Africa is widely regarded as the next frontier of the global economy with emerging success stories, in spite of the huge challenges currently confronting the continent. Today, the continent stands at a major crossroads, with Africa parading a paradox of opulence, growth and pervasive poverty. Generally, it is believed that Africa’s future may very well depend on the ability of leaders, elites and the general populace to evolve workable systems that would guarantee sustainable and viable cultures of governance and democracy. There were great Africans who paid the price of freedom now being enjoyed in the continent, albeit still subject to subtle control from the West.
It is very possible that Africans who were born about a few decades would never hear the names of these patriots who literally battled the colonialists and forced them to depart for their countries. TERRIFIC HEADLINES, in an attempt to invite attention to the contributions of notable Africans that fought for political emancipation and socio-economic freedom is bringing into your homes, stories about the activities of Pan-Africanists who fought for majority rule and freedom for African nations. These great sons of Africa fought brilliantly for independence from the colonialists who partitioned Africa and shared the continent among themselves. They fought with the last pint of blood in their systems as if their lives depended solely on the freedom of Africa from colonial rule.
In what has come to be known as the ‘’scramble for Africa’’ the continent was ‘’invaded’’ by Europeans between 1881 and World War I in 1914. The appearance of Europeans on the scene in Africa was not because they really loved Africans; but to exploit the very rich continent’s human and material resources. And they did that very successfully, utilizing the sweats of Africans to build Western economies. Reports indicate that by 1870, only 10 percent of Africa was under official European control; but this figure shot up to 90 percent by 1914, with only Ethiopia and Liberia escaping colonialism. The Europeans met in Berlin in 1884 to divide Africa among French, Belgium, Britain and Portugal. 13 European nations, joined by the United States, at the instance of German Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, to agree on their areas of influence in Africa.
Who were these great Africans and what were the factors that motivated them to engage in political struggles? Those whose Pan-African ideals obtruded themselves included: Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Nelson Mandela, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Modibo Keita, Jomo Kenyatta, Patrice Lumumba, King Muhammad V; Gamal Abdel Nasser; Sam Nujoma; Milton Obote, Sylvanus Olympio; Louis Rwagasore; and Ahmed Sékou Touré. The explosion of African nationalism after the Second World War was phenomenal. By 1962, marking the first 16 years of the birth of the United Nations, 40 African countries containing nearly one billion people had won for themselves freedom from their colonial masters. As the wind of nationalism blew, African nationalists became more daring and adamant. They started to assert that ‘’all peoples have the right to self-determination’’ as contained in the Charter of the United Nations. Between September and October 1960, sixteen African nations, including Nigeria joined the United Nations as independent states. Our focus today is on Patrice Lumumba of the Congo, having previously written about Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Julius Nyerere.
PATRICE EMERY LUMUMBA
Patrice Lumumba, born 1925, was the first elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) The early Pan-Africanists had been exposed to Western civilization following their education in the advanced countries. They returned to Africa with new mindsets and were determined to fight for independence and freedom from the yoke of colonial rule. One of such products was Patrice Émery Lumumba, a Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo (then Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960. He played a significant role in the transformation of the Congo from a colony of Belgium into an independent republic. Ideologically an African nationalist and Pan-Africanist, Patrice Lumumba, like his other peers was uncompromising in fighting for the rights of his people. Patrice Lumumba became a symbol of nationalist struggles in the Congo and became very popular in the continent. What really confounded many western theorists was that different political ideologies never dissuaded these great sons of Africa from moving against the colonial masters. All efforts made to contain the unrelenting pressure for political freedom failed, as Pan-Africanists rejected compromises. Instead, they pressed remedies to ensure the autonomy and development of their nations.
What was uppermost in their minds was turning their nations into strongholds of economic and political stability. They worked persistently towards replacing colonial political structures with home grown culture. One common problem with the early nationalists was the destabilization of their territories. The Republic of Congo opened the floodgate of political crises that plagued several African countries between 1960 and 1990; and even beyond, with most conflicts resulting in military intervention which soon became fashionable in the continent. Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first prime minister, led his nation’s struggles with vigour as if his life depended on just doing that. On Independence Day, June 30, 1960, Lumumba delivered a speech in the presence of the king of Belgium, reproving the atrocities of colonial rule, Lumumba, a fearless fighter declared that Congo would establish an autonomous government and an economy for her people. The colonialists, though sent back to their countries never fully released African nations from subtle stranglehold. Western aid and some political developments soon led to political corruption and self-interest among African leaders. Political and economic exploitation still remained uncontrolled at the background.
LUMUMBA’S INDEPENDENCE SPEECH
Lumumba’s speech was indeed a powerful one, indicating that he was prepared to step on the toes of powerful nations, if possible, in an attempt to chart a new course for the emancipation of his country. The speech, in part: ‘’Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in a struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day; a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood. We have experienced forced labour in exchange for pay that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe ourselves, to have decent lodgings or to bring up our children as dearly loved ones. Morning, noon and night we were subjected to jeers, insults and blows because we were “Negroes”. Who will ever forget that the black was addressed as “tu”, not because he was a friend, but because the polite “vous” was reserved for the white man?…….’’We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa. ‘’We shall see to it that the lands of our native country truly benefit its children.’’
Another very strong sentiment was expressed in a statement by Lumumba, who asserted, as recorded by a Kenyan State House publication that: ‘’Dead, living, free, or in prison on the orders of the colonialists, it is not I who counts. It is the Congo, it is our people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage where we are regarded from the outside… History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington, or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets…’’. That was the period of the commencement of the Cold War era. Western powers feared that Lumumba might adopt the Soviet Communist Republic’s ideology in governing the Congo. Somehow, he was weakened and assassinated. He fell victim to forces who feared his style of freedom and commitment to democracy and development. Apparently, there was undue subtle interference in the affairs of the Republic of Congo with covert operations by foreign interests. The development was a severe illustration of the direct consequence of the Cold War politics, and failures in African leadership.
A report in the Guardian of London titled: ‘Patrice Lumumba: The Most Important Assassination of the 20th Century’ authored by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, a professor of African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina, states that: ‘’In Congo, Lumumba’s assassination is rightly viewed as the country’s original sin. Coming less than seven months after independence (on 30 June, 1960), it was a stumbling block to the ideals of national unity, economic independence and pan-African solidarity that Lumumba had championed, as well as a shattering blow to the hopes of millions of Congolese for freedom and material prosperity. ‘’The assassination took place at a time when the country had fallen under four separate governments: the central government in Kinshasa (then Léopoldville); a rival central government by Lumumba’s followers in Kisangani (then Stanleyville); and the secessionist regimes in the mineral-rich provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. Since Lumumba’s physical elimination had removed what the west saw as the major threat to their interests in the Congo, internationally-led efforts were undertaken to restore the authority of the moderate and pro-western regime in Kinshasa over the entire country. These resulted in ending the Lumumbist regime in Kisangani in August 1961, the secession of South Kasai in September 1962, and the Katanga secession in January 1963.’’
FOREIGN INTERESTS IN AFRICA
Has Africa ever been free from foreign domination or intervention? Financial donations and aids have come in torrents for decades, but they are dwindling on estimates. The Global Financial Integrity director, Raymond Baker, in the agency’s Report emphasised the import of the statistics advanced in the Report. He stated that the amount of money that has been drained out of Africa – hundreds of billions, decade after decade, is far in excess of the Official Development Assistance going into African countries are far less than amounts illegally taken out of Africa. The Report submits that this development has recorded what it calls a ‘’devastating outflow of much-needed capital essential to achieving economic development and poverty alleviation goals in these countries.’’
Continuing, Baker added that “As long as these countries are losing massive amounts of money to illicit financial outflows, economic development and prosperity will remain elusive.” Technically, illicit financial flow is money illegally earned, transferred or used. At origin or during movement or use, the flow of money has broken laws and is thus considered illicit. It is different from capital flight, which is understood as the movement of funds abroad to secure better returns, often as a response to an unfavourable business climate in the country of origin. At the conclusion of its continental-wide consultations with stakeholders which ended with participants from West and Central African countries in Ghana, the African High-Level panel on Illicit Financial Flows headed by former South-African president, Thabo Mbeki joined others in seeking concerted and broad-based actions through continental-wide political will and participation of every citizen, in addition to global partnerships to solve this problem. and
Thabo Mbeki’s panel’s finding is that ”Curtailing the illicit financial flows would allow the continent to address its developmental challenges and retain such funds that illegally evade the continent each year to the developed and developing countries. These stolen funds could be deployed to addressing problems of infrastructural and other huge development challenges confronting Africa. ”The financial loss has had detrimental effects on African countries, a situation that has made them to be unable to garner the domestic resources needed to address their developmental needs. He reasoned that illicit financial flow is an African problem with a global solution and therefore, solutions need to be found at the origin and destinations of funds.”
It is believed that the solution to the myriad of problems confronting Africa is good governance which is why citizens must speak out and demand for good governance from rulers of the continent. Civil society organizations, labour movements and the press have a lot to do in changing the face of Africa. Home grown solutions are required to record the envisaged progress and development in the poorest continent in the world. And this can only be when these nations adopt measures that would free them totally from foreign influences.