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Lumumba looms large over DRC - Belgium relations, 60 years on

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The DRC on Tuesday (July 30) commemorated its 60th independence anniversary. From Kinshasa its capital to Brussels, the figure of Patrice Lumumba dominates the tumultuous history of the central African nation and its relations with the former colonial power.

“Lumumba is a symbol of hope for us Congolese youth. He represents so much. He was a patriot who gave up his life for the development of the nation. He’s an example of patriotism for all of our generation, to devote our lives to the nation after we finish our studies,” a Congolese student said.

Lumumba, a leading member of the independence movement, entered the history books on June 30, 1960, the day that the Republic of Congo, as it then was, formally broke away from Belgian colonial rule.

In the presence of Belgium’s King Baudouin, Lumumba accused him of racist maltreatment and forcing “humiliating slavery” on the Congolese people.

“To be Lumumbist is to wage the battle for the Congo to be free to choose its economic partners. It’s not always the case.”

His fame spread beyond the DRC. Russia created a Lumumba University during the Cold War. Two years ago Belgium named a square in Brussels after him – pressured by Belgians who feel the country needs to face its colonial history.

“Belgium’s responsibility is not mentioned, but it makes sense because the Lumumba family filed a criminal complaint against twelve Belgians. And it has been under investigation for eight years now. That’s a long time, we hope it will come to a conclusion… but the work has started at least.”

Amid worldwide demonstrations led by the Black Lives Matter movement, various Belgian cities have removed monuments of King Leopold II. He ran the Belgian colony as a personal property, and stands accused of the death of ten million Congolese in abuses.

Ironically no official independence day celebrations have been planned in the DRC because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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