Independence of the Congo: Lumumba, icon wear-free of anti-colonial struggles

Indépendance du Congo: Lumumba, icône inusable des luttes anticoloniales

Kinshasa | the democratic Republic of The Congo celebrated on Tuesday the 60th anniversary of independence from Belgium, and its national hero, Patrice Lumumba, an icon of the new activists anticoloniaux who are asking former colonial powers to assume their past.

Patrice Emery Lumumba in history and legend this June 30, 1960 with his speech against the racism of the settlers in the presence of the Belgian king Baudouin during the official ceremony marking the birth of the Congo: “We have known ironies, insults, blows that we had to undergo morning, noon and night, because we were Negroes.”

The prime minister of president Joseph Kasa-Vubu responded to the monarch who came to salute the work of settlement of his ancestor, Leopold II, a “civilizing” and not a “conqueror” according to him.

Tuesday in Belgium, the city of Ghent is about to rip down a statue of king Leopold II to mark the 60 years of the independence of the former colony.

Effigies of Baldwin and Leopold II, accused by the collective “Repair history” to have killed “more than 10 million Congolese, have been vandalized in early June in Antwerp and Brussels, in link with the movement “Black Lives Matter”.

Conversely, a small square Patrice Lumumba was inaugurated in the centre of Brussels in 2018, the gateway to the african quarter of Matonge.

“It is extremely important for Belgium to assume its colonial past, and for the pride of Afro-descendants,” explains Kalvin Soiresse, 38 years old, member of the brussels Parliament of togolese origin.

The dazzling journey of Lumumba ends six and a half months after his speech resounding, January 17, 1961.

Stripped, humiliated, tortured, the martyr of the independence is performed in the middle of the bush 50 km of Elisa (now Lubumbashi) by separatists in katanga and their lackeys in belgium. He was 35 years of age.

The Congo had descended into chaos (riots, secession, military intervention by belgian and UN).

The prime minister had been deposed in September 1960.

His calls to the soviet Union in the cold War had pushed the United States, who feared losing their supply of cobalt from the drc.

“Be lumumbiste today”

“Lumumba became in no time a martyr of decolonization, a hero for all the oppressed of the Earth, a saint of communism without god,” says David Van Reybrouck in his sum “Congo, a history”.

“This status, it owed more to the horrific end of his life that his successful policies”, with only two and a half months in power, the nuance, the belgian author of reference on the history of the Congo.

Belgium has acknowledged its “moral responsibility” in Lumumba’s assassination, as early as 2001, the term of a parliamentary commission of inquiry. The belgian Parliament is considering a new commission on the colonization of the Congo, Rwanda and Burundi.

On Tuesday, the prophet Lumumba will be celebrated without excess in his own country, where no ceremony is planned due to the coronavirus (the authorities have announced a day of “meditations”).

In Kinshasa, his statue, right hand raised toward the sky, seems to stir motorists in the middle of the immense boulevard that bears its name, between the airport and the city centre.

It was erected in the early 2000s, the era of the regimes of Kabila father and son.

In the political landscape, remains a small Parti lumumbiste unifié (Palu) whose patriarch, Antoine Gizenga, vice-premier minister in 1960, died in 2019, at 93 years of age. His son, Lugi, who succeeded him at the head of the Palu, died in early June.

Outside the party, people perpetuate the legacy nationalist Lumumba, as the ex-spokesperson of the president Joseph Kabila (2001-2019), Lambert Mende.

“Be lumumbiste today it is the fight for the Congo to be free to choose its economic partners, according to its own interests,” said Mr. Mende, always quick to denounce the “neocolonialism” of “western partners” of the DRC.

And that remains-t-il de Lumumba at the age of 20 years (50 % of the more than 80 million Congolese)? In high school, history is taught as “lapidary,” admits one professor, Aegis Mawaso.

The subject can be tricky. In his fall, Lumumba was betrayed by other fathers of the independence, beginning with its modest chief of staff, Joseph Mobutu, the future marshal-dictator (1965-1997).

Finally, the myth of Lumumba a communist was maintained by the USSR itself, which has given its name to a university friendly to Moscow for african students from “sister countries”.

“Communist, he was not. It was repeated several times that he was a nationalist and not a communist,” says the university Jean Omasombo.

This author of a book on Lumumba denounced the “colonial propaganda”, which presented itself as an agent of the soviet union. The debate continues.

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