“The Greatest Black Man Who Ever Walked the African Continent”

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

Patrice Lumumba (AP Photo)

Today, the 17th day of January 2011, the United States honors the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with a public and federal holiday. Sadly, this day is also the 50th Anniversary of the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo. He once wrote: “Freedom is the ideal for which throughout history… throughout centuries, men have fought and died.” Sounds like something Dr. King would have said. Regardless, both men joined the fight, for which they both ended up assassinated. Lumumba has since become a symbol of Pan-African liberation, and a martyr in the eyes of many in the African Diaspora. Patrice Lumumba’s meteoric rise to prominence was the result of his almost uncanny ability to unite people. He had the kind of charisma and a powerful, persuasive oratorical skill that made his people rise above tribal differences and embrace the Congolese nationalism that his own party stood for. But for the Belgians – who had been in control of the Congo since the 1870s –

Lumumba with his Family (Photo: Life)

that skill, combined with Lumumba’s anti-colonial rhetoric, made him far too dangerous for their liking. 10 years ago a Commission of Inquiry set up by the Belgian Parliament released a report that implicated some top-level Belgian government officials in the murder of Lumumba. The next year, in February 2002, the Belgian government acknowledged a “moral responsibility,” and an “irrefutable portion of responsibility in the events that led to the death of Lumumba,” and they officially apologized. But none of that may have happened if a researcher named Ludo de Witte had not uncovered documents naming names and listing dates, implicating Belgian officials in Lumumba’s murder. His research produced the book, The Assassination of Lumumba, which was the catalyst that led to the Commission of Inquiry. It also made people start talking. A BBC documentary in 2000 called “Who Killed Lumumba?” relied heavily on that book’s

The book that changed the discourse on Lumumba's Assassination

revelations. Another documentary was broadcast by the CBC (Canada) as part of their Political Assassinations Series, entitled “Patrice Lumumba: An African Tragedy.” Astonishingly, it includes interviews with a CIA operative, Belgian officials, and other players in the Congo quagmire who were present when it was all going down, including one Belgian officer who brags about keeping two of Lumumba’s teeth after his execution. I have posted that documentary below, which you can watch after the jump. In a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in New York in 1964 – the same place where he was himself cruelly murdered the very next year – Malcolm X called Patrice Lumumba “The greatest black man who ever walked the African continent.” He was only 35.                                      To mark the 50th Anniversary of his death, Friends of the Congo has planned film screenings in New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto. Click here for more info. Bless…

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