Remembering Lumumba

July 2, 2015 § 3 Comments

Patrice Lumumba was born 90 years ago today on 2 July 1925. Lumumba was the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo (today known as the Democratic Republic of Congo). He led the Congolese independence struggle that ultimately wrested the reins of power from the Belgian colonialists.

Lumumba

(2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961)

Within ten weeks of being elected, Lumumba’s government was deposed in a coup. He was subsequently imprisoned and assassinated on January 17, 1961 in a plot orchestrated by western powers: United States, Belgium, France, Britain and the United Nations, in cahoots with local leaders.
Rest in Power.
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Here is the last letter Lumumba wrote to his wife before his assassination:

My dear companion,

I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country, its right to an honorable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions, Belgian colonialism and its Western allies – who have found direct and indirect support, deliberate and not deliberate among certain high officials of the United Nations, this organization in which we placed all our confidence when we called for their assistance – have not wished it.

They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen, they have contributed to distorting the truth and our enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.

We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country. 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 for 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.

No brutality, mistreatment, or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast, and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles. 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. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.

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!

 

 

Che in Africa

June 14, 2015 § 1 Comment

Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born 87 years ago today on June 14, 1928. Che was also a physician, author, guerrilla leader, diplomat, and military theorist who had a deep connection with Africa.

AlbertoKorda-Che-05-DateUnknown

Che was instrumental in getting Cuba to forge links with African countries during the 1960s, when Cuban soldiers fought alongside southern Africa’s liberation fighters in Angola. Guevara also personally pitched into the brutal battlefields of the newly independent Democratic Republic of Congo, convinced that the ”Yankee imperialism” he detested had to be confronted not only at home but also in its bases of support in the developing nations emerging from colonialism. He slipped into Congo in 1965, in the midst of rebel uprisings against the American-supported government, following the 1961 CIA-approved assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo’s first democratically elected president.

On April 23, 1965, three months after Che met Nkrumah in Accra, (Ghana) this heroic warrior with three Cuban fighters, crossed Lake Tanganyika in two small boats as they left Kigoma, Tanzania for Congolese soil, where they fought alongside Lumumba’s guerrilla fighters. About 130 Cuban fighters used this same route in the following weeks as they joined what became known as Che’s Column One. These fighters arrived in Tanzania and crossed the Lake with the full support of President Nyerere. – The Rising Continent

By sending a vanguard of black fighters to pass on to their Congolese brothers guerrilla tactics that had proved successful in Cuba, Che and Cuban leader Fidel Castro undertook a daring experiment in the internationalization of the Communist revolution.

Che in the Congo

Che in the Congo

Before heading to the Congo, Che had been to Ghana, Algeria, Egypt, Guinea and Benin:

Ernesto Che Guevara visited Ghana in the third week of January 1965… El Che met with Nkrumah on the second day of his visit… They held discussions on the situation in Cuba, Latin America and in Africa most especially in the former Belgian colony of Congo… During his week-long stay, el Che met with the press, Liberation Movements in Accra, party leaders, unionists, youth movements and women’s movements… – The Rising Continent

Che was murdered on October 9, 1967 on the orders of Bolivian authorities, in collusion with the CIA. After his death, Cuba remained a friend to Africa’s newly independent nations who aligned themselves with the communist state that opposed their former colonial oppressors. Today, Cuba continues to send doctors, teachers and soldiers to African countries, as demonstrated during last year’s Ebola outbreak.

Nearly 50 years after his death, Che’s image remains a symbol of resistance, determination, and hope for a better world in the eyes of many in Africa and across the globe.

Rest in Power.

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Some memorable quotes by Che:

“The true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.”

“If you tremble with indignation at every injustice then you are a comrade of mine.”

“Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world.”

“We cannot be sure of having something to live for unless we are willing to die for it.”

“I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”

Maya Angelou in Africa

May 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

Maya Angelou, the American activist, author, poet, dancer, actress, and singer died a year ago today. Angelou had a deep connection to Africa. In 1961, she helped organize a protest at the United Nations over the assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, which had been approved by the CIA.

Shortly after, she moved to Cairo, Egypt, and served as the editor of the Arab Observer. The country was at the time a center of anti-colonial movements opposed to imperialism and Zionism. During her time in Cairo, she met Nelson Mandela while he was on his trip in Africa in 1962, to garner support for the armed struggle and to undergo military training.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014)

She then moved to the newly independent state of Ghana and became one of hundreds of expatriates known as the “Afro-American community”. She worked as a teacher in the School of Music and Drama at the University of Ghana. She also served as a feature editor of the African Review, and wrote articles for Ghanaian Times.

Angelou met with Malcolm X when he visited Ghana in 1964. Ghana was at the time the citadel of the Pan-African and socialist movements taking place in Africa and throughout the Diaspora. The first chapter of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, founded by Malcolm X in 1964, was formed in Ghana among the expatriate community.

Upon her return to the United States, Angelou was encouraged to put her life experiences down on paper. In 1970 she published “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which gained international notoriety.

Dr. Maya Angelou’s contributions to literature and social movements remain an inspiration to many in Africa and across the globe.

Rest in Power.

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Africa

By Maya Angelou

Thus she had lain
sugarcane sweet
deserts her hair
golder her feet
mountains her breasts
two Niles her tears.
Thus she has lain
Black through the years.

Over the white seas
rime white and cold
brigands ungentled
icicle bold
took her young daughters
sold her strong sons
churched her with Jesus
bled her with guns.
Thus she has lain.

Now she is rising
remember her pain
remember the losses
her screams loud and vain
remember her riches
her history slain
now she is striding
although she had lain.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Malcolm X

February 24, 2015 § 1 Comment

Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 -  February 21, 1965)

Malcolm X (May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965)

Malcolm X was murdered 50 years ago. In remembrance, here’s an excerpt from a piece that captures his legacy well, while elaborating on Malcolm’s connection to Africa:

Soon after, Malcolm was to take the first of two trips to Africa. These trips had an important impact on his ideas. He met with several important African heads of state — including Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Gamal Abdul Nasser of Egypt — and was influenced by the ideas of “third worldism.” In general terms, this was the view that the world was dominated by two superpowers — the United States and the Soviet Union — and that the developing countries of the world represented an independent alternative.

When Malcolm X returned to New York, he announced the formation of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), modeled after the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which brought together the different African heads of state. The OAAU was a black nationalist organization that sought to build community organizations, schools, black enterprises, and voter registration campaigns to ensure community control of black politicians.

After his visit to Africa, Malcolm began to argue that the black struggle in the United States was part of an international struggle, one that he connected to the struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

He also began to argue in favor of socialism. Referring to the African states, he pointed out, “All of the countries that are emerging today from under the shackles of colonialism are turning towards socialism.”

He no longer defined the struggle for black liberation as a racial conflict. “We are living in an era of revolution, and the revolt of the American Negro is part of the rebellion against the oppression and colonialism which has characterized this era,” he said. “It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of black against white, or as purely an American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiters.”

Malcolm no longer believed all whites were the enemy, but he maintained the need for separate all-black organization: “Whites can help us, but they can’t join us. There can be no black-white unity until there is first some black unity. There can be no workers solidarity until there is first some racial solidarity. We cannot think of uniting with others, until we have first united ourselves.”

Read more on “The Legacy of Malcolm X” by Ahmed Shawki here.

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