ministers politically and economically,must uphold the same white values. Thus, the blackman is devalued on all counts. This deceptive act has left a perverting mark against the true God who these political propagators could not be farther from knowing, and of who is so grossly misrepresented by those whose falsify the scriptures for their own material benefit in the name of chrisitanity. It is difficult to fight the forces of evil in an evil run world.
    I believe the true God will perform as promised and establish a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwells righteouness.(See II Peter 3:13, Revelation 21:1 and Isaiah 65:17) In the meantime, we must pull together what justice still exists and think about how we may influence change and bring help to those in need.

    Reply
  3. Selina

    I didn't read all of the article but just scanning some of the paragraphs.

    I must comment that the article was well written it recaptured a part of history that expressed the possibility of true independence and the connection that African people living in the Americas were and still are seeking with the MotherLand.

    Reply
  4. SARAMBA MO

    African leaders who now pretend to hold everything in their hands MUST LOOK BACK into WHAT AFRICA IS IN NEED WITH,but not what they need from Beloved Africa.A sorry to Madam Pauline tho widow of the Late LUMUMBA and all Africans who were hurt by Americans and Europeans.Obama is out there knowing nothing about Africa!! Am sorry for him.He must know that he is an African,he must stop firing Libya.I like every piece of land of Africa than any gift from OBAMA.

    Reply
  5. Zako Izo

    They have just done the same to Muamar Gadaffi in Libya; Sadaam Huisein in Iraq – Charles Taylor is facing trial in a western court yet George Bush who has tortured many inocent at Guantanamo Bay and destroyed Iraq on false allegations of being in possession of weapons of mass destruction sits a free man.
    The French went scot-free after masterminding Genocide in Rhwanda and then leading in the arming of rebels and inciting a revolution in Libya! In the fight against terror, who are the REAL Terrorrists?????

    Reply
  6. Emil

    Now there is Kabila that the people of Congo refuse as their head of state but the guy clings to power because helped by the same superpowers who killed Lumumba.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

BayView Classifieds - ads, opportunities, announcements
San Francisco Comcast
Advertisement