Given the response of the Obama administration and other western governments to the incumbent regime’s manipulation of the Congo’s electoral process, it seems clear that the West still does not support democratic rule in the most resource-endowed nation of Africa. In a mid-February commentary for the “African Futures” blog, Joshua Marks reports that the West’s position on the flawed election remains “dangerously in favor of the status quo of the last five years”. Marks concludes that the failure of current aid for Congo is thereby assured: “these signs of policy inertia could prove disastrous, since Western policies have so far done little to strengthen Congo’s governance, a key goal of many bilateral programs”.
Official acceptance of yet another rigged election in Congo by the U.S., Belgium and the other western powers raises the question of whether the West is yet ready to accept democracy (“rule of the people”) in Congo. After fifty plus years of independent nation status, the reverse question of whether the Congolese people are ready for democratic rule still determines the West’s policies toward Congo. With the dismal record of Belgian colonial authorities in the field of higher education as the background, that question was repeated again and again in western media in the days leading up to the first election of 1960.
Although the question with all its racist overtones may still underlie the anti-democratic postures
and policies vis a vis Congo of the western powers, the 1960 voting results should provide decisive evidence that yes Congo was then and remains ready for self rule. In spite of the West’s attempts to silence and vilify him, Patrice Lumumba was the clear choice of the people in the Congo’s first national election. Lumumba’s eloquently expressed vision of a free and independent Congo remains the charter for social and political progress in the nation today.
Contrary to the charges that Lumumba’s brand of militant nationalism excluded whites from Congo, the public record of his speeches (see Lumumba Speaks , Jean Van Lierde editor) indicates that again and again the powerful orator envisioned cooperation of progressive whites in the development of Congo. The public record is also clear that the attempts to shove aside Lumumba after his election as Prime Minister were met again and again by mass support in nearly every corner of the nation. He was without question the leading spokesperson for the unity of a Congo free of foreign control. And it is important to note that Congolese politicians of every ideology and stripe extol his legacy today.
One aspect of this legacy comes to the fore in the aftermath of the conflicts in eastern Congo now widely referred to as “Africa’s world war”. Patrice Lumumba’s vision of an independent Congo free of foreign control was often related to his vision of a united Africa. True independence for the formerly colonized nation states of Africa depended, in Lumumba’s view, on the creation of a continent wide body strong enough to protect and advance the interests of the diverse peoples of the continent. With the hindsight of more than fifty years of seemingly fruitless effort to establish a nation free of foreign control in the former Belgian colony, Lumumba’s prescient vision may represent the only way to ensure that the Congolese people truly benefit from the vast resources of their homeland.
Participation in the plunder of Congo’s resources by Uganda, Rwanda and other African nations betrays Lumumba’s vision, but it may well be that the day will come when Africa sees that its peace and progress depends on a strong, united and peaceful nation at the continent’s heart. While the words Lumumba wrote to his wife just before his death may now seem more ironically tragic than prophetic, there can be little doubt that they will be extolled and recited by those who finally take part in Congo’s liberation,
“We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and the free and liberated people in every corner of the globe will ever remain at the side of the millions of Congolese who will not abandon the struggle until the day when there will be no more colonizers and no more of their mercenaries in the country. I want my children to be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that their country expects them, as it expects every Congolese, to fulfill the sacred task of rebuilding our independence, our sovereignty; for without justice there is no dignity and without independence there are no free men.”