Born in 1925 in the former Kasai Province, Patrice Lumumba was the first Prime Minister of independent Congo. He fell out with Belgium on the day of independence when he categorically stated that Congolese would no longer be satisfied to be treated as monkeys in their own land. His act of nationalising the country's mineral wealth did no go down well with foreign multinational firms. He met his death on 16th January 1961 under mysterious circumstances. Below is his independence speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Congo who have fought for the independence won today, I salute you in the name of the Congolese government.
“To all of you my friends who have struggled continuously on our side, I ask you to make this day, June 30 1960, an illustrious date which you will keep indelibly engraved in your hearts – a date of which you will proudly teach your children the significance so that they in turn may make known to their sons and grandsons the glorious history of our struggle for freedom.
“Because this independence of Congo, as it is proclaimed today in agreement with Belgium- the friendly country with whom we stand on equal terms- no Congolese worthy of the name will ever forgot that independence has been won by struggle in which we spared neither our forces, our suffering, nor our blood.
“This struggle of tears, fire and blood makes us profoundly proud because it was a noble and just struggle, an indispensable struggle to put an end to the humiliating bondage imposed on us by force.
“Our lot was eighty years of colonial rule; our wounds are still too fresh and painful to be driven from our memory.
“We know tiring labour exacted in exchange for salary, which did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe and lodge ourselves decently or to raise our children like loved beings.
“We have known ironies, insults, blows which we had to endure morning, noon and night because we were Negroes. Who will forget that to a Negro the familiar verb forms were used, not indeed as with a friend, but because the honorable formal verb forms were reserved for the whites.
“We have known that our lands are despoiled in the name of supposedly legal tests, which recognized only the law of the stronger.
“We have known the atrocious sufferings of those banished from political opinion or religious beliefs; exiled in their own countries, their end was truly worse than death itself.
“We have known that there were magnificent houses for the whites in the cities and tumbledown straw huts for the Negroes, that a Negro was not admitted in movie houses or restaurants or stores labeled ‘European,’ that a Negro traveled in the hulls of river boats at the feet of the white in his first-class cabin.
“Who will forget, finally, the fusillades where so many of our brothers perished or the prisons where all those were brutally flung who no longer wished to submit to the regime of a law of oppression and exploitation which the colonists had made a tool of their dominations?
“All that, my brothers, we have profoundly suffered. But for all of that, we who by the votes of your elected representatives have been approved to direct our beloved country, we who have suffered the colonial oppression in body and heart, we say to you, all of that is henceforth finished.
“The Congo Republic has been proclaimed and our beloved country is now in the hands of its own children.
“Together, my brothers, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle which is going to lead our country to peace, prosperity, and grandeur.
‘Together we are going to establish social justice and assure that everyone receives just remuneration from his work.
“We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make the Congo the centre of radiance of the whole of Africa.
“We are going to awaken to what the lands of our beloved country provide her children.
“We are going to re-examine all the former laws and from them make new laws which will be noble and just.
“We are going to put an end to the oppression of free thought so that all citizens may enjoy fully the fundamental liberties provided for in the declaration of the rights of a man.
“We are going to suppress effectively all discrimination whatever it may be and give to each person the place which his human dignity, his work and his devotion to his country merit him.
“We are not going to let a peace of guns and bayonets prevail, but rather a peace of courage and good will. And for all that beloved compatriots, rest assured that we will be able to count not only on our enormous forces and our immense riches, but also on the assistance of many foreign countries with whom we will accept collaboration so long as it is honest and does not seek to impose any politics whatsoever.
“In this domain, even Belgium who after all understands the meaning of history has not tried to oppose our independence further and is ready to give us help and her friendship; and a treaty with this understanding has been signed between our two equal and independent countries. This cooperation, I am sure, will be profitable to both countries. While remaining vigilant, we will be able for our part to respect the promises freely given.
“Thus, as much as at home as a broad, the new Congo, which my government, is going to create will be a rich, free and prosperous country. But in order that we may arrive at this goal without delay, I ask all of you, legislators and Congolese citizens, to assist me with all your strength.
“I ask all of you to forget the hazardous tribal quarrel, which exhaust our strength and make us compatible to the foreigner. I ask the parliamentary minority to help my government with a constructive opposition, and to stay strictly in legal and democratic channels.
“I ask you finally to respect unconditionally the life and well being of your fellow citizens and of the foreigners settled in your country; if the conduct of the foreigners leaves something to be desired, our courts of justice will be prompt to expel them from the territory of the Republic, if on the other hand their conduct is good, they must be left in peace, because they also work for the prosperity of our country.
“The independence of the Congo marks a decisive step towards the liberation of the entire African Continent.
“There, Lord, Excellencies, Ladies, Gentlemen, My brothers in struggle, my compatriots, this is what I have wanted to tell you in the name of the government on this magnificent day of our complete and sovereign independence.
“Our government, strong, national, popular, will be the hope of this country. I invite all Congolese citizens, men, women and children, to devote themselves resolutely to their work with a view towards creating a national economy and building our economy and building our economic independence.
“Homage to the Champions of National Liberty!
Long Live African Independence and Unity!
Long Live the independent and Sovereign Congo”
Question of the week: Why in your opinion are guns and bayonets still reigning in DR Congo? How can the congolese immense riches turn from curses to blessings?