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Murder in the Congo: The tragedy of Patrice Lumumba


Picture of Patrice Lumumba in jeep

Shortly before dawn on the 17th of January 1961, Patrice Lumumba the Prime Minister of the Congo was removed from his cell by Victor Nendaka. He was Lumumba’s former comrade. But now he was Larry Devlin’s puppet serving as Head of the Security Service. Devlin was a CIA field officer.

Lumumba was forced onto a plane. Onboard, his goattee beard was ripped off and he was forced to eat it. His ordeal was not over yet. Lumumba was flown over to Elisabethville, the Katangan capital under one of the most detested traitors in African history – Moise Tshombe.

His surname, Tshombe, became and still is synonmous with sellouts and traitors decades after the Lumumba tragedy.

In Elizabethville, Lumumba was shoved out of the plane and thrown into a waiting jeep under the watchful eyes of the Belgians. Swiss UN troops stationed at the airport witnessed him being driven away but did nothing to stop the inevitable.

They had orders to stand back and not intervene. Their inaction made them and the UN complicit in what was to follow and haunt Congo and Africa for decades.

Lumumba was imprisoned and held captive in a colonial villa owned by a wealthy Belgian. He was beaten savagely, repeatedly during his short stay there.

Katangan ministers, including Moise Tshombe joined in the blood bath and took turns to torture Lumumba until they were tired.

Deep into the night, Lumumba and two of his colleagues who had helped him escape were led into a clearing in the woods.

Katangan ministers and Belgians stood around to witness the end. Lumumba was propped up against a tree and executed by a firing squad. This squad included local Katangans and Belgians.

The corpses of Patrice Lumumba and his two aides, Maurice Mpolo and Joseph Okito, were dismembered and dumped into barrels of acid by two Europeans.

The Belgians kept Lumumba’s teeth and bullets removed from his body as souvenirs. The murder and bestiality of the murders exposed the hypocrisy and savagery of Western imperialism.

Only psychopaths would keep such souvenirs. Patrice Lumumba’s tragic story reveals a lot about the perpetrators of evil and the extent they will go to maintain their evil reign.

Why was the West so keen to get rid of Lumumba?

Patrice Lumumba became the first Prime Minister of Congo on the 30th of June 1960. On the morning of that day his fate was sealed.

Patrice Lumumba strode into the Palais de la nation. It was constructed to house the Belgian governor general. He was decked out in a smart suit complimented with a bowtie and a sash. He accessorised his outfit with a mischevious smile lighting his face.

Picture of Patrice Lumumba in bowtie and sash

He was not scheduled to make a speech. However, he was not going to let King Baudouin off the hook who praised developments by his great granduncle Leopold II of Belgium and made patronising promises, “Don’t compromise the future with hasty reforms, and don’t replace the structures that Belgium hands over to you until you are sure you can do better…”

“Don’t be afraid to come to us,” he informed the Congolese adopting a paternal tone as if addressing his children. “We will remain by your side.” 

His speech on the surface was cordial. However, it masked the sinister implications and threats and undertones. In a nutshell, he meant nothing was going to change.

The only change was going to be in the colour of the new leaders. They would have the appearance of political independence but the economy would remain in the hands of Belgium and the country would continue to be run as it had before independence.

Anyone who is familiar with the Beligian history in Africa, knows that there was nothing philanthropic or humanitarian about Leopold’s rule over the Congo. He was a genocidal maniac who committed gross violations against humanity.

Millions of Congolese were systematically wiped out for his pleasure and many others had their limbs severed and left to live a life of destitution as cripples with missing limbs. These grisly amputations were macabre.

No one else would have been more acutely aware of this history than Patrice Lumumba and many other Congolese who were aware of that genocidal legacy. Leopold made Hitler look like a saint in comparison.

His regime was responsible for the deaths of about two to fifteen million Congolese. These are conservative figures.

The Congolese were severely abused under Leopold’s reign in which he ran the Congo as a private enterprise looting Ivory and from the harvesting and processing of rubber.

The genocide was a far cry from his claim at the Berlin Conference (1884 – 1885) that he wanted to improve the lies of the indigenous people. The truth is he made their lives a living hell.

Leopold created such a scandal the Belgium government forced him to relinquish his control of the colony to a civil administration.

The country’s new president, Joseph Kasavubu, made a few sychophantic remarks to please his masters to remain in their good books.

Patrice Lumumba ordered the papers he had on his lap and walked across the stage. The gallery gasped in surprise. Quick exchanges were made by the people.

Lumumba stood at the lectern, tall and erect. He spoke articulately and directly to and for the Congolese rather than addressing the diplomats. He employed his oratorical gifts he was well renowned for and delivered a rousing speech, Tears Fire and Blood, which is still remembered more than five decades later.

This speech alluded to the price the Congolese paid to attain their freedom: “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”.

He spoke about what his lot endured for eighty years of colonial rule and that their wounds were too fresh and too painful to be forgotten.

Lumumba addressed the injustice, oppression and exploitation of the Congolese and the way their lands had been annexed using ostensibly just laws which gave recognition only to the right of might.

His speech went beneath the Belgians’ skins. It pricked their conscience and they didn’t like what they heard. It was not what they were expecting to hear. Like most perpetrators of evil, they didn’t like their victims reminding them of their atrocities.

They wanted to retain their right to commit crimes against humanity and then dictate to the victims how they should react to the atrocities.

Lumumba’s speech illustrated their hypocrisy and the lack of a genuine reconciliation by the Belgians who were too proud to apologise for their shortcomings. They were hoping to sweep the matter under the mat.

Their moustaches trembled with rage as they listened to this black man who had the audacity to ditch the colonial script the new leaders were expected to follow. They could hardly contain themselves.

Picture of Patrice Lumumba in bowtie and suit and animated pose

“We are not Communists or Catholics. We are African nationalists.” Patrice Lumumba

African dignitaries in attendance punctuated Lumumba’s speech with applause. Across the country, the nation listened in wonder through their wireless radios as Lumumba spoke for the people of the Congo:

The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed, and our country is now in the hands of its own children.

Together, my brothers, my sisters, we are going to begin a new struggle, a sublime struggle, which will lead our country to peace, prosperity, and greatness.

Together, we are going to establish social justice and make sure everyone has just remuneration for his labor [applause].

We are going to show the world what the black man can do when he works in freedom, and we are going to make of the Congo the center of the sun’s radiance for all of Africa.

We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children. We are going to restore ancient laws and make new ones which will be just and noble.

We are going to put an end to suppression of free thought and see to it that all our citizens enjoy to the full the fundamental liberties foreseen in the Declaration of the Rights of Man [applause].

We are going to do away with all discrimination of every variety and assure for each and all the position to which human dignity, work, and dedication entitles him.

We are going to rule not by the peace of guns and bayonets but by a peace of the heart and the will [applause].

Patrice Lumumba ripped the charade to pieces. He refused to play the game the imperialists loved – handing Africans flag flying independence but retaining economic control and domination of the former colonies in a process what Kwame Nkrumah referred to as a state of neo-colonialism.

Nkrumah is credited with coining the term. It is stated to have first appeared in the 1963 preamble of the Organisation of African States Charter. It was also the title of his book Neo-Colonialism, the Last Stage of Imperialism which was published in 1965.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote “We were offered a choice between liberation and the continuation of bondage. There can be no compromise between freedom and slavery. We chose to pay the price of freedom.”

Nkrumah defined neo-colonialism as:

“In place of colonialism, as the main instrument of imperialism, we have today neo-colonialism… like colonialism, is an attempt to export the social conflicts of the capitalist countries… The result of neo-colonialism is that foreign capital is used for the exploitation rather than the development of the less developed parts of the world. Investment, under neo-colonialism, increases, rather than decreases, the gap between the rich and the poor countries of the world. The struggle against neo-colonialism is not aimed at excluding the capital of the developed world from operating in less developed countries. It is aimed at preventing the financial power of the developed countries being used in such a way as to impoverish the less developed.”

A more succinct definition is the use of economic, political cultural or other pressures to control or influence other countries, especially former dependencies or colonies.

Lumumba refused to be a neo-colonial puppet. He refused to remain in economic bondage, dependent and subservient to the former colonial power. That was his sin.

He, unlike Tshombe and Kasavubu, couldn’t be dominated. And a man who couldn’t be dominated was in the eyes of the imperialists a dangerous man. He was a threat to Western interests.

This was “the” epoch of rapid change across the continent. Decolonisation was spreading like a wild fire across the land. One by one, former colonies, were breaking away from the French and British empires.

The empires were shrivelling and dying like mushrooms burnt in a wild fire. Within one generation Britain lost her mantle as the world’s greatest superpower. Africans were standing up, defiantly denouncing and challenging white and Western rule.

In under a year, more than a dozen African states would become independent. The young men defying foreign rule, like Lumumba, were the bright young men of the future.

They were inspiring liberation movements across Africa. They were lighting fires of struggle across the continent.

They were fired up by the vision of a new Africa free and untainted by colonialism. Nobody embodied this spirit of defiance and independence at the time more than Patrice Lumumba.

His speech explicitly reflected his outlook, Together, we are going to establish social justice and make sure everyone has just remuneration for his labor.

He was denouncing domination and exploitation; therefore, implicitly implying that the imperialists had to change their ways because things were not going to be the way they had been before.

Furthermore, he was stating that he was not going to put Western interests above the Congolese. They were to get a share of the economic cake which came from the rich repository of minerals found in the Congo.

This is what he meant when he said “We are going to keep watch over the lands of our country so that they truly profit her children.”

It was a challenge to the neo-colonialists. It was a threat to their coffers. African solidarity was an antidote to their domination and claims to supremacy.

Patrice Lumumba was like Gamal Abdel Nasser. He was a national liberationist whose vision was to assert sovereignty against the West.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote “We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village. Today, with Africa liberating herself, they seek to divide us on the level of states. They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites, and, having begun from that stage of the cold war, deepen the division in order to perpetuate their rule.”

Lumumba warned them that he would not allow political colonialism to be replaced by a new form of economic colonialism, as we witnessed in the great compromise made by Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela at the independence of their respective countries. They both betrayed their revolutions.

Lumumba’s approach was too much for the Western powers. They had too much too lose if Lumumba had his way.

If he succeeded, he would pave the way for other African nations to follow suit; therefore, setting up a chain of catastrophic events that would see Western interests disappear in the blink of an eye.

The Belgians, the French, The Americans and British couldn’t digest this unwelcome message. They had large investments in the mining business as they extracted the country’s rich deposits of copper, cobalt and diamonds.

Lumumba’s vision and declaration that the Congo would from independence control its extensive mineral wealth proved to be his death sentence.

From then on, everything spiralled one way, downwards.

Ten days after independence , an American who was sharply dressed and had slicked back, black hair stepped on board the ferry for Leopoldville. His name was Larry Devlin.

He would have a significant role in the death of Lumumba. He would become the arch-puppeteer of Congolese politics.

Shortly before his arrival, Patrice Lumumba increased the wages of all government employees excluding the army. Many Congolese soldiers had reservations about serving under white Belgian officers.

General Émile Robert Janssens, head of the army, spelt out on a blackboard: “before independence = after independence”. That is, their lot would not change after independence; things would remain as they had been.

The army rebelled in protest. The rebellions spread rapidly. They gained momentum. Europeans fled from the country.

And a media frenzy developed, they deliberately distorted the truth to sell papers. Some did it for propaganda purposes because it suit the undercurrents and narrative that was developing. It was their role to beat the drums of war and pave way for the elimination of Lumumba.

Image of Lumumba with the quote “We are neither Communists, Catholics nor socialists. We are African nationalists. We reserve the right to choose our friends in accordance with the principle of positive neutrality.” 

Moise Tshombe declared the mineral rich Katanga province independent on the 11th of July 1960. He was supported by the Belgian government and mining companies like Union Minière.

The Belgian Secret Service rushed to his aid providing him with intelligence, diplomatic support and making sure that all the monies destined for Kinshasha the capital ended up in Katanga, therefore, inflating his war chest and impoverishing Lumumba and crippling his ability to run the country effectively.

This was a classical case of economical sabotage preceding political assassination.

UN troops arrived. However, they refused to help suppress the Katanga rebellion. The planes they used were provided by the U.S. They had been repainted just before their flight to prevent the Russians making political mileage of American planes flying into Congo.

The “Crisis in the Congo” made global news. Fleet Street’s finest fibbers rolled into town to be a part of the action.

Lurid and entirely false tales of the murder and rape of white women were repeated and circulated around so often, the lie was accepted as the truth.

Fleet Street’s fibbers also started to portray Lumumba as a communist. Cartoons appeared of him as a black devil with horns and a forked tail.

The demonisation campaign to discredit, destroy and undermine him was accelerated to win the hearts and minds of the people to turn them against him.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote “I am not a Communist. The colonialists have campaigned against me throughout the country because I am a revolutionary and demand the abolition of the colonial regime, which ignored our human dignity. They look upon me as a Communist because I refused to be bribed by the imperialists.

The Belgians responded to the situation by sending in paratroopers to protect “western interests” and their citizens’ lives. They called it a “humanitarian intervention”, borrowing tactics modelled from the British and French example in Suez in 1956.

All these tactics are still used today. We see them replayed in our media on a daily basis. They are the same tactics used to justify the murder of Thomas Sankara.

These are the same tactics used to justify the war against Bashir al-Assad, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and hatred of the Iranians and Vladmir Putin.

The arrival of the paratroppers and secession of Katanga looked like a pincer movement on Lumumba. He faced up to the break up of his country.

Katanga was not just any province. It was where the majority of the mineral resources were located. Furthermore, Moise Tshombe, who was based in the provincial capital of Elizabethville, was Lumumba’s sworn enemy.

He was very close to the Belgians. Lumumba had beaten him to the coveted prize of Prime Minister. And he never forgave him for that because he had his own ministerial aspirations so he sought to make Katanga his power base.

To consolidtae his move, he serenaded the British. The business lobby and the far right of the Conservative Party put pressure on Prime Minister Harold MacMillman to recognise the secession and back the Katangans.

There were talks for the Katanga province to join the British led Central African Federation, hence stealing the territory from under the noses of the Belgians.

Eventually, a nasty breed of white mercenaries, some Belgian, a few British, and some recruited from the streets of Bulawayo and Salisbury (Harare), wielding knives and guns aided Moise Tshombe.

The secession of Katanga and arrival of the Belgian troops to protect “Western interests” and their citizens was complete. Lumumba faced up to the ultimate breakup of his country and recolonisation through other means.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote “Cruelty, insults and torture can never force me to ask for mercy, because I prefer to die with head high, with indestructible faith and profound belief in the destiny of our country than to live in humility and renounce the principles which are sacred to me.”

He made a fateful error that would cost him dearly. He stopped the army’s mutiny. However, to achieve that motive, he appointed his close aide and friend to become chief of staff . He was a man he trusted like a brother.

His name was Joseph-Desiré Mobutu. He would later come to be known as Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga: the name roughly translates to the warrior who knows no defeat because of his endurance and inflexible will and is all powerful, leaving fire in his wake as he goes from conquest to conquest.

His name conjures up many things. This promotion was beyond his wildest dreams. He had been doomed to be a failure. He was expelled from school and sent to the Force Publique as punishment.

The experience was a turning point in his life. It made him. His risk taking and hard working style earned him many admirers, including Lumumba. What Lumumba wasn’t aware of was that his friend was a friend of Larry Devlin.

They had struck up an unlikely alliance at the conference in Belgium in January. Mobutu attended as an aide to Lumumba.

Mobutu’s air of bravery was useful when, aged twenty-nine, he walked up to the soldiers pointing their guns at him and slowly pulled down their barrels to quell their mutiny.

He persuaded them to return to their barracks and promised them a pay rise; consequently, crushing the mutiny and simultaneously becoming their hero.

Mobutu’s gain was Lumumba’s undoing. Lumumba was desperate for assistance to save his country. He enetered into negotiations with the United nations to assist in crushing his arch-enemy Tshombe.

He was disappointed with the international force they sent in. He was dissatisfied with their role which they spelt out as one of strict nuetrality and non-intervention.

They refused to assist him in reeling in Katanga back into his control. He was unaware that their unwillingness to assist him was partly due to British pressure behind the scenes to prevent such a role.

He set up communication with the UN Secretary-General, Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld, but the two were communicating in different languages. Hammarskjöld clearly had an agenda. It is fair to say he was an ally of Lumumba’s enemies and was unwilling to assist him. Maybe he was following orders. But it is evident he had the power to help Lumumba if he wanted to.

However, he refused to assist Lumumba in subduing the Katangan secession. After Lumumba’s death, Hammarskjöld eventually made the UN intervene in the Katangan crisis. This reinforces my point above.

Ironically, Hammarskjöld died exactly nine months after Lumumba’s murder in a plane crash near Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, but now known by its post colonial name Zambia, while en route to negotiate a ceasefire between “non-combatant” UN forces and Katangese troops of Tshombe.

Frustrated by the UN and Hammarskjöld, Lumumba cast his eyes further abroad. Members of his cabinet requested 2000 US troops but President Eisenhower declared they could not provide support unilaterally.

Lumumba flew over to the US with a small delegation and made some brilliant speeches and appeals. Eisenhower refused to even meet him and he returned home empty handed. Eisenhower joked that he wouldn’t meet the “Bush Premier” as they referred to Lumumba in a derogatory manner.

Image of Patrice Lumumba with the quote “We are fighting our enemies in order to prepare a better and happier life for our youth. If we had been egoists, if we had thought only about ourselves we would not have made the innumerable sacrifices we are making.”

Lumumba sought to play a game of chess to put pressure on the UN and the West to persuade the Belgians to get out. He turned to the former Soviet Union who had a much cleaner slate than the West in the eyes of African liberation movements.

They were also in the process of providing material and financial support to a lot of liberation movements at the time in Africa. So his request definitely had some method in it. He asked them to follow the situation.

A few days later, he formally requested Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev for assistance. He was afraid that the Katanga secession was about to blow up through the assistance of the Belgians.

It was a dangerous move. Tensions were high in the Cold War and he was introducing the superpower conflict into the Congo.

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Thomas Sankara’s remains to be exhumed: Revisiting The Upright Man’s Legacy



Last year, I signed a petition calling for the remains of Thomas Sankara, popularly known as The Upright Man and the former leader of Burkina Faso, anti-imperialist activist and revolutionary, to be exhumed. Now, his remains or what are believed to be his remains are in the process of been exhumed.

Medium closeup picture of Captain Thomas Sankara wearing military fatigues. The quote “We are not against progress, but we do not want progress that is anarchic and criminally neglects the rights of others.” appears in the picture.

I am not sure if the petition I signed had anything to do with it or if his widow and her family’s calls for his remains to be exhumed are the catalyst. It is immaterial.

The good news is that an injustice can be corrected and the late revolutionary, feminist, anti-imperialist activist and one of the best leaders to emerge from Africa can receive a dignified burial befitting a legend of his stature.

It is more important that this is done not only to provide closure for the family but for Thomas Sankara’s story to be told in full.

The truth is something we all want to hear. We want to know who killed him. We want to know about the alleged involvement of external imperialist and neo-colonialist forces. We want those who took him out to be brought to justice.

The exhumation of Sankara’s remains reopens a chapter of African history that those who assassinated him hoped would never be revisited.

His assassination echoes the murder of other great African leaders like Patrice Lumumba, Samora Machel, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, Herbert Chitepo, Dr Samuel Tichafa Parirenyatwa, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, Khalid Abdul Muhammad and many other revolutionaries too many to mention here.

Revisiting Sankara’s legacy will provide us with the opportunity to understand the modus operandi of those forces that trot the globe preaching democracy on the world stage, but use proxy wars and propaganda to silence and remove leaders who are critical of their unorthodox methods and install puppet regimes sympathetic to their interests.

The assassination of African leaders who have upheld the interests of their people’s and selflessly defended their sovereignty is beyond tragic.

It has arrested the development of the continent and in many cases set Africa back decades, and provided a platform for corrupt dictators and despots to flourish with the support of many Western nations.

The support of these despots has been a vain attempt to maintain the cultural, socio economic and political hegemony of the more powerful nations over the weaker nations and maintain their stranglehold on the resources of Africa for their exclusive use.

These are the ills Sankara diagnosed through a Marxist critique and offered remedies to cure Africa of its ailments. He reached out to and spoke on behalf of all the oppressed and exploited people’s of the world who refused to accept the economic subjugation of classified societies and their consequences.

He condemned ecological devastation, African genocides and wars, racism, wars of conquest and plunder brought on by the workings of capitalism. He understood that those conditions were unnatural but a by-product of the modern imperialist order.

Closeup picture of Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara in military fatigues and a red beret with a star on his head. The subtitles on the screen read

For 28 years, what happened on that fateful day in October 1987 has been shrouded in mystery. Now, the opportunity to find out the truth has become a reality.

Nowhere is this need to know greater than within Burkina Faso. Hundreds of Burkinabe went to the graveyard where the exhumation was taking place in Ouagadougou. However, the security forces kept them out.

Blaise Compaore who is largely believed to have been instrumental in the assassination of Sankara, has always denied involvement but while he was in office, the courts denied a request by the family for Sankara’s exhumation.

His ousting during the riots in October last year paved the way for this historic occasion.

The assassination of Sankara made him a martyr not only in Burkina Faso, but across Africa and internationally. His star continues to rise and many people are embracing his ideas, reinforcing his belief that, “You cannot kill ideas. Ideas do not die”.

Picture of a smiling Thomas Sankara with the quote, “It’s true You cannot kill ideas. Ideas DO NOT DIE.”

His most popular quote, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”, has proved that the assassination of Sankara did not kill his ideas, and that they continue to influence new generations 28 years later.

His mission to confront imperialism, colonialism, social inequality, socioeconomic and political transformation and the subjugation of women has not diminished with time.

More and more movements are sprouting internationally, continuing the work Sankara started and he has become a figurehead of many of these social movements.

The riots last year that led to the ousting of Compaore were attributed to the lingering influence of Sankara.

The spirit of Sankara lives on in the downtrodden, oppressed and exploited people’s of the world. His calls for a more humane world where people live with dignity resonates with most people: this is why Sankara’s ideas continue to inspire new and old followers alike.

A quote of Thomas Sankara which reads,

Books like We Are Heirs of the World’s Revolutions, Women’s Liberation and the African Freedom Struggle, and Thomas Sankara Speaks which are books that contain Sankara’s speeches are powerful weapons to those fighting oppression and exploitation and trying to gain a better understanding of the man and what he represented.

The books mentioned above are important resources that make Sankara’s ideas more accessible but most importantly, they illustrate what he stood for as well as show that he was an excellent theoretician who could break down complex ideas and reproduce them in a form palatable to the layman.

They reveal his accomplishment as an orator but also set out his plans for Burkina Faso and his achievements within the four years he transformed his country from a nation dependent on France to a self reliant people.

His growing popularity is a direct result of his selfless task to speak on behalf of “‘the great disinherited of the world’, those who belong to the world so ironically christened the Third World. And to state, though I may not succeed in making them understood, the reasons for our revolt.”

Probably Sankara’s most endearing quality was his total trust in the people providing answers to their own challenges and transforming their own society and governing it.

His extraordinary confidence in the revolutionary capacity of human beings set him apart from all other leaders and politicians who tend to preach that the role of governance and maintaining order is the sacred duty of only the enlightened in society. That means only the “elite”!

He played a role as a leader of African people and as the unofficial spokesperson for the oppressed, and exploited in the semi colonial world, plus he provided leadership to working people in the imperialist world: it is this internationalist appeal and perspective of his that many people identify with and embrace.

Many have no idea who he is. But once they see his videos or read his books, they are converted almost instantaneously, attracted by Sankara’s charisma, confidence and honesty.

Image of Captain Thomas Sankara dressed in a red beret with a starand military fatigues. The subtitles on the screen read

Sankara’s legacy has many facets I cannot cover here. In principle, his life’s work provides us with the blueprint of what an African leader can, could and should be.

His honesty and integrity and political will are qualities we should seek in those who we elect to power.

In addition, the way he lived his life with compassion, empathy, in reverence of nature, cognisant of the struggles of women and all oppressed people should inspire us to live a more meaningful life with purpose, and think and act like those mad men who dare to dream and change the world.

The Upright Man, Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, gave us hope when we had all but lost it. He gave us the confidence to believe that we can create a world built on different economic and  social foundations and not by technocrats, financial wizards or politicians.

He inspired us to acknowledge that we, ordinary human beings, can transform ourselves by becoming active, conscious forces, transforming our conditions in life.

Most importantly, the Burkinabe Revolution is a blueprint to freedom that he left to inspire us to dare to dream and change the world. It enlightened us and left us with many valuable lessons in the same way Sankara was inspired by those revolutions that came before him.

In his own words, he said we are “open to all the winds of the will of the people’s of the world and their revolutions, having also learned from some of their terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights. We wish to retain only the core of the purity from each revolution. This prevents us from becoming subservient to the realities of others”.

Like Sankara, “we are heirs of the world’s revolutions” and we too can learn from the “terrible failures that led to tragic violations of human rights” and the loss of The Upright Man’s life to prevent such mistakes from happening in the future.

Revisiting Sankara’s legacy is necessary to understand our potential as revolutionaries and our role in determining the future of a liberated Africa. No developed nation, no matter how benevolent, can provide us with solutions to develop our continent. Let the spirit and ideas of Sankara be our guide to the Promised Land.

Thomas Sankara was a soldier, not only in the literal sense, and even from beyond the grave, he continues to fight for justice and inspire a new generation of fearless warriors, soldiers and revolutionaries. As long as we are breathing, we will continue to uphold Sankara’s legacy and spread it internationally. Sankara Lives!

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America wins legal battle but loses moral war: #Blacklivesmatter


Michael-Brown graffiti

Days before Michael Brown was executed without due process by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, he would never have guessed the significance his face and name would assume posthumously.

He didn’t know his name would be chanted all over the world. He didn’t know that he was going to become the symbol that would inspire many young men and women to stand up and protest worldwide for justice.

His untimely demise at the hands of a trigger happy cop faced by the bogeyman of white society has reinforced the injustice of the American injustice system. The decision by a predominantly white jury not to indict Darren Wilson simply repeated an established recurring pattern in American society.

That singular decision has polarised a nation. That singular decision led to wide spread riots and protests across America. That singular decision sent out a message to the world: there is no justice for the Black man or woman in America.

Police brutality

All across the world from Australia to Zimbabwe, many people have stood in solidarity with the protesters in Ferguson and all across America. They are reiterating the same message – #Blacklivesmatter.

iamge of Protesters surround Charring Cross police station in London

Protesters supporting Michael Brown and the Ferguson protesters surround Charring Cross police station in London.

#Blacklivesmatter has become as popular or even more popular than popular brands such as Apple. It is trending on social media. It is one of the most popular campaigns ever and Michael Brown has become its face. He has become the symbol of a new social movement resisting the violent excesses of an unjust system.

#Blacklivesmatter was formed in 2012 after the summary execution of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman without due process. The movement’s activities to raise awareness about the silent genocide of Black people were rejuvenated by the death of Michael Brown and and helped #Blacklivesmatter win the heart and minds of the world.

Ironically, Brown has gained social and political capital that he never had while he was still alive. Thanks to the various social movements and dissident intellectuals raising awareness and exposing the rotten elements in the American injustice system.

His untimely demise spurred on other social movements such as #ShutItDown to block major highways and intersections; #BlackoutBlackFriday to boycott Black Friday; #HandsUpWalkOut a call for students across campuses across America to walk out to demonstrate the decision not to indict Wilson.

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Before the shooting, he was just another black teenager doing normal things teenagers his age do. Today, he has achieved posthumous fame as the face that exposed the hypocrisy and injustice of the American injustice system.

This is not to say that he started it all. He didn’t. The signs were there for a long time. The sparks were evident when Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman. The flames were there when Oscar Grant was shot down and cut down in the prime of his life.

However, this goes further back. We have to look at the brutal murder of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers. It was there at the assassination of Fred Hampton and goes back to the Ku Klux Klan lynchings famously documented by James Baldwin in the short story Going to Meet the Man published in a collection of short stories in the same name.

Michael Brown and Medgar Evers’ stories share similar parallels.

Evers was an African American civil rights activist. He was involved in efforts to overturn the segregation at the University of Mississippi.

However, he was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith who was a member of the White Citizens’ Council. His murder and the resulting trials sparked civil rights protests, including numerous works of art, film and music.

Meme of Medgar Evers

Evers was shot in his driveway after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers on the morning of 12th June 1963. This was just hours after President John F. Kennedy made a speech on national television supporting civil rights.

Evers emerged from his car carrying a stack of T-shirts written “Jim Crow Must Go”. He was shot in the back with a bullet from an Enfield 1917 rifle. The bullet ripped through his heart. He staggered for nine meters before he fell.

His murderer was prosecuted but juries mainly composed of white men reached a deadlock twice that year and Beckwith walked free for thirty years. He was finally convicted of murder three decades later on the 5th of February 1994 after new evidence was presented at a new trial.

For decades, there has been a systematic and systemic campaign to shoot Black people and the perpetrators walk without justice for the victims. America has a  history of white men  summarily executing black men and women with impunity, not even children have being immune, and walking free knowing the system grants them immunity from prosecution.

These decisions serve as a reminder that America was built on laws created for the dehumanisation, destruction and distress of black people and other minorities.

This injustice is reflected in the infamous decision rendered by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney (1777 – 1864). He declared blacks were “regarded  as beings of an inferior order” with “no rights which the White Man was bound to respect”.

It is worth remembering then that many states in the country accepted free blacks as taxpayers and citizens at the time when the Constitution was adopted.

However, by the reasoning of Taney, no white man was bound to respect their rights because they were “unfit to associate with the White race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior that they had no rights which the White Man was bound to respect; and that the Negro might justly and lawfully be reduced to slavery for his benefit”.

It seems little has changed since that decision in America besides the highly convoluted words in the Declaration of Independence which hardly recognized the freedom of Black people in the spirit of the law though it boldly announced:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

It appears that even today White men still have no need to respect Black people’s human rights to life and protection of the law.

However, it seems that these young Black men and women executed without due process have been denied their basic human rights as set out under Article 1 – 8 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

What is happening on the streets of America to Black people is repeated on others abroad as illustrated in a essay by Noam Chomsky entitled The Ideology of the Polyarchy. In it he refers to the adoption of the “docrine of resort to force at will”.

In it, Chomsky noted the shift to the use of force [military might at will] to “eliminate any preceived challenge to US hegemony”, i.e. white supremacy. This threat could be local or foreign based. The only threat to US hegemony is the “other”. That means non white.

The Black man and woman constitute the “other” in America that can successfully challenge “US hegemony” on home turf if they were able to unite and use their group numbers to change local or foreign policy. They have the economic might to force the corporations that form the polyarchy to pay attention and come to the negotiating table.

This is why any groups that talk about Black Power are treated like terrorist organisations. However, it is absurd. The term Black Power means the evry same thing as two words the British are fond and proud of using. That is – SELF DETERMINATION.

When the British seek to decide their own destiny it is seen as a virtue and there is no problem with it. It is admired and seen as an enduring quality of the British character. In contrast, Black people seeking SELF DETERMINATION are seen as a potential threat and ungrateful bastards. They are demonised by the politicians and the media and ostracised from society.

However, Black People seeking SELF DETERMINATION are a formidable challenge to the “US HEGEMONY” quoted below.

Therefore, the only way to keep them in check is by reminding them who is in power through random acts of violence and surveillence through covert programs like COINTELPRO to disrupt and destroy Black political organisations.

If you will bear with me while I take the liberty to impose this long quote on you from that essay by Noam Chomsky.

In September 2002 the Bush administration announced its National Security Strategy, which declared the right to resort to force to eliminate any perceived challenge to US global hegemony, which is to be permanent. The new grand strategy aroused deep concern worldwide, even within the foreign policy elite at home. Also in September, a propaganda campaign was launched to depict Saddam Hussein as an imminent threat to the United States and to insinuate that he was responsible for the 9-11 atrocities and was planning others. The campaign, timed to the onset of the midterm congressional elections, was highly successful in shifting attitudes. It soon drove American public opinion off the global spectrum and helped the administration achieve electoral aims and establish Iraq as a proper test case for the newly announced doctrine of resort to force at will. [http://www.chomsky.info/books/survival01.htm]

It demonstrates the hypocrisy of America. It preaches about democracy and human rights to other nations. It invades weaker nations it accuses of not respecting the human rights of their own citizens and it removes the leaders of these countries through violent means and replaces them with ones, puppets, who are sympathetic to the American cause.

America lectures to other nations it perceives as underdeveloped and oppressive and undemocratic. It lectures to them about human rights and threatens to deliver democracy through the barrel of a gun if they don’t change. The greatest irony is that America is not even a democracy but a polyarchy: i.e. power is held by a few people who control the wealth in society.

Alternatively, America uses aid or sanctions as a means to force other nations to “respect” the human rights of their citizens. However, it has a history of supporting dictators and totalitarian regimes in Egypt, South Africa, Iraq, Iran, South America, Nicaragua, etc.

America doesn’t practice what it preaches. One is tempted to remind it to remove the splinter of wood in its own eye before it attempts to remove the log out of the eyes of other nations.

America is in no position to lecture anyone on the question of human rights when it violates the human rights of millions of its Black citizens. America has no moral high ground or divine right to play the defender of human rights when it has been at the forefront of setting up leaders like Patrice Lumumba to be murdered and replaced by dictators like Mobutu Sese Soko.

America’s moral capital is in  decline. Unfortunately, it cannot print more notes as tit did with the U.S. dollar during the recession to shore up the depreciating value of their moral capital.

America’s injustice system has constantly and repeatedly shown that it is biased against Black people. However, the death of Michael Brown has magnified the flaws within the system and broadcast to the world what it means to be Black in America.

The roll call of Black men, children or women shot down or killed by white policemen without due process is growing longer by the day. Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Yvette Johnson, Renisha McBride are other names on that list denied justice.

It seems like everyday there is an outcry of another black person executed without due process. Take the case of a black man recently shot down while taking dinner back to his family at home. It creates the perception that there is a nationwide epidemic of police brutality.

No Black person in America can safely say that they feel safe in the face of the people who have a duty to protect and serve them.

The  Michael Brown story echoes the death of Steve Biko at the hands of the Apartheid police. The government didn’t give a damn what happened to him. He wasn’t the only one to die in such circumstances but he became a lasting symbol of the horrors of apartheid and white brutality.

The Most Powerful Weapon

Likewise, Michael Brown has become an enduring symbol of white police brutality. We will never know what kind of potential Brown had. We will never know if he would have more impact dead or alive.

But dead or alive, there is no doubt that he is at the center of an awakening, sparking riots and protests across America that are reminiscent of the Civil Rights era.

His death is hotter than the sparks that flamed the Watts Riots and the Los Angeles Riots in 1965. Brown’s death was obviously not in vain. It is the inciting incident that brought racial tensions to the fore.

It is the inciting incident that ripped the blackface of Obama off the body politic of white oppression.

Forget all the fancy rhetoric of change promised by Obama. This is the real America. Nothing has changed. Not even Obama is immune from racism. Racism is still alive and thriving in America in the 21st century.

It still feels like America is still stuck in the 1960s or even further back before the Declaration of Independence.

It seems the ku klax klan has simply removed their white sheets and donned uniforms of police brutality to continue their campaign of publicly lynching Black people in public. They replaced the cross with the badge and continued with their business of lynching Black people to remind them of their station in society.

After all the intellectuals have said their sound bytes on TV using black on black crime as mitigating circumstances for Brown’s death, or demonised him as a criminal who deserved to be shot; the truth is that the method of Brown’s death is a politicising factor.

He is playing a pivotal role in exposing the nasty face of America. He may never have dreamed about how his life would come to symbolise something greater than himself.

He may never have dreamed that he would one day become a global icon of justice inspiring a social movement of the 21st century kind accompanied with billboards, songs, T-shirts, protest banners and news headlines – all emblazoned with the words #BlackLivesMatter.

He may never have dreamed that his face would one day become a politicising symbol.

Many people didn’t see the recent events happening but those who were paying attention would have seen this coming because Black lives matter. Black bodies are political. Black people are not going to remain silent forever while they keep killing our brothers and sisters everywhere.

The time will come and it is coming when we shall say no – it is enough! Then we shall say give me liberty or give me death.

Images of Penn State students staging a die-in

Penn State students protest the Ferguson decision in the HUB-Robeson Center by participating in a “die-in – in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

Brown’s death reminds me of the prophetic words of Steve Biko shortly before his death at the hands of white policemen in Apartheid South Africa. He wrote in an essay in his collection of articles, I Write What I Like:

“You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and your method of death can itself be a politicising thing. So if you can overcome the fear of death, which is irrational, you’re on your way.”

Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and others, too numerous to mention, are on their way. Their stories remind us of the malignant fictions created by the state to maintain the status quo in their attempt to blame the victims for their deaths.

The late Nigerian writer and social activist Chinua Achebe reminded us of the dangers of these malignant fictions. He published A Man of the People in 1966.  The novel ends with a coup in the fictional country Achebe based his story.

Coincidentally, the novel was published two days after Nigeria’s first military coup. A theory then developed during the civil war, Biafran War, that Achebe was one of the planners of the military coup.

In fact, the military regime of Nigeria bombed his home and attempted to kill him on numerous occasions because they believed he was one of the plotters of the coup.

I take the liberty to impose on you a lengthy quote from his work entitled The Truth of Fiction in which he addresses these malignant fictions.

“I have direct experience of how easy it is for us to short-circuit the power of our imagination by our own act of will. For when a desperate man wishes to believe something however bizarre or stupid nobody can stop him. He will discover in his imagination a willing and enthusiastic accomplice. Together they will weave the necessary fiction which will then bind him securely to his cherished intention.”

It is these malignant fictions that the protesters in the front-lines have refused to suspend their beliefs to entertain. They have showed their humane side. They are not indifferent to suffering.

Imaginative identification is the opposite of indifference; it is human connectedness at its most intimate. It is one step closer to the golden adage “Do unto others…”

The late Hannah Arendt showed this incredible perception when she entitled her study of the psychology of totalitarianism The Banality of Evil. I guess that sums up this article.

In conclusion, it appears that America won the legal battle but lost the moral war. Legality doesn’t confer morality. They are different entities. The Holocaust was legal but it was inhuman and immoral. Slavery was legal but it was inhuman and immoral.

The same can be said about Apartheid. Legal or state institutions are inhuman by nature. They have no heart. Therefore, they have no sense of morality. The true moral agents are the people, especially the oppressed. America is suffering from an acute illness known as anomie.

In the words of Noam Chomsky, “States are not moral agents, people are, and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions”. Therefore, it is the people who have the ability to restore morality into the American injustice system.

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December 1, 2014 · 11:34 pm

Steve Bantu Biko – 37 Memorable Quotes


“The wealth of our country must be enjoyed by the people of the country.”

 Steve Bantu Biko

Tribute To Steve Bantu Biko

On 12 September 37 years ago, Steve Biko’s life came to a premature end. His brief but beneficial life was snuffed out as casually and callously as a person extinguishing a candle flame between their fingers.

He was a light that lit the path of the youth across Africa to help them overcome obstacles in their way. In living what he preached, he showed them what they could be, and taught them they were just as fine as they were. His message was clear: Be proud of yourself! Rely on yourself for your liberation.

He instilled them with a new confidence and they shed their sense of inferiority. He ignited a fire in the youth that continues to burn today. In his stride, he left indelible footprints, no other man has been able to fill now or follow ever since.

And it is from his thought tracks that I have extracted thirty-seven gems Steve Biko left with us. One for each year of the thirty-seven years since his premature depature.

All of the quotes below stem from the same source, i.e., his collection of writing or articles, collectively entitled I Write What I Like.

Some of the quotes are pretty familiar but some are not. However, they are all as relevant today as they were back then. They are applicable to many situations in the present, and not only in South Africa, but the rest of the African Continent and the Diaspora.

May his words continue to inspire you as they inspire us, Biko’s humble students of “Black Consciousness”.

1] “We have in us the will to live through these trying times; over the years we have attained moral superiority over the white man; we shall watch as time destroys his paper castles and know that these little pranks were but frantic efforts of frightened little people to convince each other that they can control the minds and bodies of indigenous people of Africa indefinitely.”

2] “The separation of the black intelligentsia from the rest of the black society is a disadvantage to black people as a whole.”

3] “The great powers of the world may have done wonders in giving the world an industrial and military look but the great gift still has to come from Africa – giving the world a more human face.”

4] “I think what we need in our society is the power to innovate – we have the very system from which we can expand, from which we can innovate, to say this is what we believe, accept or not accept.”

"The black man has no ill-intentions for the white man. The black man is only incensed at the white man to the extent that he wants to entrench himself in a position of power to exploit the black man." Steve Bantu Biko

“The black man has no ill-intentions for the white man. The black man is only incensed at the white man to the extent that he wants to entrench himself in a position of power to exploit the black man.”
Steve Bantu Biko

5] “Our originality and imagination have been dulled to the point where it takes a supreme effort to act logically even in order to follow one’s belief and convictions.”

6] “You are either dead or alive and when you are dead you can’t care anyway. And your method of death can itself be a politicizing thing.”

7] “For me as a black person it is extremely painful to see a man who could easily have been my leader being so misused by the cruel and exploitative white world.”

8] “We have felt and observed in the past the existence of a great vacuum in our literary world and newspapers. So many things are said so often to us, about us, but seldom by us. This has created a dependency mood amongst us which has given rise to the present tendency to look at ourselves in terms of how we are interpreted by the white press.”

9] “One must quickly add the moral of the story is not that we must therefore castigate white society and its newspapers. Any group of people who identity as a unit through shared interests and aspirations need to protect those interests they share. The white press is therefore regarded as doing a good service when it sensitises its own community to the “dangers” of Black Power… the real moral of the story can only be that we blacks must on our own develop those agencies that we need, and not look up to unsympathetic and often hostile quarters to offer these to us.”

10] “Blacks have had enough experiences of racism not to wish to turn the tables. While it may be relevant now to speak of black in relation to white, we must not make this our preoccupation, for it can be a negative exercise. As we proceed further towards the achievement of our goals, let us talk more about ourselves and our struggle and less about whites.”

"Organizational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be." Steve Bantu Biko

“Organizational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be.” Steve Bantu Biko

11] “Organisational development among blacks has only been low because we have allowed it to be.”

12] “The whole community development program is in fact directed also at alleviating poverty, which is a form of physical oppression, and by physical liberation we also imply liberation from those actual living conditions which are oppressive.”

13] “If people want to be our friends they must act as friends, with deeds.”

14] “The struggle concept which is struggle from liberation of yourself, from anything threatening you, is continuous throughout history. At different times it is picked by different people in different methods. Okay, but the struggle is what we attach ourselves to.”

15] “When people are starving, unemployed and exploited, food, work and social security are higher priorities for them than individual liberty.”

16] “The Russians don’t stick fast afterward. Their record in Africa is one of material aid, then disengaging or being ousted. On the other hand Western aid against colonialism has several times led to Western economic imperialism. Look, I’m not starry eyed about the Russians, and I reject their basic ideology – it’s just that their brand of intervention has been more beneficial in Africa. Of course it is to suit their own cynical ends – but it is of more practical assistance than the oratory of Andy Young. The Andy Young’s are nice guys, but their approach is doing us no damn good.”

17] “One should not waste time here dealing with manifestations of material want of the black people. A vast literature has been written on the problem. Possibly a little should be said about spiritual poverty.”

18] “No doubt, therefore, part of the approach envisaged in bringing about”Black Consciousness” has to be directed to the past, to seek to rewrite the history of the black man and to produce in it heroes who form the core of the African background.”

19] “A people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine. Their emotions cannot be easily controlled and channelled in a recognizable direction. They always live in the shadow of a more successful society.”

The Most Powerful Weapon

20] “To expect justice from them at any stage is to be naive.”

21] “In laying out a strategy we often have to take cognizance of the enemy’s strength and as far as I can assess all of us who want to fight within the System are completely underestimating the influence the System has on us.”

22] “One need not try to establish the truth of the claim that black people in South Africa have to struggle for survival. It presents itself in ever so many facets of our lives.  Township life alone makes it a miracle for anyone to live up to adulthood. There will be a situation of absolute want in which black will kill black to survive. This is the basis of vandalism, rape and plunder that goes on while the real sources of evil – white society – are suntanning on exclusive beaches or relaxing in their bourgeois homes.”

23] “People must not give up to the hardship of life. People must develop a hope. People must develop some form of security to be together to look at their problems, and people must, in this way build up their humanity. This is the point about Black Consciousness.”

24] “The wealth of our country must be enjoyed by the people of the country. Foreign investors come and exploit the wealth of the country with more advanced technological means than those we have in South Africa to siphon off profits which rightfully belong here, and these go to profit societies other than our own societies.”

25] “When there is violence there is messiness. Violence brings too many residues of hate in the reconstruction period. Apart from its obvious horrors, it creates too many post-revolutionary problems. If at all possible, we want the revolution to be peaceful and reconciliatory.”

26] “I think there is no running away from the fact that now in South Africa there is such an ill distribution of wealth that any form of political freedom which does not touch on the proper distribution of wealth will be meaningless.”

27] “It seems sometimes that it is a crime for non-white students to think for themselves. The idea of everything being done for the blacks is an old one and all liberals take pride in it; but once the black students want to do things for themselves suddenly they are regarded as becoming “militant”.

28] “What we want is not black visibility but real black participation.”

Biko

29] “The fact that we have differences of approach should not cloud the issue. We have a responsibilty not only to ourselves but also to the society from which we spring. No one will ever take up the challenge until we, of our own accord, accept the inevitable fact that ultimately the leadership of the non-white peoples in this country rests with us.”

30] “It was felt that a time had come when blacks had to formulate their own thinking, unpolluted by ideas emanating from a group with lots at stake in the status quo.”

31] “I am against the fact that a settler minority should impose an entire system of values on an indigenous people.”

32] “Material want is bad enough, but coupled with spiritual poverty it kills.”

33] “Ground for a revolution is always fertile in the presence of absolute destitution.”

34] “Black Consciousness” seeks to show black people the value of their own standards and outlook. It urges black people to judge themselves according to these standards and not to be fooled by white society who are white-washed themselves and made white standards the yardstick by which even black people judge each other.”

35] “Black people must recognise the various institutions of apartheid for what they are – gags intended to get black people fighting separately for certain “freedoms” and “gains” which were prescribed for them long ago. We must refuse to accept it as inevitable that the only political action the blacks may take is through these institutions.”

36] “Granted that it may be more attractive and even safer to join the system, we must still recognise that in doing so we are well on the way towards selling our souls.”

37] “Thus in its entirety the African Culture spells us out as people particularly close to nature. As Kaunda puts it, our people may be unlettered and their physical horizons may be limited yet “they inhabit a larger world than the sophisticated Westerner who has magnified his physical senses through inverted gadgets at the price all too often of cutting out the dimension of the spritiual.” This close proximity to Nature enables the emotional component  in us to be so much richer in that it makes it possible for us, without any apparent difficulty to feel for people and to easily identify with them in any emotional situation arising out of suffering.”

Feel free to share and let us remember Steve’s words in everything we do to uplift the race and persent a more human face to the world. Let us emulate him in his selfless sacrifice for freedom.

Watch for my review of Steve Biko’s collection of writings, I Write What I Like, coming soon. Pray, I do it justice. One Love.

A scholar of Black Consciousness studying Steve Bantu's philosophy.

A scholar of Black Consciousness studying Steve Bantu Biko’s philosophy.

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