In Kinshasa, the late Lumumba is still alive

Patrice Lumumba. You’ve probably heard of him. He was a Congolese pan-Africanist and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s first democratically elected leader after the country became independent from Belgium in 1960. But he only served as prime minister for about three months before he was assassinated. His corpse was dug up from the earth, chopped up and dissolved in acid.

International and local players had a hand in the bloody murder, which is considered one of the most important political murders in the 20th century.

to date, Lumumba is a celebrated national icon, a martyr for the liberation movement that swept across the Africa and Asia in the 1940’s and ’60s.

I reported in Kinshasa, the DRC capital for some days as an IWMF fellow in August. It was my first trip to the DRC and I was curious to feel the impact of Lumumba’s legacy.

It’s everywhere.

I saw his chiseled, square face printed on t-shirts. Current politicians bring up his name during their speeches. A major avenue in the city is named after him.

As someone who is keenly interested in Africa’s current affairs and is interested in seeing the countries of this continent develop with dignity and a sense of identity, Lumumba was and is someone I’ve paid attention to.

He strongly believed in the need for Congo to break away from Belgium’s paternalistic influence. His views denouncing the excesses of capitalism and injustice were deemed controversial by many, but for others he is a hero.

“The day will come when history will speak. But it will not be the history which will be taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations…Africa will write its own history and in both north and south it will be a history of glory and dignity.”  Words from a letter that Lumumba wrote to his wife from Thysville Prison



— Chika Oduah, 2018 Democratic Republic of Congo fellow