It is January 17th, 2021. Today marks exactly 60 years since the assassination of Patrice Lumumba the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
I have taken a keen interest in reading about Patrice Lumumba’s story and legacy, which extends far beyond his short-lived political career. Expectedly, many of the sources present varied accounts of his life, service, influence, popularity, and ultimately, his death. His legacy is blatantly clear, a damning reminder of what he stood for and perhaps, a ‘what could have been.’ Lumumba’s assassination threw Congo into further exploitation, conflict, and a crisis whose effects went far beyond the Great Lakes region. His legacy is of brave servant leadership, independence, and empathy.
I was particularly drawn to his speech on the 30th of June, 1960; which critics attribute to the beginning of his political troubles. A brave, bold, and endearing condemnation of the colonial atrocities, but more importantly, a rallying call on the people of Congo to be steadfast in their resolve, unified in their efforts to build a strong, independent, and developed country for all. His vision is clear – the need to be united in contributing to the social, political, and economic development of the country. A reminder that whilst we cannot forget the dark past, this should form the pillar for the building blocks of ‘peace, prosperity, and greatness.’ This message rings true today, at a time when we face continued plight, and division of many countries, including Congo. It is a challenge on the need for resolute, empathetic, and strong leadership, and perhaps a stronger call on us all to be united in not only holding our leaders accountable to the leadership we deserve but that every brick in building our nations counts.
So today, we are reminded of his legacy. A legacy highlighted by subsequent revolutionaries, street names, songs, speeches, movies, and more. But more importantly, a reminder – that the core of Patrice Lumumba’s brave fight, the values, principles, and ambitions he so boldly proclaimed, are still at large. A sounding call to many people on the continent and a reminder to leaders to uphold the people’s interests, independence of the state, empathy, and a spirit of servant leadership.