The Democratic Republic Congo Fifty Years Later: Conversations with Patrice Lumumba

Dear Patrice,

In the last letter that you addressed to your wife Pauline from Camp Hardy Prison, you wrote: “To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects from them, as it expects from each Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of our independence and our sovereignty; for without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men […]Do not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty. Long live the Congo! Long live Africa!”

Patrice, I am sad to report to you that although we do not know what the future of the Congo will be, we at least know that its present is ugly.  And to paraphrase the Ghanaian writer, Ayi Kwei Armah who wrote in his novel The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born that “Africa’s future is still in the future”,  I’m afraid that in many instances, most African leaders have been so idealistic about the future that they have forgotten to focus on the present.

I think that shifting the focus from idealism to reality, and thinking about tomorrow while keeping an eye on the immediate, Patrice, would help us realize that you do not build a stable and viable country on the foundations of dreams and well wishes in an anarchic world.  Moreover, that same idealism has in many cases obtruded our need to realize that it is utopist to dream of going back to a hypothetic African golden age, which has existed only in our imagination.

Patrice, if only I had enough time, I would tell you how the seeds of tragedy that is unfolding in your land are the result of a long series of international criminality and internal delinquency.  I would make you read Siba Grovogui’s article that argues that different regimes of sovereignty allowed the great  Leopold II first, then his tiny Belgium to rule over your vast land, before the same system created the conditions under which it was possible for the equally tiny Switzerland to bankrupt your country with the help of Mobutu’s kleptocratic regime.

Patrice, if only the space allowed, maybe I would recount to you how Laurent-Desire Kabila emerged from the forest at the helm of an international “army” that marched with triumph all the way to Kinshasa.  I will not be able to tell you that Kablia’s former allies turned around and created havoc in your country, leading it to the deadliest conflict in the world since WWII, as your compatriot and my colleague Patrick Litanga wrote here last year.  As the largest African country, Sudan, has split this year and created another landlocked country at the heart of the continent, there are many people who would argue that the DRC needs to take that route.

Patrice, many scholars of internal conflicts have conducted empirical research that suggests that partition does not solve the problem.  Au contraire, it provides more fertile ground for future internal conflicts.  As the present of Congo is sadly associated with rape as a weapon of war, I wish I had the courage to tell you that your country is a historic and geographical mess, which unfortunately is heaven to the despotic regimes that are at its borders.

Patrice, I will not mention either that Kabila Son has not been able to contain the de facto disintegration of your country, which you knew, despite the challenges posed by its size, must remain one.  As the DRC is set to hold presidential elections this November, Patrice, let me tell you that two presidents were sworn in around the continent this past week: Alassane Ouattara in Cote D’Ivoire, and Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria.  The elections in Nigeria had been hailed as the most fair and open that the country has known, while tragedy unfolded in Cote D’Ivoire for many months. Which way will the DRC go after November? This is the question that is going on in all our minds as we hope for the best.

I hope as you look down upon us all, from wherever you are, you will provide light to our leaders to see the importance of the vision you had for the DRC, the importance of ethical and people centered leadership for the realization of a productive, politically and economically stable DRC.

Yours sincerely

Oumar Ba

Oumar Ba

Oumar Ba is a PhD student in Political Science at the University of Florida, USA.

2 Responses to The Democratic Republic Congo Fifty Years Later: Conversations with Patrice Lumumba

  1. Beautifully written with so much truth. I wish our leaders could read this and young people alike the ones who can now demand for things to be done differently and as you rightly put it focus on the present while still looking at the future.

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