Patrice Lumumba was a Congolese independence leader and the first elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Considered a dangerous threat to colonial and international interests, he was assassinated in 1961.
The collection Patrice Lumumba: May Our People Triumph contains some of his speeches, interviews and letters. The second half is devoted to other people’s writings on the Congolese independence hero.
There is much written about the DRC and Patrice Lumumba’s legacy, but it is refreshing and informative to read his own words. In a country that was torn apart by international and national forces, we gain an insight into the young man who had such promise and who hoped for a prosperous and united country, free of international exploitation.
The sense of jubilation that we hear in Lumumba’s address to Congolese youth shortly after independence does not last long. As the country descended into chaos and violence, we can hear Lumumba’s frustration and desperation in his correspondence with the UN, of which he had high hopes and high demands.
The following quote, from his opening speech at the All-African Conference in 1960, is particularly sad given what later transpired in the country:
“We refuse to be an arena of international intrigues, a hotbed and stake in the Cold War. We affirm our human dignity of free men, who are steadily taking the destiny of their nations and their countries into their own hands.”
The second half of the book is a selection of writings about Lumumba by other authors. The accounts of Lumumba in this collection are favourable to him, generally written by journalists who met him and who share his beliefs and views, for example on the failings of the UN. This distinguishes the collection from certain other accounts of Lumumba.
Indeed, Patrice Lumumba was a polarising figure. In his book The State of Africa, Martin Meredith (not quoted in this collection) highlights the assessment of former CIA agent Richard Bissell, who called Lumumba a “mad dog”.
Much has been written about Patrice Lumumba and his assassination, but it is a real privilege to be able to read his own words. Anybody interested in Congolese history—or African history, for that matter—will find a different perspective in this short collection.