Patrice Lumumba

Horst Faas joined the A.P. in 1955 at the age of 22 and began his illustrious photojournalism career by covering the Congo crisis in 1960. There, he bribed Congolese soldiers with Polaroid snapshots to gain access to important events. The practice enabled him to be in the right place to take the last picture of Patrice Lumumba (above).

Patrice Lumumba who helped win Congo’s independence from Belgium in June 1960 was a passionate nationalist who failed to tame this volatile ‘state without a nation’ containing many different ethnic groups. His fiery and controversial independence day speech culminated with Nous ne sommes plus vos macaques! (We are no longer your monkeys!),* but Belgium continued to interfere. It backed a rebellion in the southern province of Katanga, and Lumumba sought Soviet aid to quell the rebellion. Within ten weeks, he was toppled by a military coup backed by the CIA.

He was put under house arrest, while a CIA officer was dispatched with a tube of poison toothpaste. Before his assassin arrived, Lumumba escaped from his house arrest, but rearrested from a plane in Elizabethville. He was beaten and humiliated in front of diplomats and journalists, and was on the truck that would inevitably carry him to his execution when the above picture was taken. It was Lumumba’s last photo. A month later, he was executed — put up against a tree and shot by a firing squad directed, so it seems, by Belgian army officers. His body was buried on the spot, later dug up, and dissolved in acid. The bones were ground up and scattered to the winds to make sure there was nothing left of him. The colonel who deposed Lumumba, Joseph Mobutu (later Mobutu Sese Seko) would rule the country despotically until 1997 and proved to be an utter embarrassment for the West, with his Mao suits, cult of personality and nepotism.

[* Congo’s independence ceremony was one of the most awkward episodes in modern diplomatic history. Belgian King Baudouin praised developments under colonialism, Belgium philanthropism in the Congo and the “genius” of Leopold II and glossed over atrocities committed during the Congo Free State. Patrice Lumumba’s rebuttal was vicious: “Slavery was imposed on us by force! We have known ironies and insults. We remember the blows that we had to submit to morning, noon and night because we were Negroes!” The King just sat there, deeply shocked and offended. Although Baudouin wanted to return to Brussels immediately, his ministers persuaded him to stay–a negotiation that delayed the official programme for an hour.]




27 thoughts on “Patrice Lumumba

  1. I have watched somewhere live footage of Lumumba being manhandled and don’t think Horst was the only press on the scene.

    Nevertheless, I had always wondered who took this photo and another where Lumumba’s face is held up to a camera by the back of his hair, and you can see him grimacing in pain.

    Strangely enough, no mention of Horst taking this photo in wikipedia.

    • Where did you find and see this live footage. I want to witness it myself but I have had no luck in finding that footage. Could you help me out?

  2. It is deeply moving to see this photograph of Patrice Lumumba, but it’s wrong (shocking, in fact) to label his rebuttal to King Beaudoin “vicious”. It was brutally honest. Slavery is vicious. Colonization is vicious.

    Some time after the movie Lumumba was released, Belgium finally admitted to its role in his assassination, and when King Leopold’s Ghost (a terrific book) was translated into Dutch and French, Belgians began to learn Lumumba’s version of history.

  3. I wouldn’t get too romantic regarding Lumumba… he picked sides in “his” struggle and like his successors would have become a tyrant under the tutelage of the Soviet Union.
    An interview with TASS, “The Soviet Union was the only Great Power whose stand conformed to our people’s will and desire. That is why the Soviet Union was the only Great Power which has all along been supporting the Congolese people’s struggle. I should like to convey the heartfelt gratitude of the entire Congolese people to the Soviet people and to Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchov personally for your country’s timely and great moral support to the young Republic of the Congo in its struggle against the imperialists and colonialists. I should also like to thank the Soviet Union for the assistance in food which it is extending to the Congo.”

    • well that’s not completely true, he did accept help from the russians, only after The UN. whom he invited to the country refused to help him, and in turn helped the sucessionist state Katanga, as well as the U.S.A. C IA JFK AND LYNDON JOHNSON. As far as him becoming a tyrant we’ll never know. But i doubt it could have been any worse than life under boudain and the belgiums. Or even King Leopold 2nd himself. And to be clear the Soviets did not really care about the congolese people they just hated the other european powers more.

  4. Not to blame the OBVIOUS ‘VICTIM’ HERE, but it is UNFORTUNATE he wss’nt knowledgable of Queen Nzingha and HER CHESS-LIKE DIPLOMACY (so much for Belgian ‘Mission Schools’ AND NO HIGHER EDUCATION provided to Congolese “Monkeys” i.e. the name ‘Natives’ were called).
    Or that he did’nt heed Nkrumah’s warnings (who was far from diplomatic himself!). They say “Hindsight is 20/20”
    But I PERSONALLY WONDER, did he try to ‘partner up’ with East Indian ‘Technicaal experts’? I KNOW he implored us Africamerican students, who despite Malcolm X’s best efforts to ‘School Us’, TURNED HIM AWAY. Thus, possibly in the end, IF HE TRIED ALL THESE
    OPTIONS and was unsuccessful, “THE DIE WAS CAST”, so to speak. He was then The Kongo’s ‘Second Othello’ (see Peter Forbath’s ‘The Congo River’ for reference)
    Our own ‘Misguided Che Guevara’, of sorts. In the words of a Grateful Dead song: “…Set up like a bowling pin, knocked down, it gets to wearing thin. THEY JUST WON’T LET YOU BE!” (empasis mine – WJT)

    Peace (Today The Congo, TOMORROW THE WORLD!),


  5. Even if we fail to revenge about his death our next generation ll do, these pink animals of west they must be exterminate for everything they have done to us.

  6. DUMU u are so correct. Thes Pink White Barbaric Perverted Psychopathic sex crazed drug crazed animals need to be exterminated till last man. Its not just a struggle of Blacks, but Asians, Arabs, Maoris, South Americans,Chinese. Let all combine and exterminate this White curse on the earth led by United Snakes of ameriKKKa

  7. I as an African, I feels completely sickened to read and watch the man whom every black youth wants to identify himself with in such kind of agony perpetuated by the Europeans, blood suckers the ambassadors of Lucifer, the Americans. Is that the kind of democracy they always talk a bout? Fellow Africans lets get serious and die with this fools, they hate us and should any of them insults you for being black use whatever weapon available or else shoot to kill and ask question later. It is not our intention as black people for Europeans to make us heroes alright.

  8. I visited the exhibition themed ‘Evoloving English’ at the British Library, London. At one of the listening posts, I came across an energetic track by EC Arunze on P Lumumba. It relates in song the ordeals that this great personality had to endure… a lovely medium to relate history. I tried getting this track on the Internet, but in vain.

    I wonder if any one had access to this great track. I would be happy to have my handds on it.

  9. It is sheer hipocrisy for a state like Belgium to pretend to be sorry for the atrocities committed against the Congo people. I would like more in depth revelations about the deep suffering undergone under the Belgians-we only get to know some scant details from the mainly Western press who most likely will be tempted to hide horrific details. But the truth must be told for all to see. The glamour you see in the West is the product of many years of exploitation of the African continent. BELGIUM MUST PAY REPARATIONS TO THE CONGO REPUBLIC FOR ITS MISDEEDS.

  10. An it still continues, the West always trying to choose our leaders. Gbagbo/Ouatarra is a case in point. There were other matyrs in Cameroon like Um Nyobe, Ernest oundie, Abel Kingue, Ndeh Ntumazah, Ossende Afana etc, all assasinated by the French. Genocide of the first order was carried out in Cameroon from 1948-1970. the French have kept this secret for a long time. Lumumba and all these Cameroonians were very good friends. Their struggle shall not go in vain. From Tunisia to Ivory Coast, power shall finally belong to the Africans.

  11. Hi -yes the Irish were also slave traders-well schooled in the business by our colonial masters.Yet, we Irish pride ourselves with the strong connection with Sir Roger Casement-an Englishman but Irish revolutionary who was one of the first to expose – as Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Heart of Darkness(Congo) put it,the Horror-the Horror- in his ‘Congo Report’.He suffered the same ultimate ‘ironies’ that Patrice did -betrayl,torture and execution. One thing for sure is that,had Lumumba’s morph of democracy in a new state,and had he had got the chance to deliver,it could not be any worse than what we have to- day.Martyrs like Casement and Lumumba -men with strong convictions are not easily forgotten so lets remember them as they were,bravehearted almost to a fault, to beacon us back to peace among all peoples and who have commonground with them in mind.

  12. The curious gesture by Belgium to account for its dark past should be tested for honesty. Else we will be forgiven for seeing this as another attempt to bag the lucrative mining concessions. The Congo still suffers instability as a result of wild and ravaging greed for the precious minerals. And for the African people can’t you see that betraying one of your own sons brings nothing in return but rue and ruin? What did you gain after giving up Lumumba to die (in effect killing him yourselves). I urge all the Congolese to unite behind the current president Kabila, put your minds together and banish the divisive elements (coached and financed by foreign forces)from your ranks.

    May God bless the Congo Republic.

  13. Rest in peace Patrice Lumumba, your name will live on when the perpetrators of your demise have long been forgotten: you were a most worthy human being, who deserved much better.

  14. Lumumba was a hero of the likes of Jinnah and Bhutto. A man who did not compromise on his convictions or on his vision, he paid the ultimate price for his principles. History will forever remember you, sir.

  15. Being pink / white / European, I also admire very much the life of Patrice Lumumba. One should not generalise, we are after all HUMAN beings, some of us are bad, others good, pink / white / brown / yellow / black / red – whatever. Look at most leaders in Africa today, do you think the majority of humans on earth respect them? I doubt it. It’s about what YOU believe and how these beliefs translate into YOUR actions. So who are you? I know what my beliefs are, and try to convert these into real life through my actions. It is, after all as the age old adage goes, right to say that a man should be judged by his (her) actions. Nuff said.

  16. Lumumba was courageous in his response that day, incredible really!
    A historical moment for sure, whether you agree with his politics or not!
    ( his friend Fidel thought it was ok to trade the American master for the Soviet one ! Failing that, he gladly took over the job of oppressor himself ..)

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