[Fwd: [BRC-NEWS] The Congo at 40; Lumumba at 75]

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Tue Aug 1 10:29:14 MDT 2000

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] The Congo at 40; Lumumba at 75
Date: Tue, 01 Aug 2000 03:12:17 -0400
From: Elombe Brath <ElombePLC at aol.com>
To: brc-news at lists.tao.ca

July 24, 2000

Gone But Not Forgotten

By Elombe Brath <ElombePLC at aol.com>

On Thursday, July 19th, Julienne Amato was laid to rest in
Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC), during a ceremony which was attended by members of
her family and others who appreciated her role in Congolese
history and contributions and sacrifices she made during her
life. I don't know if her significance was mentioned in the
media. It would not surprise me if it wasn't; in fact, it
would have surprised me if it had been. And perhaps it
really wasn't anybody's fault. After all, who was
Julienne Amato anyway?

About a week before her funeral, a small notice appeared
on Thursday, July 13th via an international posting on
the internet which simply stated, "Mother of Congolese
nationalist hero Lumumba dies." This announcement of the
death of Julienne Amato, established her as the mother of
Patrice Lumumba, a hero for all seasons, as well as all
reasons, for those of us concerned with Africa's national
liberation struggles.

Although I was appreciative of the fact that the DCR state
radio station had let the world know of her passing, I also
felt saddened that other media hadn't made any mention of
it. It didn't really seem a fitting epitaph for a woman who
delivered to Africa in general and the Congo in particular
its most preeminent martyr for African independence, the
Honorable Patrice Lumumba.

I called Julienne Amato's granddaughter in the Congo,
Julienne Lumumba, the daughter of Patrice Lumumba (whom he
named in honor of his mother), for further details. Julienne
Lumumba, the Minister of Arts and Culture of the DRC,
informed me that her grandmother had indeed died at the
Ngaliema clinic in Kinshasa, and that funeral arrangements
were then being prepared for this past Thursday.

Although no one knew the exact date of her birth, it
was generally agreed that she was approaching her 100th
birthday. Yet the fact that she was so little known, is
very telling. It should remind us of the importance of
acknowledging dates, events and personalities whose lives
have somehow had some relevance and significance to the
national liberation struggle of Africa and its people.

This funeral event in the Congo once again reminded me of
the importance of our commemorating historical occurrences
that have impacted on our people's experiences. Moreover, it
came at a time when many of our people once again defied the
glorification of the declaration of independence of the
United States without recalling the historic admonition
issued by Frederick Douglass over 148 years ago when he
questioned whether Black people in the U.S. should
actually celebrate the 4th of July.

The best dramatic demonstration of this and its most graphic
reminder recently occurred on Like It Is when actor Arthur
Burghardt's brilliant dramatic portrayal of the life of
the great 19th century abolitionist, which was originally
produced by Gil Noble for a WABC-TV special for the American
bicentennial 24 years ago, was rebroadcasted on Sunday,
July 9th.

To say the least, Douglass had some serious contradictions
regarding the treatment of enslaved Africans in the U.S. He
took exception to the contradictions that he felt needed to
be taken into account which involved the treatment of our
forbearers by the European settler colonists and slave-
masters. Those elements Douglass pointed out had made a
mockery of this country's posturing as the epitome of
freedom and democracy for all who reside within its

Without going into the historic address by Douglass on July
3, 1852 in Rochester, New York, let us instead return to the
passing of Julienne Amato and the progeny she gave birth to
75 years ago. Usually around this period each year I usually
try to find time to turn my attention to a more contemporary
and internationally renown symbolic example for us to
consider as an illustration of the struggle of Africans to
achieve democracy other than that which exists in the U.S.

The example that I am thinking about also gives even more
credence to the contradiction of the U.S. being offered as
a paradigm of democracy. The U.S., its historical record
will document, is not a land of liberty and justice for
all to pursue happiness. It is also not a nation which
other developing nations should be inspired to emulate,
particularly without careful scrutiny. While we are
continuously invited to mark July the 4th tradition as
a day to celebrate our American citizenry with cookouts,
become mesmerized by fantastic fireworks shows reminding
us of "bombs bursting in air", contribute to our notorious
reputation as conspicuous consumers chasing holiday sales,
shouldn't we pause and take account of our past practices
as we find ourselves in the second half of the first year
of the 21st century?

Shouldn't we at least wonder why so many of our people
still haven't begun raise the questions that Douglass raised
nearly a century and a half earlier? How long are we going
to continue to pontificate about "Our Country `Tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty, Of Thee I Sing", refusing to place
those glorious words in the context of what was happening
to our people at the time they were first sung. Shouldn't
we connect that period to what is happening to their
descendants today? And shouldn't those seen as less
fortunate than the powers-that-be also represent our fellow
denizens, some who are recent immigrants who came to the
U.S. because they had been impoverished by U.S.-led western
imperialism in Africa itself?

It would be helpful to our psyche if we would remember
that while we were led to believe there was nothing of equal
importance that we should concern ourselves with, that there
are innumerable historical events and people of character
that we need to commemorate in order to better understand
the hypocrisy that the U.S. is founded upon. Even more
important is the question of why and how this sordid
arrangement has been allowed to continue until this day.

The dates of June 30th and July 2nd, 2000, passed pretty
much uneventful over two weeks ago in this country but it
should not be forgotten by us that Africans in the U.S.
have had experiences drastically different than the European
ruling class who control the nation. In this regard there
are some days and people we should remember and celebrate
whether no one else feels so obligated. June 30th and July
2nd are two of these dates, particularly since in this case
of their proximity and importance to each other.

June 30, 2000 represented the 40th anniversary of the
independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
shedding its more popularly known humiliating colonial image
as the Belgian Congo. That dramatic change was precipitated
by the leader of the Congolese National Movement, Patrice
Lumumba, who was born July 2, 1925, the son of Julienne
Amato and Francois Tolenga, and was assassinated January
17, 1961, a victim of U.S. imperialism, its western
allies and African lackeys.

The 40th anniversary of the independence of the Congo and
the 75th anniversary of Lumumba's birth are of tremendous
importance to Africans all over the world, both from an
historical point of view as well as to better appreciate
what is going on today in the same country and is
resonating throughout the whole African continent.

We must realize that the history of the Congo, its
independence and the life of Patrice Lumumba are all
inextricably intertwined. The Congo as a country has been
one of the most maligned territories in Africa and has been
a symbol of portraying the African continent as a place of
nothing but jungles inhabited by wild animals and even more
wilder people (i.e. so- called "savages"), with no history
and no resources of any value. To early Europeans it was
merely Terra incognita; ibi sunt leones, meaning "unknown
lands; full of lions." But in fact, the Congo was - and
still represents - just the opposite.

It is this contradiction about the Congo which is the
reason that this still embattled territory, probably the
most blessed and naturally endowed country in the world,
has found itself cursed as a land which foreigners have
historically preyed upon. For the last 500 years the Congo
has fought against the destruction and impoverishment of its
people. Untold numbers had been kidnapped into slavery by
foreign marauders invading from both the west and the east.

The Congo has also had its natural resources stolen and
carried off to the same quarters which stole its people.
Thus the Congo has enriched western corporate interests
to the point of being both the base and the basis of their
meteoritic rise to become multibillion dollar transnational
enterprises. The wealth of European imperialism is seeped
in the blood of African laborers.

For ages Afrophobic propaganda was promoted through
scurrilous books, sensationalist media and tragicomical
movies, as well as just plain ignorance designed to present
a negative virtual reality of Africa as a whole. But this
has been especially scandalous in regards to the Congo.
There is probably no part of Africa that has been singularly
slandered more than the Congo - the so-called "Heart of
the Dark Continent." Indeed, the Congo has served as the
backdrop for more stereotypical demeaning films on Africa
than any other region I can think of.

In cinema, Africa was usually the place where a tryst
between an adventure seeking white woman in heat was seduced
by a macho white settler/hunter while her cuckolded white
husband is kicked to the curb (or, in this case, the bush.)
The so-called "Dark Continent" also was featured in movies
where our people residing in the diaspora had their phobias
tested on the screen by dangerous snakes slithering, giant
spiders crawling, stampeding elephants, lions and leopards
leaping, and crocodiles and hippos furiously swimming
towards you. Most often there would be a mandrill-like
face-painted African peering out of the forest, waiting
to sneak up on the white hero or heroine, poised with a
poison blowgun or bow and arrow pulled tauntingly back
and ready to fire.

Black audiences were programmed to identify with and root
for the white actors and actresses on screen. In a sense,
this latter point might have been the most dangerous
reaction that Black moviegoers fell victim to: Self-hatred,
lack of self-esteem and a contempt for Africa and things
African. Including, most importantly, themselves.

We must remember that while the Nile is a historic river in
Africa, denial is an ahistorical current running through our
heads. It is the denial of Africa that caused Africans in
the diaspora their most fundamental problem: Alienation
from the very source of their being.

It was the Congo River which was most often used to
dramatize such horrific intimidation which turned people
off. This historic water highway that traversed Africa's
most geostrategic country was always the dreaded well out
of which sprung frightening surprises that would have
Black people in the west cowering in their seats in many a
theatre. And this was in spite of the fact that all of the
aforementioned contradictions appeared before a gorgeous
panorama of continental beauty.

All of this served to distort the reality of some
fascinating historical epoch and/or the life of a
little-known but nevertheless bold, impressive figure
in African history that could have inspired our people,
particularly our youth, to strive to achieve similar
great achievements today.

Having said this, we need to be reminded that the Congo
(Kongo) had dynasties of long endurance before the European
came upon their existence in the 16th century. Chancellor
Williams illustrated this in his classic work The Destruction
of Black Civilization. Williams reminded us that the Congo
had an over 300 year old dynasty before the Europeans (e.g.
the Portuguese, in 1482 and much later the Belgians in 1885)
discovered the realm of the great Mani-Kongo.

Carlos Cooks pointed out another interesting point during
the 1940s. It was that the Mani-Kongo, a title applied to
several great African kings and nation builders, had their
images later used in a both literally and figuratively
speaking beastly, dehumanizing cinematic and mystifying
reconstruct in a series of Congo-oriented gorilla pictures:
"King Kong", followed by "Son of Kong", "White Pongo",
"Mighty Joe Young", etc.]

The conversion of King Nzinga a Nkuwa to Christianity
(meaning Roman Catholicism at the time) by the Portuguese,
led to the betrayal of the African king's naive trust and
the subsequent introduction of the European Slave Trade and
colonization of Africans during the 16th century. Later
protests by King Nzinga Mbemba (who had been baptized
Affonso I) appealing to Portugal's "Brother King" fell
on deaf ears and came to no avail.

Within the next century the damage had been done. Slavery
undermined the great Kongo kingdom, tearing at its seams.
The Portuguese then introduced divide and rule tactics,
instigating rebellions by local chiefs and governors,
leading to secessionist activities further tearing the
former great nation asunder. In 1665 the Portuguese invaded
the imploding state, defeating the remnants of the Kongo's
army and assassinated the Kongolese monarch. Within less
that 50 years, by 1710, the Kongo was fragmented into
different provinces that continued to be vulnerable.

The process that eventually brought the Kongo Kingdom to its
knees from succumbing to the machinations of early European
imperialism would be repeated, in effect, 250 years later at
its independence. But, ironically, the colonization process
by its most well known colonizer Belgium, that placed the
Congo under formal colonial status, in a sense, more or
less, restored its territorial integrity to what makes
it the third largest country in Africa and easily its
potentially wealthiest and most geostrategic.

It is this aspect of the Congo's geostrategic location
in Africa, its having contiguous borders with nine other
neighboring African states, and awesome range of natural
resources that the country is endowed with (the colonizers
said that the Congo had so much wealth that it was a
"geological scandal." The country has enough potential water
power to electrify the whole continent, etc. Unfortunately,
these attributes have caused many aggressors spurred on by
avaricious greed to be drawn to the country to enrich
themselves at the expense of the Congolese people.

Thus, the Berlin Conference of 1884-85, which introduced
King Leopold II's 23 year long brutal rule, Belgian
colonialism, World War II, and a national liberation
struggle for independence in response. But the Congo had its
country's independence usurped, its leader Patrice Lumumba
and members of his cadre assassinated to satisfy Cold War
objectives. This objective led to 37 year's of Mobutu
plundering the country's wealth, leading to the country's
second liberation as Laurent Kabils sought to restore the
Lumumbist agenda, and the U.S. responding with a counter-
revolutionary war initiated and maintained by Uganda,
Rwanda and Burundi, which still continues as you read.

Just short of 15 years in the 19th century, Julienne Amato
lived through most of these trials and tribulations that
occurred in her country. She saw the Congo win and then lose
its independence. She saw her son sacrificed on the western
imperialist altar of monopoly capitalism and its puppets.
And she saw the Congolese people struggle to regain their
independence. At 99 years of age, she had to finally
surrender her eyewitness account of some of the most
important historical periods of the last two centuries.

Given our own experiences of the African struggle in the
U.S., which Douglass eloquently summed up 148 years ago
when he exposed the hypocritical bombast that is used to woo
scores of developing nations in Africa, Asia, the Americas
and elsewhere that the American "Dream" is the only vision
worth fighting for, perhaps we need to remember the words of
Julienne Amato's illustrious son, the national hero of the
Congo and African people throughout the world. Lumumba said,
in effect, that:

"There are legends among the tribes that some of our people
were taken away a long time ago. And one day they will
return, and when they do they will return as supermen...
Africa will one day write its own history and it will not be
a history written in Washington, Paris, Brussels, London or
their puppets."

As we watch the ongoing struggles in Africa, whether in the
Congo or Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Nigeria,
Sudan or anywhere else in Africa, including the north, east,
west, south or central of the continent, we need to remember
that our common enemies know that those struggled are
inextricably interwined with those us in the, U.S., the
Caribbean and the rest of North, Central and South America.
We need to seriously think about this. And we need to remind
all of our political leaders, from the City Council to the
State Assembly, to the mayors of our cities and governors in
state houses and the White House and the Congress, if they
are not interested in our international concerns, then we
are not going to be concerned about putting - or keeping -
them in office, whether they are Democrat or Republican or
so-called Third Party.

With all of the myriad of problems facing Africa, most of
which emanate from within the U.S., if we truly have any
decency and love and respect for ourselves or the heroism of
our forbearers in the Pan-African pantheon, those of us in
the United States of America need to position ourselves in
order that we can own up to our responsibilities as being
the first permanent African observer mission in the U.S.
And then act accordingly.

Copyright (c) 2000 Elombe Brath. All Rights Reserved.

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