Jan 20, 2011

Remembering Lumumba

Adam Hochschild, author of "King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa" wrote an editorial in the New York Times about Patrice Lumumba on the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Lumumba has always fascinated me because he died so young, and when looking at his successors Mobuto Sese Seko and the Kabilas, one can’t help but wonder how things would have turned out in the former Zaire had he lived and ruled longer. Would we still be heralding him as a hero or would his subsequent actions have rendered him tyrannical like many of his peers from that era?

Well, we shall never know. He remains a hero and icon for many, and this op-ed by Hochschild is a fitting tribute. 

“Patrice Lumumba had only a few short months in office and we have no way of knowing what would have happened had he lived. Would he have stuck to his ideals or, like too many African independence leaders, abandoned them for the temptations of wealth and power? In any event, leading his nation to the full economic autonomy he dreamed of would have been an almost impossible task. The Western governments and corporations arrayed against him were too powerful, and the resources in his control too weak: at independence his new country had fewer than three dozen university graduates among a black population of more than 15 million, and only three of some 5,000 senior positions in the civil service were filled by Congolese.”


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