Today in 1961 the Belgian government conspired with the CIA and other domestic and international imperial agents to murder Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba was the first democratically-elected leader of the Congo and a fighter for socialism and African independence. Such a threat was he to the imperialists that they dissolved his body in a bath of acid to avoid leaving a martyr’s grave. But speeches like this, delivered at the ceremony to proclaim the Congo’s independence from Belgian rule, show why he’s immortal in the annals of people’s history.
“The independence of the Congo, celebrated today with Belgium… no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that it has been won by struggle, a day-to-day fight, an ardent and idealistic fight, a fight in which we were spared neither privation nor suffering, and for which we gave our strength and our blood.
We are proud of this struggle, of tears, of fire, and of blood, to the depths of our being, for it was a noble and just struggle, and indispensable to put an end to the humiliating slavery which was imposed upon us by force.
This was our fate for eighty years of a colonial regime; our wounds are too fresh and too painful still for us to drive them from our memory. We have known harassing work, exacted in exchange for salaries which did not permit us to eat enough to drive away hunger, or to clothe ourselves, or to house ourselves decently, or to raise our children as creatures dear to us.
We have known ironies, insults, blows that we endured morning, noon, and evening, because we are Negroes. Who will forget that a black was referred to as “tu”, certainly not as to a friend, but because the more honorable “vous” was reserved for whites alone?
We have seen our lands seized in the name of allegedly legal laws which in fact recognised only that might is right.
We have seen that the law was not the same for whites and for blacks, accommodating for the first, cruel and inhumane for the other.
We have witnessed the atrocious sufferings of those condemned for their political opinions or religious beliefs; exiled in their own country, their fate truly worse than death itself.
We have seen that in the towns there were magnificent houses for the whites and crumbling shanties for the blacks, that blacks were not admitted in the cinemas, in the restaurants, in the stores of the Europeans; that blacks traveled in the holds, at the feet of the whites in their luxury cabins.
Who will ever forget the massacres where so many of our brothers perished, the cells into which those who refused to submit to a regime of oppression and exploitation were thrown?
All that, compatriots, we have endured.
But we, whom the vote of your elected representatives have given the right to direct our dear country, we who have suffered in our body and in our heart from colonial oppression, we tell you very loud, all that is henceforth ended.
The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our country is now in the hands of its own children.
Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness.
Together, we are going to establish social justice and make sure everyone has just remuneration for their labour.
We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make of the Congo the centre of the sun’s radiance for all of Africa.”
Patrice’s dream wasn’t realised. The Congo, the world’s most resource-rich state, remains a province of global capital and imperialism. But his words continue to inspire those who would reclaim it.
Repose en pouvoir, camarade.