Pan African Students’ Association of University of The Gambia has said that the mere return of the golden tooth of the former Congolese Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba may be symbolic but not enough.
In a press release dated 28 June 2022, the association lengthily dilated on the significance of the iconic African liberator and outlined reasons why the Belgians should go beyond the mere returning of a tooth.
Below is the press release of the association in verbatim.
RE: STATEMENT ON THE RETURN OF LATE COMRADE PATRICE LUMUMBA’S SO-CALLED REAMAINS: OUR STANCE ON THE DEVELOPMENT
IT MAY BE SYMBOLIC, BUT THE MERE RETURN OF A TOOTH IS NOT ENOUGH.
The return of the only known remains of a gallant son of Africa is both historic and to some to degree, symbolic. The news of the return of the golden tooth of Patrice Lumumba is received with mixed feelings among many Africans. In other to understand why it is not enough, it is necessary for the younger generation of Africans to have an understanding of the role Patrice Emery Lumumba played in the attainment of self-rule by The Democratic Republic of Congo from colonial Belgium, and the atrocities committed by Belgium in their 80-year colonial rule.
After the Berlin conference in 1884, when Europe arbitrarily shared Africa among themselves, as if it were their piece of cake, Congo fell under Belgian rule of King Leopold the second, who regarded Congo as his personal possession. Within the said period, the Belgian monarchy brutally and quickly amassed immense wealth at the expense of Congolese resources and sadly, Congolese lives. They perpetrated Tens of thousands of mutilations, tortures and between 5-10 Million murders in their close to 80 years of colonial rule.
Patrice Emery Lumumba, a young post office worker in his thirties, began speaking against the atrocities been committed by the Belgians. He began the talk about the need for independence and self-actualization to individuals and groups.
This eventually led to the formation of a movement, Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), a movement that began putting political pressure on the Belgian authorities and eventually led to Congolese independence on June 30th, 1960. Lumumba became the first prime minister of Congo. His opposition counterpart, Joseph Kasavuvu, with whom he formed a coalition called the united front became president of an independent Congo.
An independence that was intended to be just for formality sake, that is to have a black leader puppet to king Leopold of Belgium. This started manifesting on the day of the independence itself, when the representative of the king made a mockery speech, in which he said that out of the wisdom and mercy of the king, he had decided to give them their independence. He went on stating the claims of how they participated in the civilization of Congo, leaving out the atrocities and genocide they committed.
Kasavuvu too took the podium and spoke of Belgium in a way that confirmed the widespread presumed puppeteering. Patrice who was not scheduled to speak, had foreseen that is how Kasavuvu will speak and therefore prepared a speech in advance. He took the podium for the next generation to have something to be proud of and for them to know that they fought for their independence and it wasn’t out of the kings generosity.
He said, “Men and women of the Congo,
Victorious independence fighters,
I salute you in the name of the Congolese Government. I ask all of you, my friends, who tirelessly fought in our ranks, to mark this June 30, 1960, as an illustrious date that will be ever engraved in your hearts, a date whose meaning you will proudly explain to your children, so that they in turn might relate to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren the glorious history of our struggle for freedom.
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 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.
It was filled with tears, fire and blood. We are deeply proud of our struggle, because it was just and noble and indispensable in putting an end to the humiliating bondage forced upon us.
That was our lot for the eighty years of colonial rule and our wounds are too fresh and much too painful to be forgotten.
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 have seen our lands seized in the name of ostensibly just laws, which gave recognition only to the right of might.
We have not forgotten that the law was never the same for the white and the black, that it was lenient to the ones, and cruel and inhuman to the others.
We have experienced the atrocious sufferings, being persecuted for political convictions and religious beliefs, and exiled from our native land: our lot was worse than death itself.
We have not forgotten that in the cities the mansions were for the whites and the tumbledown huts for the blacks; that a black was not admitted to the cinemas, restaurants and shops set aside for “Europeans”; that a black travelled in the holds, under the feet of the whites in their luxury cabins.
Who will ever forget the shootings which killed so many of our brothers, or the cells into which were mercilessly thrown those who no longer wished to submit to the regime of injustice, oppression and exploitation used by the colonialists as a tool of their domination?
All that, my brothers, brought us untold suffering.
But we, who were elected by the votes of your representatives, representatives of the people, to guide our native land, we, who have suffered in body and soul from the colonial oppression, we tell you that henceforth all that is finished with.
The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed and our beloved country’s future is now in the hands of its own people.
Brothers, let us commence together a new struggle, a sublime struggle that will lead our country to peace, prosperity and greatness.
Together we shall establish social justice and ensure for every man a fair remuneration for his labour.
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.
We shall revise all the old laws and make them into new ones that will be just and noble.
We shall stop the persecution of free thought. We shall see to it that all citizens enjoy to the fullest extent the basic freedoms provided for by the Declaration of Human Rights.
We shall eradicate all discrimination, whatever its origin, and we shall ensure for everyone a station in life befitting his human dignity and worthy of his labour and his loyalty to the country.
We shall institute in the country a peace resting not on guns and bayonets but on concord and goodwill.
And in all this, my dear compatriots, we can rely not only on our own enormous forces and immense wealth, but also on the assistance of the numerous foreign states, whose co-operation we shall accept when it is not aimed at imposing upon us an alien policy, but is given in a spirit of friendship.
Even Belgium, which has finally learned the lesson of history and need no longer try to oppose our independence, is prepared to give us its aid and friendship; for that end an agreement has just been signed between our two equal and independent countries. I am sure that this co-operation will benefit both countries. For our part, we shall, while remaining vigilant, try to observe the engagements we have freely made.
Thus, both in the internal and the external spheres, the new Congo being created by my government will be rich, free and prosperous. But to attain our goal without delay, I ask all of you, legislators and citizens of the Congo, to give us all the help you can.
I ask you all to sink your tribal quarrels: they weaken us and may cause us to be despised abroad.
I ask you all not to shrink from any sacrifice for the sake of ensuring the success of our grand undertaking.
Finally, I ask you unconditionally to respect the life and property of fellow-citizens and foreigners who have settled in our country; if the conduct of these foreigners leaves much to be desired, our Justice will promptly expel them from the territory of the republic; if, on the contrary, their conduct is good, they must be left in peace, for they, too, are working for our country’s prosperity.
The Congo’s independence is a decisive step towards the liberation of the whole African continent.
Our government, a government of national and popular unity, will serve its country.
I call on all Congolese citizens, men, women and children, to set themselves resolutely to the task of creating a national economy and ensuring our economic independence.
Eternal glory to the fighters for national liberation!
Long live independence and African unity!
Long live the independent and sovereign Congo!”
This speech many believe signed Lumumba’s dead warrant. The Belgians wanted puppets, comprador bourgeoisie, and instead Lumumba blatantly told them the truth as indicated in his speech.
Soon after, rebellions hit the nation as the crave for revenge took over the black men in uniform and so they arrested Belgian soldiers and their families. Lumumba who was the de factor president at the time because kasavuvu was a puppet and had no ideas.
However, the arrogant Belgians took the opportunity to send troops into Congo in the name of protecting their citizens when in fact their mission was to cause more instability and to lay hands on Lumumba.
Fast-forward to After 7 Months of independence, the Belgians manipulated Kasavuvu to denounce Lumumba an elected public official as prime minister. Having done that, The United States of America (USA) via their CIA and the Belgian government, with the help of disgruntled power hungry and comprador bourgeoisies key among them Mobutu Sese Seku, staged a military coup against Kasavuvu and Mobutu was installed President. Immediately after the coup, Lumumba was put on a how arrest, later he tried to flee but was captured and arrested.
He was tortured brutally and inhumanly treated in front of the Western media and the Congolese, right after on 17th January 1961, in Katanga Lumumba and his comrades were shot by firing squad in front of pits which they fell into.
As if that was not enough the Belgians exhumed his body, because they felt even dead, he was a threat to their imperialism. They chopped his body into pieces and allegedly dissolved.
Is the spirit of Lumumba Hunting DRC? Because soon after his brutal assassination, Mobutu ruled the country with iron fist and allowed the west to exploit all the resources of the Congo while the Congolese remain poor. It remains the only country where the president will say we do not have money to conduct elections despite all the natural endowments they have. Furthermore, a Belgian police officer found out a golden tooth from his remains and kept it.
The Belgian government have not tendered it to the family until last year when a court ruled for the tooth to be returned.
So why they have chosen to return the tooth now? Could it be just an attempt to improve their public image in the wake of recent wave of black rights activism?
As it stands, there is no show of genuineness, remorse or acceptance of fault on the side of Belgians. They continue to show their disrespect to Congo with this recent PR stunt, a cheap move to make the people of Congo move on as if the atrocities of their forbearers was not grave enough.
Therefore, Belgium must not only apologize but also accept that they committed heinous crimes in Congo, prosecute any living individual who participated in the assassination of the great Lumumba, and compensate the family of Patrice Lumumba for their loss and compensating the country and its citizens for all the wealth you stole from them. Stolen Congolese wealth that may have shaped Belgian into the so-called developed country it is today.
Returning the golden tooth is not enough! Uhuru must not only be a rhetoric but seen to be effected!!
Signed: Alfusainey Ceesay
Head of Writers’ committee, PANASA