Remembering Africa’s founding fathers

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Patrice Lumumba
ON January 17 1961 between 9.40 pm and 9.43pm, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and his two ministers, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, after hours of torture were lined up against a tree and shot one at a time by the Belgians.
A day later, they were dug up and their bodies were taken to a province close to the Zambian border.
On January 21 two Belgian agents later cut up Lumumba’s body with a hacksaw and dissolved it in concentrated sulphuric acid.
The participating Belgian Police Commissioner Gerard Soete and his brother kept some teeth and fragments of his skull and bullets as souvenirs.
Patrice Lumumba (1925 – 1961) was a threat to the imperialistic intention of the Belgians and allies.
Lumumba wanted the Congolese to control their own resources including those owned by the Belgians.
At the height of the Cold War, Congo was important to Western interests because of its vast mineral resources and Lumumba’s pan-African stance would thwart their plans.
In his last letter to his wife, Lumumba wrote, “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.”
Despite such inhumane brutality none of the conspirators and the murderers have been questioned.
This reinforces the argument presented by the founders of the Pan-African Movement in Addis Ababa in 1963 where the 34 continental leaders and their representatives conceded in the ‘none, but ourselves’ philosophy.
It was a realisation that African people despite different religions and ethnicity share “not merely a common history, but a common destiny”.
This was a realisation that Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser came to in his rule which saw him make his contribution at the grassroots of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) formation.
In 1964 the OAU summit was held in Egypt.
Gamal Abdel Nasser
Gamal Adbel Nasser (1918 – 1970) was loved by many throughout Africa.
In 1955 Nasser stated, “We cannot look stupidly at a map of the world, not realising our place therein and the role determined to us by that place.”
“It is not in vain that our countries lie to the northeast of Africa, a position from which it gives upon the ‘dark continent’ wherein rages today the most violent struggle between white colonisers and black natives for the possession of its inexhaustible resources.”
After many unsuccessful attempts on his life, Nasser finally succumbed to death after a heart attack.
During his funeral, there was a 10-kilometre procession where seven million people wept.
One famous remark during the procession was, “The world will never again see five million people crying together.”
Kenneth Kaunda
Among the tenets of the OAU Summit in 1963, there was a consensus that no country was free until all African countries were free from colonial powers.
This explains why Kenneth Kaunda wrote numerous letters to the then South African Prime Minister Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd, during his first term as President of Zambia, to have ANC leaders like Nelson Mandela released from prison.
‘KK’ as Kaunda is affectionately known was one of the earliest agitators of African independence which saw his country suffer from vicious attacks by both the Rhodesian and Apartheid forces as Lusaka was home to 15 African freedom movements, including ZANU and ZAPU from the then Rhodesia.
“If we don’t handle the question of future unity properly we could lose something of importance,” the two time chairman of the OAU said in an interview in October 2014.
Kaunda who turns 91 this year remains the only pan-African member to see his country turn 50 years of independence.
Jomo Kenyatta
Kamau Wa Ngengi popularly known as Jomo Kenyatta was another of Africa’s greats.
As a recipient of missionary education typical of many leaders of his time, Kenyatta is most famously known for his statement, “When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible.
“They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed.
“When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Kenyatta went on to agitate for the independence of his country and most importantly for the land distribution which was skewed in favour of the white settlers.
Kenyatta’s letter published in The Times in March 1930 set out five points:
l The security of land tenure and the demand for land taken by European settlers to be returned.
l Improved educational opportunities for Black Africans.
l The repeal of Hut and poll taxes.
l Representation for Black Africans in the Legislative Council.
l Freedom to pursue traditional customs.
It would take time for Kenyatta to achieve all these, but he succeeded in gaining the right to develop independent educational institutions for Black Africans this was not before he was imprisoned for 9 years.
There was much sacrifice and bloodshed for Africa to get to where we are.
The mandate for the current generation is to finish what the founding fathers started, that is total emancipation from colonial powers.

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