Tribute by the Secretary General of the African National Congress, Comrade Elias Sekgobelo Magashule, during the occasion of the day of the commemoration of the assassination of the leader of the struggle of the African people Cde Patrice Emery Lumumba
Today, the 17th of January 2019, marks the 58th anniversary of the assassination of one of the most outstanding sons of our African continent, and the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Comrade Patrice Emery Lumumba.
This illustrious son of the progressive world of humanity was gruesomely murdered by the dirty hands of the agents of counter-revolution on this very same day in the city of Lubumbashi, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Over the past half century, this solemn day has become the storehouse of poignant memories of one of the most defining moments in the orbit of the glorious chapters of our history books. Over the past half century his distinguished revolutionary life has been narrated by millions of people of the world in its past, present and the future.
We pay homage to the father of the struggle for national liberation of the great Congolese nation. We also pay homage to a humbled servant and a selfless leader whose indelible contribution to the cause of the struggle for the development of human society remains unparalleled.
Patrice Lumumba belonged to a contingent of great leaders of the African continent who have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the struggle for the emancipation of our people from the bondage of imperialism and colonialism. He belonged to a generation of revered leaders of our liberation movement whose contribution to our struggle remains a testimony to the wishes and aspirations of the majority of our people.
During the occasion of the 58th anniversary of his assassination, we remember the living memories of some of the gallant revolutionaries of the African people whose destiny was brought to an eventual end by the vicious forces of oppression and exploitation.
We remember the living memories of Ruben Um Nyobe, Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Sylvanus Olympio, Amilcar Cabral, Pierre Mulele, Eduardo Mondlane, Marien Ngouabi, Thomas Sankara, Pio Gama Pinto, Samora Machel, and many others of our heroic men and women.
Few months after the declaration of the independence of the Congolese nation from Belgian colonial domination, Patrice Lumumba, together with his fellow compatriots, Cdes Joseph Okito, the President of the Senate and Maurice Mpolo, the Minister of Defence, were executed by a firing squad at the behest of the Belgian and the American intelligence services. Their bodies were torn into pieces, dissolved in a sulphuric acid and thrown into the Congo river.
One of the assassins kept two of the teeth of Patrice Lumumba, one of his fingers and the bullets which riddled his body apart as his macabre souvenir. This is how the forces of imperialism and colonialism throughout the years have vanquished the integrity and image of many of the leaders of the struggle for the liberation of our people.
For centuries humankind witnessed the brutalities and untold horrible acts of genocide against the people of the great nation of the Congo, who were turned into commodities of the slave industry and the plundering of its vast natural resources by the Belgian and the US colonial regimes. In other words the great nation of the Congo, and its abundant natural resources, virtually became the personal fiefdom of the Belgian monarchy and the oligarchy of the American empire.
King Léopold II formally acquired the rights for the ownership of the Congo Basin during the Berlin Conference of 1885. It was later during the same year that he declared the territory to be his private property and named it the Congo free state. It was during the conference that he said: ”I do not want to risk loosing a fine chance to secure for ourselves a slice of this magnificent African cake”.
After the Berlin conference, during the year 1876, King Léopold II organised an International Geographic Conference in Brussels, to position himself as one of the influential leaders in the new wave of the scramble for the territorial conquest of the world. History saw an unremarkable monarch of the little kingdom of the Belgium colonising the vast and the richest Basin on the African continent.
During the conference, the King portrayed himself as a benevolent and selfless leader, whose interest was the civilization of the people of the ‘dark continent’ of Africa. He portrayed himself to be a champion of the development of the people of the African continent.
During his opening address to the conference he expressed the following sentiments:
“To open up to civilization the only part of our globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the darkness in which entire populations are enveloped, is, I venture to say, a crusade worthy of this age of progress, and I am happy to perceive how much the public feeling is in favour of its accomplishments; the tide is with us … Need I say that, in bringing you to Brussels, I have not been influenced by selfish views. No, gentlemen, if Belgium is small, she is happy and contented with her lot. I have no other ambition than to serve her well”.
During his decades of ruling of the Congo with an iron fist, he embellish a superficial truth as if the country was actually the creation of King Léopold II. The myth was that he, like the ‘Lord’ created, everything terrestrial and was therefore the creator of the Congo with the sick and arrogant motto, that without Léopold II and without Belgium, there would have been no Congo.
The King had a private army which was used to enforce the collection of rubber quotas from the local villagers. Failure to meet the required collection of quotas was punishable by death.
As a consequence of his brutality, chopping the hands of those who could not meet the collection of the rubber quotas, the Congo rubber was called the Red Rubber, signifying the blood of the innocent African people who were so brutally and cruelly killed by the Belgium colonial regime. This was the worst form of violation of the fundamental human rights of the heroic sons and daughters of our great nation of the Congo.
One of the officers of the private army of King Léopold II tells a horrible story about the people of one of the villages who refused to comply with the requirements to meet the quota for the supply of rubber to their colonial masters. This is a story of heinous atrocities, no future generations of mankind should ever be subjugated to.
He says the Commander ordered them to cut off the heads of men and hang them on the village palisades and to hang the women and the children on the palisades in the form of a cross. After seeing the first Congolese killed, his Commander advised him not to take it to heart too much, because they would equally be killed, if they could not bring the rubber.
He said to him:
“The baskets of severed hands set down at the feet of the European post Commanders became the symbol of the Congolese Free State. The collection of the hands became an end in itself. Force Publique soldiers brought them to the stations in place of rubber, they even went out to harvest them instead of rubber. They became a sort of currency.
They came used to make up for shortfalls in rubber quotas, to replace the people who were demanded for the forced labour gangs, and the Force Publique soldiers were paid their bonus on the basis of how many hands they collected”.
One of the missionaries in the Congo Henry Morton Stanley wrote that:
“The King had the powers to issue a decree of chopping the hands of those of the Congolese who were reluctant to work as slaves in the plantations or to bring fixed amounts of rubber, coffee and ivory to the colonial masters. The Belgian and the American imperialists plundered the Congolese Basin, first its people as the slave commodity, all of its rare spices such as gold, diamond, pearls and ivory.
Every tusk, piece and scrap in the possession of an Arab trader had been steeped and dyed in blood. Every pound weight had cost the life of a man, woman or child, for every five pounds a hut had been burnt, for every two tusks a whole village had been destroyed, every twenty tusks had been obtained at the price of a district with all its people, villages and plantations.”
Patrice Lumumba was born from a peasant family in the Province of Kasai of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His parents took him to a Catholic school where they wanted him to become a priest.
He furthered his education at the independent school where he studied for a training coarse to become a doctor’s assistant. He later moved on to study at a postal workers school, and after completion of his studies worked as a clerk at the local administration offices.
He was highly influenced by the ideas of French philosophers of the 18th century such as Voltaire and Rousseau. Later he started writing poems in protest to the continuing oppression and exploitation of his people by the forces of imperialism and colonialism.
During the month of October 1958 he founded the National Congolese Movement for national liberation. His focus was to build a better Congo which would be a home of freedom and prosperity to all his people.
Two months after the founding of his national movement, he was invited by Kwame Nkrumah to attend the Pan African congress in Accra, Ghana. There he spoke the following profound words during his speech to the plenary of the congress:
“The Congolese National Movement, which we represent at this great conference, is a political movement, founded on October 5, 1958. This date marks a decisive step for the Congolese people as they move towards emancipation. I am happy to say that the birth of our movement was warmly received by the people for this reason. The fundamental aim of our movement is to free the Congolese people from the colonialist regime and earn them their independence.
We base our action on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man — rights guaranteed to each and every citizen of humanity by the United Nations Charter — and we are of the opinion that Congo, as a human society, has the right to join the ranks of free peoples.
We wish to see a modern democratic state established in our country, which will grant its citizens freedom, justice, social peace, tolerance, well-being, and equality, with no discrimination whatsoever.
In a motion we recently transmitted to the minister of Congo in Brussels, we clearly stipulated — as did many other compatriots of ours — that the Congo could no longer be treated as a colony to be either exploited or settled, and that its attainment of independence was the sine qua non condition of peace.
In our actions aimed at winning the independence of Congo, we have repeatedly proclaimed that we are against no one, but rather are simply against domination, injustices and abuses, and merely want to free ourselves of the shackles of colonialism and all its consequences”.
Upon his return to his native country from the All African Congress in Accra, he was arrested for inciting people against Belgian colonial rule. But was released to allow him to attend the session of the round table discussions for the preparation of the transition for the transfer of political power to the majority of the people.
During elections his movement received the overwhelming majority of the vote from the people of the Congo. As a result he became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the free Democratic Republic of Congo.
During the occasion of the ceremony to declare the independence of the new Republic, he delivered the following powerful speech:
“I ask all of you, my friends, who tirelessly fought in our ranks, to mark this June 30, 1960, as an illustrious date that will forever be engraved in your hearts, a date whose meaning you will proudly explain to your children, so that they in turn might relate to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren the glorious history of our struggle for freedom.
Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood.
Our wounds are too fresh and too smarting for us to be able to have known ironies, insults and blows which we had to undergo every morning, noon and night because we were Negroes. We have seen our lands spoiled in the name of laws which only recognised the right of the strongest. We have known laws which differed according to whether it dealt with a black or a white.
We have known the atrocious sufferings of those who were imprisoned for their political opinions or religious beliefs, and of those exiled in their own country. Their fate was worse than death itself. Who will forget the rifle-fire from which so many of our brothers perished, or the gaols into which were brutally thrown those who did not want to submit to a regime of injustice, oppression and exploitation, which were the means the colonialists employed to dominate us”.
Immediately after his election as the newly democratic Prime Minister of the Congo, he convened an All African Conference on the 25th of August in Leopoldville. During his welcoming speech, he said the following profound historic words:
“The colonialists care nothing for Africa for her own sake. They are attracted by African riches and their actions are guided by the desire to preserve their interests in Africa against the wishes of the African people. For the colonialists all means are good if they help them to possess these riches. We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African. We know the objectives of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village. They want to create antagonistic blocs and satellites amongst us. African unity and solidarity are no longer dreams. They must be expressed in decisions”.
This revered leader of the struggle for the independence of the people of the African continent was deposed through a coup engineered by the Belgian and the US intelligence services. He was arrested and later executed by a firing squad for becoming the champion of the struggle for the achievement of the wishes and the aspirations of the majority of the people of his country.
Before his execution he wrote the following letter to his wife Pauline and his children from his prison cells:
“My dear wife, I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you, and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them. All through my struggle for independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.
But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their western allies who found direct or indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst certain high official of the United Nations that organisation in which we have placed all our trust when called on its assistance.
They have corrupted some off our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?
Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pressure.
But my faith will remain unshakable. I know and feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.
As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing 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.
Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.
History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.
Africa will write its own history and to the North and South of Sahara, it will be a glorious dignified history. Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty”.
These is the heroic story of a true revolutionary leader of the struggle of the people of the African continent against imperialism and colonialism. A revered leader whose name remains indissolubly linked with the triumph of the historic struggles of the people of Congo for freedom and dignity.
A leader who understood that the defeat of imperialism and colonialism constituted the most important and primary task of the revolutionary movement in the continent and the whole world. He was indeed an embodiment of our revolutionary struggle for the emancipation of all humanity.
His life is a living testimony that patriotism and internationalism are the cornerstone of the victory of the struggle of humanity. His was an epic life of a titanic leader whose exemplary role will forever be cherished by the generations of mankind.
As we celebrate the 58th anniversary of the brutal assassination of this heroic son of the African continent, we need to deeply reflect on the path we have chosen to build a world of prosperity. The world which must be the heaven of the downtrodden of the majority of the people of the world.
Our first and foremost task is the struggle to destroy the heritage and every vestige of imperialism and colonialism on the African continent. The neo-colonial heritage of poverty, disease and underdevelopment.
We need to transform our African continent into a battlefield for the restoration of human freedom and dignity. We need an Africa which will be the hope of the aspirations of all humanity.
The undying revolutionary spirit of Comrade Patrice Lumumba continues to be the tutelage of our glorious path to freedom and equality. His visionary leadership role continues to be the guiding torch of our struggle for total emancipation of our continent.
In memory of this great son of our mother continent we appeal to all to follow his exemplary life of honesty, loyalty and commitment to serve humanity.
In his memory let rise the civilization of the African people rise into the new epoch of the world of modernity.
We need a united Africa, a peaceful Africa, a prosperous Africa and Africa which will be the architect of our renewed struggle to build a new world order. This is the dream we have to cherish in our glorious path to follow the great footsteps of this selfless martyr of our revolution.