Who was Patrice Lumumba?
Patrice Émery Lumumba was the Congo’s first Prime Minister who led the struggle for Congolese independence.
He was born in a Congolese Village in the Kasai Province of the Belgian Congo Colony in 1925. Lumumba attended local Missionary Schools, and after completing his studies, he worked as a Clerk in the Colonial Tax Office, and thereafter, in a Post Office where he rose to the position of Assistant Postmaster.
In the 1950s Lumumba began writing and agitating on behalf of the Congolese Anti-Colonial Movement by writing articles for Anti-Colonial publications, and in 1956 his book Congo My Country addressed the problems facing the Congo, conveying the ideas and aspirations of the Congolese people was published.
Lumumba and others soon sent a memorandum to the Governor-General of the Belgian Congo demanding Congolese independence. The demand was followed by the founding of the Congolese National Movement known as MNC.
Under Lumumba’s leadership, the MNC became a Mass Political Movement, and after attending Ghana’s Independence celebrations, Lumumba told a mass rally of 7,000 people in Congo that no African Country should remain under foreign domination after 1960 because African independence was a fundamental right.
In 1960 riots brokeout in the Congo, and Lumumba was held responsible, arrested and sentenced to six months imprisonment. However he was soon released, and the Belgian Government agreed to grant the Congo independence at the end of June1960 following elections to be held in the same year.
On the 23rd of June 1960, Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of an Independent Congo.
However, only a few days after independence, Belgian Army Officers provoked a mutiny in the Congolese National Army which resulted in the Belgians sending troop reinforcements to the Congo. Lumumba objected to the Belgian actions, appealling to the United Nations and United States for support.
The Belgians and American business then moved to facilitate the secession of the mineral rich province of Katanga, and in the midst of the crisis Mobutu formerly one of the Commanders of the Congolese National Army appointed by Lumumba announced that he had staged a CIA backed coup deposing the Lumumba Government.
The United States had backed the Coup because it viewed the Lumumba Government as a threat from the point Lumumba sought the assistance of the Soviet Union in dealing with the Belgian invasion, even though the Americans had spurned Lumumba when he had first turned to them for help.
Following the Coup, Lumumba was arrested and placed under house arrest. Although he escaped house arrest, he was subsequently apprehended by the Military and transported to Katanga where he was killed by firing squad in January 1961.
Since his death, Lumumba has come to represent the struggle for Black self-determination both in Africa and across the world.
His tragic death can also be seen as a reflection of the weakness of the UN which failed to intervene and prevent Lumumba’s death at the hands of the forces of Neo-Colonialism that sought to maintain control of the Congo’s rich mineral deposits after Congo’s independence.