The Democratic Republic of Congo, the DRC, is one of the mineral richest countries in the world, yet its people are among the poorest and the most suffering people in the world. Corruption, wars, the pillage of natural resources by super powers and neighboring countries, human right violation, maladministration, and weak if not non-existing public institutions define this great country at the heart of our motherland, Africa. Its situation summarised the political and socio-economic outlook of our beloved continent.
Today the 30th of June 2022 marked the 62nd celebration of its independence that was proclaimed on the 30th of June 1960 in Brussel in front of the colonialist, Belgium King. On that occasion, the Congolese independence leader and the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the DRC delivered an impassioned speech against the Belgian colonization of his country. The speech became widely applauded in Africa. The speech was considered to be a provocation to the white race in general and Belgium in particular. The Belgians’ vision of an independent DRC did not resemble in any way to Lumumba’s, a patriotic and Pan-Africanist vision. The pro-African and Congolese speech sparked the downfall of this prominent son of mother Africa. Among other things, Patrice Emery Lumumba said:
Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood. It was filled with tears, fire and blood. We are deeply proud of our struggle because it was just and noble and indispensable in putting an end to the humiliating bondage forced upon us.
Whenever the DRC celebrate its independence, different contradicting opinions normally surface. There are those Congolese and Africans who will argue that there is no need to celebrate the Independence Day of a country where the majority of the people are suffering despite the abundance of mineral resources. This view seems to ignore or perhaps hide a greater misunderstanding of the African road to freedom that was defined by great prominent sons and daughters of our continent. This discussion does not attempt to silence those who subscribed to the view that Africans in general and Congolese in particular must not celebrate their independence anniversaries. However, it tries to present a counterargument by deploying Frantz Fanon’s teaching. It, therefore, suggests that Africans in general and Congolese in particular must not be ashamed of celebrating their Independence Day anniversaries because the political freedom Africans are enjoying today is a fulfilment of a generational mission.
The reference to Fanon is explained by his accurate description of post-colonial Africa. Comrade Frantz Omar Fanon was a psychiatrist, political philosopher, Marxist humanist, and an esteemed member of the National Executive Committee of the Algerian National Liberation Front, the ANLF. An organic intellectual is considered to be an intellectual who sided with the oppressed and never subscribed himself to the traditional intelligentsia that regards itself as a class apart from the rest of society. As a people’s soldier, he sided with the oppressed during the war of Algeria’s independence from France. In his prominent “
Les Damnés de la Terre”, The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon argues, “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.”
Referring to Fanon’s argument, and going to the core argument of this discussion. As far as the DRC in particular and Africa is concerned, one has to ask a question, what was Patrice Lumumba’s generation? The answer is more than simple, Lumumba’s generation was the freedom fighter generation, Julius Nyerere, Keneth Kaunda, Kwame Nkrumah, Samora Machel, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, Oliver Thambo, Kwame Nkrumah… who fought four Africans freedom, and the eradication of colonialism/apartheid.
The above generation which can be considered to be the first generation of selfless Africans had a generational mission, political freedom and the eradication of colonialism/apartheid in the entire continent first. The member of this generation agreed that after this mission has been fulfilled the next step is economic freedom in our lifetime. Did this first generation fulfil or betray its generational mission? Using Fanon’s words, it did not betray, rather it did fulfil it. The evidence is this generation did eradicate colonialism/apartheid and delivered political freedom to the entire continent. Thus, celebrating independence day’s anniversaries is to celebrate the achievement of the first generation, Uhuru/freedom.
The main reason behind the suffering of the majority of Africans in general and Congolese is next generations have failed to define their generational missions, and those who have managed to define them have cowardly betrayed them. For instance, the next generation after the first generation failed to understand that political freedom was the first step toward economic freedom, hence the second generation’s mission was economic freedom in our lifetime. This second generation did not fulfil its mission, it chose to betray it, by accepting to be the representative, defenders and protectors of former colonial masters’ interest in our continent. Fanon described this generation properly in his book “Peau Noire, Masque Blanche” Black Skin, White Mask.
What makes it complex is some of these dinosaurs of the second generation, are still the dominant figure in the contemporary African political and economic spaces, presidents, ministers, and governors…. They fight among themselves; they use public institutions for their own economic and political gain. They have co-opted some members of the next generations and turned some of them into “Political Vuvuzela” and political the weapon of destroying each. They have to make sure that their children, family members and friends are their legitimate successors and the ones who seat at the upper echelon of public bureaucracy where decisions are made. They are the biggest monster than the colonisers!
This discussion, becomes worse, more than complex when one looks at generations after the second, they have zero mission, and only a few in the periphery are attempting to develop a generational mission. Despite them being the symbol of hope to the entire continent, the majority of the 1970s and 1980s have grown up to become the defender and duplicates of the second generation. Some of them are the children of the idiocratic members of the second generation, and others are the educated idiots who have nothing to offer.
Few of them who could open the window of opportunities for others are corrupt, ideologically empty, looters of public resources, political prostitutes and defenders of everything that makes their stomachs smile. They are lifestyle is funded by public resources, loot from the political dinosaur and dividends after sucking the former oppressors’ private parts. The sad part of this generation is represented by this other group within the 1970s and 1980s, and to some extent 1990s, they work hard for everyone, and they carry everyone in their families. They are popularly called “Black Tax Payers,” they are expected to be financial Tarzan. Hence, they have no time to think about generational missions. In this same category, you will find the condemned into poverty and crime, they are unemployed and unemployable, and some of them live in prisons, if not, they are just social zombies.
The 2000s are a story for another day perhaps one can writes an entire PhD thesis about them.
Let’s celebrate the political achievement of the first generation, without forgetting Frantz Fanon’s words “Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.” As things look our mission is still the mission of the second generation, “economic freedom.” Once economic freedom is achieved no one will ask the question should we celebrate our independency anniversary days?
Viva Patrice Lumumba!
Feruzi Ngwamba is the Coordinator of Access Program College of Humanities at the University of KwaZulu Natal. He is the English Editor of Kivu-Avenir.