Today In African History: Patrice Lumumba

Today in 1961, Congolese former Prime Minister Patrice Emery Lumumba became a Pan-Africanism Martyr shortly after his murder by Moïse Kapenda Tshombe’s forces ordered by the colonial power Belgium in joint action with CIA agents. He was killed in Elizabethville, a city now known as Lubumbashi.

Patrice Lumumba is the first Prime Minister of the independent state of the Democratic Republic of Congo. He served as a Prime Minister from 24 June 1960 to 14 September 1960. Known as one of Africa’s most vocal critics of colonialism, he joined the Postal Union through interests in grassroots union activities. Once he leveraged his work and position to become a secretary-general of the union, Lumumba became utilized his pen power through publishing essays criticising Belgium colonial rule and advocating for an independent and unified Congo.

In 1955, Lumumba joined the Belgian Liberal Party, however was charged with embezzlement of union funds and sentenced to two years of imprisonment. After early release of serving one year, he solidified his political base through creating a broad based organization called Movement National Congolais (MNC). This organization extended its footprint outside Congolese boundaries, with him representing the MNC at the Pan-African Conference in Accra, Ghana – home to Africa’s Pan Africanism father Kwame Nkrumah.

Lumumba relentlessly believed in the independence and freedom of all inhabitants of Congo, creating attacks on Belgian rule. In October 1959, he was arrested for inciting anti-colonial riots, with the state sentencing him to six months imprisonment. He was however, released early due to further threats of the MNC to boycott a conference the Belgian colonial government aimed to hold at Brussels to discuss Congo’s future. At the conference, Lumumba boldly condemned Belgian colonial rule and insisted on immediate independence. It was then agreed that June 30th, 1960 would be the day Congo becomes an independent nation.

On general elections in May 1960, the MNC won majority votes in DRC, catapulting him to serve as a Prime Minister lumubaparliyoloof state. However, Lumumba’s constant denunciation of colonialism ruffled feathers of first world countries – particularly United States of America, Great Britain and Belgium. Due to this, mass wars and crisis ripped across Katanga and Southern Kasai – creating sensational media outpour claiming mass fleeing of Europeans back to Belgium.

Lumumba being a revolt to colonialism didn’t mean that he was not an advocate for peace – he appealed to the United Nations for intervention but was repeatedly ignored. After much repeated appeals, he turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. With this move only working in the west’s favour, the opposition dismissed Lumumba as Prime Minister and placed under house arrest. He later attempted to escape to Stanleyville but was later apprehended by secessionist rebels and assassinated on January 18th 1961.

In 2002, the Belgian government acknowledged moral responsibility of his assassination and apologies officially to the DRC. Although they killed Patrice Lumumba, they will never kill his ideas. Contrary to the west’s belief at the time, Lumumba is now celebrated as a Pan Africanism martyr and remains a symbol to African freedom, a dedicated leader to genuine independence.