Patrice Lumumba: Revolution, freedom, and legacy in DR Congo


DRC children mutilated from their hands. PHOTO/WikiCommons

On Jan. 17 1961, the African leader and first head of government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) Patrice Lumumba was brutally murdered in a heinous crime that after almost 60 years remains unsolved; yet his legacy endures spreading across free peoples in Africa and the world. 

Lumumba led the Democratic Republic of the Congo to independence on Jun. 30, 1960 after more than half a century that the country became “private property” of Belgium’s King Leopold II since 1880 and then a Belgian colony since 1908.

The African leader wanted the decolonization of his country but even more, he wanted to totally eradicate the European colonialist power present in Africa, pushing out the abuse and plundering that the continent had suffered for centuries.

As a successful tactician, he had managed to organize the bases to rise up against the Belgian colonialist system and his ambitious aspirations for independence that transgressed the borders were inspired by pro-independence groups across Africa like the feeling of  ‘African socialist unity’ coming from Ghana.

This ascension to become a leader in the region made him also an enemy for Europe and the United States, who, according to several analysts, were responsible for his death.

Belgian sociologist and writer, Ludo De Witte, known for having written an acclaimed book on the murder of Mulumba, described it as “the most important assassination of the 20th century,” due to the historical importance connected to several factors, but above all the global context in which it took place, and its impact on Congolese politics that can be seen and felt until this day.

That misery and violence that has plagued the DRC, despite being one of the countries with the largest natural wealth in the world, can be traced to what Lumumba died fighting: the colonial past and its rooted mechanisms. 

DR Congo as a Belgian Colony

In 1880, King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the rights for the territory of Congo and made the territory his own property. Over several decades, Leopold exploited the local population to make profits from resources, particularly from rubber, ivory, and diamonds.

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