Sunday, January 17, 2010

Most of our heroes don't appear on no stamps..

I'm sure this hero is on a stamp somewhere actually, but not America, not that he needs to be on an American stamp...but that's all neither here nor there...

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Emery Lumumba (2 July 1925 - 17 January 1961) was an African nationalist leader and the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo when it declared its independence in June 1960. Forced out of office during a political crisis in September, he was assassinated in January 1961.

Path to Prime Minister

Lumumba was born in Onalua in the Kasai province of the Belgian Congo. He was educated at a missionary school and worked in Leopoldville (Kinshasa) and Stanleyville (Kisangani) as a clerk and journalist. In 1955 Lumumba became regional president of a Congolese trade union and joined the Belgian Liberal Party. He was arrested in 1957 on charges of embezzlement and imprisoned for a year. On his release he helped found the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) in 1958. In 1959 Belgium announced a five year path to independence and in the December local elections the MNC won a convincing majority despite Lumumba being under arrest at the time. A 1960 conference in Belgium agreed to bring independence forward to June 1960 with elections in May. Lumumba and the MNC formed the first government on June 23, 1960, with Lumumba as Congo's first prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu as its ceremonial president.

Independence Day: "Tears, Fire, and Blood" Speech

King Baudouin of Belgium flew to Leopoldville to perform the official handover. It was here that Lumumba gave his "tears, fire and blood" speech that so angered the Belgians.

Before King Baudouin's arrival, Lumumba's cabinet had decided that the country should present a united front at the independence celebrations, and that the titular leader, President Joseph Kasavubu should reply to the King's speech. (Congo's Loi Fundamentale, published by Belgium as the de facto national constitution for the country, had invested supreme power in the prime minister. The president only played a ceremonial role, with no executive powers).

On Independence Day, 30 June, King Baudouin, then 30 years old, chose to make what is considered one of the most undiplomatic speeches ever heard by the world. Standing before millions of ecstatic Congolese in Leopoldville, the King said:

The independence of the Congo is the crowning of the work conceived by the genius of King Leopold II [1], undertaken by him with courage and continued by Belgium with perseverance.
For 80 years, Belgium has sent to your land the best of its sons - first to deliver the Congo basin from the odious slave trade which was decimating the population, later to bring together the different tribes which, though former enemies, are now preparing to form the greatest of the independent states of Africa...
Belgian pioneers have built railways, cities, industries, schools, medical services and modernised agriculture... It is your task, gentlemen, to show that we were right in trusting you.
The dangers before you are the inexperience of people to govern themselves, tribal fights which have done so much harm, and must at all costs be stopped, and the attraction which some of your regions can have for foreign powers which are ready to profit from the least sign of weakness...

Long faces greeted the King's speech. Even the moderate Kasavubu, who replied on behalf of the new Congo nation, had to drop the second half of his prepared speech praising the King.

Lumumba, not scheduled officially to speak that day, could not restrain himself and took the podium. Not known for equivocation, he went straight to the point:

Men and women of the Congo, who have fought for and won the independence we celebrate today, I salute you in the name of the Congolese government.
I ask you all, friends who have fought relentlessly side by side to make this 30th of June 1960 an illustrious date that remains ineradicably engraved on your hearts, a date whose significance you will be proud to teach to your children, who will in turn pass on to their children and grandchildren the glorious story of our struggle for liberty.
For, while the independence of the Congo has today been proclaimed in agreement with Belgium, a friendly country with whom we deal on an equal footing, no Congolese worthy of the name will ever be able to forget that independence has only been won by struggle, a struggle that went on day after day, a struggle of fire and idealism, a struggle in which we have spared neither effort, deprivation, suffering or even our blood.
The struggle, involving tears, fire, and blood, is something of which we are proud in our deepest hearts, for it was a noble and just struggle, which was needed to bring to an end the humiliating slavery imposed on us by force.
Such was our lot for 80 years under the colonialist regime; our wounds are still too fresh and painful for us to be able to forget them at will, for we have experienced painful labour demanded of us in return for wages that were not enough to enable us to eat properly, nor to be decently dressed or sheltered, nor to bring up our children as we longed to.
We have experienced contempt, insults and blows, morning, noon and night because we were 'blacks.' We shall never forget that a black man was addressed informally, not because he was a friend but because only the whites were given the honour of being addressed formally.
We have seen our lands despoiled in the name of so-called legal documents which were no more than a recognition of superior force. We have known that the law was never the same for a white man as it was for a black man: for the former it made allowances, for the latter, it was cruel and inhuman.
We have seen the appalling suffering of those who had their political opinions and religious beliefs dismissed as exiles in their own country, their lot was truly worse than death. We have seen magnificent houses in the towns for the whites, and crumbling straw huts for the blacks; a black man could not go to the cinema, or a restaurant, or a shop that was meant for 'Europeans,' a black man would always travel in the lowest part of a ship, under the feet of the whites in their luxurious cabins.
And finally, who can ever forget the shooting in which so many of our brothers died; or the cells where those who refused to submit any longer to the rule of a 'justice' of oppression and exploitation were put away?
All this, brothers, has meant the most profound suffering. But all this, we can now say, we who have been voted as your elected representatives to govern our beloved country, all this is now ended. The Republic of Congo has been proclaimed, and our land is now in the hands of its own children. Together, brothers and sisters, we shall start on a new struggle, a noble struggle that will bring our country to peace, prosperity and greatness...
We shall show the world what the black man can do when he is allowed to work in freedom, and we shall make the Congo the focal point of Africa...

The expression on King Baudouin's face as Lumumba uttered those words could not be described in friendly terms. Congo was allowed only two weeks of peace after independence under Lumumba's government.

Deposed and arrested

Lumumba's rule was marked by the political disruption when the province of Katanga declared independence under Moise Tshombe in June 1960 with Belgian support. Despite the arrival of United Nations troops unrest continued and Lumumba sought Soviet aid. In September Lumumba was dismissed from government by Kasavubu, an act of dubious legality; in retaliation, he attempted to dismiss Kasavubu from the presidency. On September 14 a coup d'etat headed by Colonel Joseph Mobutu (who would later gain infamy as President Mobutu Sese Seko) and supported by Kasavubu was successful. Lumumba was arrested on December 1, 1960 by troops of Mobutu. He was captured in Port Francqui and flown to Leopoldville in handcuffs. Mobutu said Lumumba would be tried for inciting the army to rebellion and other crimes. United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld made an appeal to Kasavubu asking that Lumumba be treated according to due process of law. The USSR denounced Hammarskjöld and the Western powers as responsible for Lumumba's arrest and demanded his release.

The United Nations Security Council was called into session on December 7 to consider Soviet demands that the U.N. seek Lumumba's immediate release, the immediate restoration of Lumumba as head of the Congo government, the disarming of the forces of Mobutu, and the immediate evacuation of Belgians from the Congo. Soviet Representative Valerian Zorin refused U.S. demands that he disqualify himself as Security Council President during the debate. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, answering Soviet attacks against his Congo operations, said that if the U.N. force were withdrawn from the Congo "I fear everything will crumble."

Following a U.N. report that Lumumba had been mistreated by his captors, his followers threatened (on December 9) to arrest all Belgians and "start cutting off the heads of some of them" unless Lumumba was released within 48 hours.

The threat to the U.N. cause was intensified by the announcement of the withdrawal of their U.N. Congo contingents by Yugoslavia, the United Arab Republic, Ceylon, Indonesia, Morocco, and Guinea. The Soviet pro-Lumumba resolution was defeated on December 14 by a vote of 8-2. On the same day, a Western resolution that would have given Hammarskjöld increased powers to deal with the Congo situation was vetoed by the Soviet Union.

Lumumba was then transported on January 17, 1961 from the military prison in Thysville near Leopoldville to a 'more secure' prison in Jadotville in the Katanga Province. There were reports that Lumumba and his fellow prisoners, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, were beaten by provincial police upon their arrival in secessionist Katanga.

Death of Lumumba

Sixty-seven days after he came to power, Patrice Lumumba was dismissed by state president Joseph Kasavubu. Lumumba, in turn, tried to dismiss Kasavubu, but to no avail. Lumumba was placed under informal house arrest at the prime minister's residence. UN troops were positioned around the house to protect him.

Lumumba now made perhaps the worst decision of his life: he decided to escape. Smuggled out of his residence at night in a visiting diplomat's car, he began a long journey towards Stanleyville. Mobutu's troops were in hot pursuit. Finally trapped on the banks of the Sankuru River, he was captured by soldiers loyal to Colonel Mobutu.

He appealed to local UN troops to save him. The UN refused on orders from headquarters in New York, reasoning that he had escaped from UN protection. He was flown first to Leopoldville, where he appeared beaten and humiliated before journalists and diplomats.

Further humiliation followed at Mobutu's villa, where soldiers beat the elected prime minister in full view of television cameras. Lumumba was dispatched first to Thysville military barracks, one hundred miles from Leopoldville.

The Belgians demanded a more decisive ending - they wanted Lumumba delivered into the hands of his sworn enemy, Moise Tshombe of Katanga.

Lumumba was beaten again on the flight to Elizabethville on 17 January 1961. He was seized by Katangan soldiers commanded by Belgians and driven to Villa Brouwe. He was guarded and brutalized still further by both Belgian and Katangan troops while President Tshombe and his cabinet decided what to do with him.

That same night it is said Lumumba was bundled into another convoy that headed into the bush. It drew up beside a large tree. Three firing squads had been assembled, commanded by a Belgian. Another Belgian had overall command of the execution site. Lumumba and two other comrades from the government were lined up against a large tree. President Tshombe and two other ministers were present for the executions, which took place one at a time. Lumumba's corpse was then buried nearby.

Nothing was said for three weeks - though rumor spread quickly. When Lumumba's death was formally announced on Katangese radio, it was accompanied by an implausible cover involving an escape and murder by enraged villagers. Later, under cover of this yarn, the Belgians dug up Lumumba's corpse and dissolved it in concentrated sulfuric acid. Only a couple of teeth and a fragment of skull survived the process which were kept as souvenirs.

For many years there was much speculation over the roles that western governments had played in the prime minister's murder. With the disclosure of certain documents by author Ludo De Witte, it was finally established that Belgian soldiers were in position around Lumumba at every stage of the assassination, right up to his death.

Under its own 'Good Samaritan' laws, Belgium was clearly legally culpable for failing to prevent the assassination from taking place.

In February of 2002, the Belgian government apologized to the Congolese people, and admitted to a "moral responsibility" and "an irrefutable portion of responsibility in the events that led to the death of Lumumba." In July of the same year documents released by the United States government revealed that while the CIA had been kept informed of Belgium's plans, they had no direct role in Lumumba's eventual death.

However, this same disclosure showed that US perception at the time was that Lumumba was a Communist. The same documents also record that US President Eisenhower directly called for Lumumba's murder in one meeting.