- Patrice Lumumba, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were brutally assassinated on 17 January 1961
- Lumumba was a Pan-Africanist leader of Congo and contributed to the dissolution of Belgian colonial rule
- Belgium, the US and other interests carried out the assassination to maintain power over the mineral rich nation
Today, the world pays tribute to a pan-Africanist icon, Patrice Lumumba, who was assassinated on 17 January 1961, only seven months after Congo won independence from the Belgian colonisers.
Assisted by the US and Congolese counter-revolutionaries, Belgium killed the African leader, buried him and then exhumed his body, disintegrating it by pouring acid over it.
Lumumba was a leader of the Congolese working-class. The Congolese nationalist agenda during the 1950s comprised, in large part, of middle-class Congolese who, although opposed to the white European tyranny that had been in place, were benefiting from its capital-driven agenda, Briefly.co.za learned.
Lumumba was opposed to this burgeoning neo-colonialism and advocated for a new Congo which would prioritise pan-Africanism and lift the masses from their position, as it was these labourers who worked for wages akin to slavery and were the most affected and unprotected from famine and genocides caused by Belgium.
The masses believed that overthrowing the colonial regime should include doing away with colonial ideology. That meant refusing to substitute European oppressors with African ones.
When Lumumba entered the scene in the mid-1950s, he embodied the needs of the masses and gained their support.
The rise of the Mouvement National Congolais
The Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) party was formed in 1958 and became a leading movement against oppression. The party progressed rapidly, winning the support of the masses.
The imminent dissolution of Belgium’s rule was clear to both the Congolese, Belgium and the world.
Wanting to keep their financial interests in Congo during the burgeoning resistance, Belgium attempted to enforce a new kind of colonial rule, one which would remove the Europeans from the forefront of the oppression.
This neo-colonialism involved shifting power to black leaders but backing them with Belgium funds and advisers.
Belgium believed that the Congolese, Africa and the world would see a new Congo, run by its own people, while the European nation’s hands would remain snugly in the country’s pockets.
Belgium hoped to continue reaping the most significant portions of wealth that comes from the country’s rich natural resources, like diamonds and cobalt- a dynamic quite similar to the neoliberal paradigm most African countries find themselves in today.
This was, of course, supported by the United States (and the UN) who shared interests in the country’s capital, along with other European nations who still had colonies in Africa.
As the MNC grew greater and stronger, Belgium tried to curtail further development and opted to give Congo independence. The nation hoped that the party would not be ready to adapt to power and would need to rely on their assistance and advise.
Congo gained independence on 30 June 1960.
Lumumba was elected as prime minister and denied the oppressors any chance at propping up African leadership and refused assistance from the West.
The Fall of an African Revolutionary
Belgium and their allies stirred up political unrest in regions of Congo, leading to Katanga and Kasai becoming independent states which supported Belgium. Soon, the nation with support from Congolese on the ground enacted a coup to remove the new prime minister from power.
Lumumba refused to back down and continue to advise the Congolese, supported by most of the national army.
Knowing that the Congolese would never submit while Lumumba and the MNC continued to fight, the plot to assassinate the leader was born.
Lumumba and two other nationalists who helped set up the new government, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito were taken to a military camp. They were moved again and brutally beaten and tortured.
At night, Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito were taken to an isolated area. The president of the newly independent state of Katanga, Moise Tshombe, was present along with Belgiun officials and other ministers.
Three firing squads were also present.
Lumumba, Mpolo and Okito were lined up against a tree and shot.
To dispose of the bodies, they cut the corpses apart and submerged the pieces in acid, scattering their bones on the ground.
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