Sunday, July 4, 2010

Patrice Lumumba's Speech on the Occasion of Congo's Independence from Belgium

June 30, 1960 -- Palais de la Nation, Leopoldville

Congolese men and women:

As combatants for independence who today are victorious, I salute you in the name of the Congolese government.

I ask all my friends, all of you who have fought unceasingly at our side, to make this thirtieth of June, 1960, an illustrious date that will be indelibly engraved upon your hearts, a date whose meaning you will teach your children with pride, so that they in turn will tell their children and their children’s children the glorious story of our struggle for freedom.

For though this independence of the Congo is today being proclaimed in a spirit of accord with Belgium, a friendly country with which we are dealing as one equal with another, no Congolese worthy of the name can ever forget that we fought to win it a fight waged each and every day, a passionate and idealistic fight, a fight in which there was not one effort, not one privation, not one suffering, not one drop of blood that we ever spared ourselves. We are proud of this struggle amid tears, fire, and blood, down to our very heart of hearts, for it was a noble and just struggle, an indispensable struggle if we were to put an end to the humiliating slavery that had been forced upon us.

The wounds that are the evidence of the fate we endured for eighty years under a colonialist regime are still too fresh and painful for us to be able to erase them from our memory. Back-breaking work has been exacted from us, in return for wages that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, or to decently clothe or house ourselves, or to raise our children as creatures very dear to us.

We have been the victims of ironic taunts, of insults, of blows that we were forced to endure morning, noon, and night because we were blacks. Who can forget that a black was addressed in the familiar form, not because he was a friend, certainly, but because the polite form of address was to be used only for whites?

We have had our lands despoiled under the terms of what was supposedly the law of the land but was only a recognition of the right of the strongest.

We have known that the law was quite different for whites and blacks; it was most accommodating for the former, and cruel and inhuman for the latter.

We have known the atrocious sufferings of those banished to remote regions because of their political opinions or religious beliefs; exiles in their own country, their fate was truly worse than death.

We have known that there were magnificent mansions for whites in the cities and ramshackle straw hovels for blacks, that a black was never allowed into the so-called European movie theaters or restaurants or stores; that a black traveled in the hold of boats below the feet of the white in his deluxe cabin.

Who can forget, finally, the burst of rifle fire in which so many of our brothers perished, the cells into which the authorities threw those who no longer were willing to submit to a rule where justice meant oppression and exploitation?

We have grievously suffered all this, my brothers.

But we who have been chosen to govern our beloved country by the vote of your elected representatives, we whose bodies and souls have suffered from colonialist oppression, loudly proclaim: all this is over and done with now.

The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed and our country is now in the hands of its own children.

We are going to begin another struggle together, my brothers, my sisters, a sublime struggle that will bring our country peace, prosperity, and grandeur.

We are going to institute social justice together and ensure everyone just remuneration for his labor.

We are going to show the world what the black man can do when, he works in freedom, and we are going to make the Congo the focal point for the development of all of Africa.

We are going to see to it that the soil of our country really benefits its children. We are going to review all the old laws and make new ones that will be just and noble.

We are going to put an end to the suppression of free thought and see to it that all citizens enjoy to the fullest all the fundamental freedoms laid down in the Declaration of the Rights of Man.

We are going to do away with any and every sort of discrimination and give each one the rightful place that his human dignity, his labor, and his devotion to the country will have earned him.

We are going to bring peace to the country, not the peace of rifles and bayonets, but the peace that comes from men’s hearts and their good will.

And in order to achieve all this, dear compatriots, rest assured that we will be able to count not only on our tremendous strength and our immense riches, but also on the assistance of many foreign countries, whose collaboration we will always accept if it is sincere and does not seek to force any policy of any sort whatsoever on us.

In this regard, Belgium has finally realized what direction history was moving in and has not attempted to oppose our independence. She is ready to grant us her aid and her friendship, and a treaty to this effect has just been signed between our two equal and independent countries. I am certain that this cooperation will be beneficial to both countries. We for our part, though we shall continue to be vigilant, will respect all commitments freely made.

Thus the new Congo, our beloved republic that my government is going to create, will be a rich, free, and prosperous country, with regard to both its domestic relations and its foreign relations. But in order for us to reach this goal without delay, I ask all of you, Congolese legislators and citizens alike, to aid me with all the strength at your command.

I ask all of you to forget the trivial quarrels that are draining our strength and threaten to earn us the contempt of those in other countries.

I ask the parliamentary minority to aid my government by constructive opposition and to stay strictly within legal and democratic paths.

I ask all of you not to shrink from making any sacrifice necessary to ensure the success of our great undertaking.

I ask you, finally, to respect unconditionally the life and property of your fellow citizens and foreigners who have settled in our country. If the behavior of these foreigners leaves something to be desired, our justice will be swift and they will be expelled from the territory of the republic; if, on the other hand, they conduct themselves properly, they must be left in peace, for they too will be working for the prosperity of our country.

The independence of the Congo represents a decisive step toward the liberation of the entire African continent.

Your Majesty, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, my dear compatriots, my black brothers, my brothers in the struggle, that is what I wanted to say to you in the name of the government on this magnificent day of our complete and sovereign independence.

Our strong, national, popular government will be the salvation of this country.

I invite all Congolese citizens, men, women, and children, to set to work to create a prosperous national economy that will be the crowning proof of our economic independence.

Honor to those who fought for national freedom!

Long live independence and African unity!

Long live the independent and sovereign Congo!


Lumumba was overthrown as Prime Minister two months later, and a week after that, Colonel Mobutu, with the advice and assistance of the Belgians, declared a military coup. On January 17, 1961, Patrice Lumumba was (officially) executed by firing squad in Elisabethville, Katanga, Congo; however, the unofficial story is that he was beaten by his guards and was stabbed with a bayonet by one of his rival's cabinet members. He was finished off by a bullet to the head fired by a Belgian mercenary. His body was chopped into pieces and dissolved in acid so as to leave no remains to be memorialized.

Mobutu was the brutal and thieving dictator of Congo/Zaire/the Democratic Republic of Congo, under Belgian, American, and IMF control, from 1961 until his ultimate exile and death in 1997.

Lumumba, you see, was uppity. He believed in social justice. He spoke out on behalf of the lowly in front of his betters. Eisenhower wanted him... out, and so it would be, with the assistance of his Congolese rivals, Belgian agents and mercenaries, and, of course, the CIA, whose murder plot for Lumumba was almost as idiotic as the ones they devised for Castro in Cuba.

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