University of North Carolina Lumumba Vision for Congo Essay Paper Patrice Lumumba’s vision for a unified, independent Congo was doomed from the beginning. Support or refute this statement with examples from the film Lumumba and class materials. Essays must be five pages in length; shorter papers will receive a penalty. Please avoid silly formatting tricks such as triple spacing, enormous margins, and half page headings; these maneuvers will also incur a penalty. Please use 12 font and 1 inch margins, and double space your paper. Employ correct spelling and grammar to avoid point deductions; a quick spell check can save you points! Avoid use of the first person, contractions, present tense verbs, passive voice and sentences ending with prepositions Clearly reference scenes and personalities from the film and any references you make from the assigned readings or other books Film is called LumumbaPlagiarism is strictly prohibited. Congo
Week 3 in syllabus (actually week 4, lecture 1)
September 10, 2019
What is Lumumba about?
• Through its portrayal of the career of Congo’s first prime minister,
Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), the film deals with several important
• It describes the structure of colonial societies, especially with respect to race,
the division of labor, and institutions.
• It shows how the political, economic, and social aspects of the colonial system
made it all but impossible for “liberated” colonies to become stable and
functional postcolonial, independent states.
• It highlights the issue of centralization, which proved to be Lumumba’s
undoing. Which indigenous groups in colonial societies find it attractive after
independence, and which groups view it as a threat?
• It questions the fate of anticolonial nationalism once the colonizers are gone.
Why did Congolese nationalism fail during Lumumba’s career?
Quick Congo chronology
• In one of history’s most epic land grabs, Belgian king Leopold II
claimed thousands of sq miles of territory to the north and south of
the Congo River in 1885, eventually calling it the “Congo Free State.”
• Congo became an enormous plantation operating under a ruthless
labor system. Quotas were enforced by a militia, the Force Publique.
Tens of thousands were killed, many more mutilated, and more than
200,000 Congolese died from disease.
• In response to international outrage (see Twain’s Leopold’s Soliloquy
or Conan Doyle’s Crime of the Congo), the Free State was replaced
with a formal colonial government in 1908.
Image from Leopold’s Soliloquy
Belgian Congolese society
• The Belgians spread Christianity through missionary schools, but it
was embraced by most Congolese in syncretistic forms, such as
Kimbanguism (which became an anticolonial movement).
• As in other African settler colonies, racial segregation was absolute.
• The category of “evolved” Congolese (évolué) is an extreme example
of this segregation, even by colonial standards: identity cards and
privileges given to “civilized” indigenous Congolese.
ADOLPHE-FÉLIX-SYLVESTRE EBOUÉ (18841944)
General characteristics of colonial society
apparent in the movie
• Rigidly compartmentalized on a racial basis. The indigenous population existed to
serve the needs of European settlers.
• The only infrastructure that was developed was that needed to maintain
European control (the army) and to pillage the colony’s resources efficiently
• Infrastructure that did not serve this purpose, but that might help the indigenous
population (education, health, technical or medical training), was neglected
• Military “pacification” entailed arming minority ethnic groups to suppress
majority ethnic groups. Much cheaper than importing European soldiers to do
the job. This policy made existing ethnic categories much more rigid.
• Garnering European level salaries on the colony’s dime, and living in racially
exclusive neighborhoods, the settler population enjoyed a standard of living
beyond the reach of most Europeans, let alone the indigenous population.
• Anticolonial nationalism is the application of nationalism to European
geographical categories (India, Congo, Algeria, etc.) as a basis for
resisting colonial rule.
• It was led by indigenous people with some access to colonial
education, and therefore the European ideas of nationalism and
equality of nations.
• It was remarkable for its ability to overcome the ethnic divisions
among colonized, indigenous people deliberately fostered by colonial
authorities (Muslim vs. Hindu in India, Hutu vs. Tutsi in Rwanda, Luba
vs. Lunda in Congo, etc.).
Challenges to post-colonial state-building
• Because the economy, institutions, and welfare of colonized peoples
were regulated exclusively for the benefit of Europeans, the
“granting” of independence to these colonies was accompanied,
usually, by colossal ethnic violence and economic collapse.
• Some Europeans, especially former settlers, took this as proof of the
barbarism and unpreparedness for independence of indigenous
• But in fact, colonial authorities had laid the groundwork for precisely
such an outcome, to make independence as unlikely, and painful, as
Katanga: Lumumba’s bain
• Katanga is home to much of the country’s mineral wealth.
• The Katangese elite, led by Moïse Tshombe (1919-1969), violently
opposed Lumumba’s plans to create a centralized state.
• Katangese politicians cooperated with the Belgians and Americans to
capture and kill Lumumba. Afterward, Tshombe briefly led an
independent Katangese state (1960-1963).
• What were Tshombe’s concerns? Could Lumumba have addressed
them more pragmatically, or not?
Congo at independence
Treating Lumumba as a source
• The film presents only one interpretation of Lumumba’s career, and
certainly a biased one.
• The idea of Lumumba as a Christ-like figure in the cause of
anticolonial nationalism enjoyed wide appeal around the world
during the Cold War, but is it accurate?
• Might Lumumba’s insistence on centralization (“federalism” as he
called it) have been inappropriate for post-Belgian Congo?
• What about his approach to the white settler population? To the
Purchase answer to see full