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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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Greeks’ Defiance an inspiration to other movements across the world


The Greeks have spoken and defied the sceptics and scaremongers from the EU and reactionaries within their own ranks plus the IMF. The people of Greece rejected the European Bailout Terms.

The No Campaign scored a resounding victory. With 61% voting NO, the Yes campaign had the wind knocked out of its stomach.

Image of Greek revellers partying and celebrating outside Parliament in Greece.

Greeks celebrate outside parliament once they heard news that the No Campaign had taken the lead and their were on route to a resounding victory.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French leader Francis Hollander  have their work cut out and they can’t ignore the results of the referendum.

The resounding message from the mandate laid out by the Greeks has strengthened the hand of the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras when he meets with the leaders of the EU and the IMF.

The EU is divided and the number of voices supporting Greece within the EU is also growing.

Thousands gathered outside Parliament on Monday, waving Greek flags and celebrating, holding up signs written OXI which means No!

History was written then. The Greeks pushed the ball back into the court of Greece’s international creditors.

It is now up to them to decide what to do but one thing is clear: their scaremongering and threats have not deterred the people of Greece from daring to dream and change the world.

One thing is certain: Greece decided to take its future into its own hands in a shocking result that astounded sceptics, pundits, reactionaries and international creditors.

It is a surprising result because the traditional major parties and the media; especially, private media and major businesses were in favour of austerity.

Their pro-austerity stance is shocking because austerity has never been proven to work.

Quite to the contrary, there is overwhelming evidence that austerity does not work. It only works for the rich people and the corporations but not the average person or the middle class.

There are numerous examples that austerity doesn’t work. For example, during the Great Depression, President Roosevelt initiated policies to put people back to work and pump money back into the economy; that worked.

Iceland is a recent example of a country that refused to pay its debts: it invested money in programs to put people back to work. They also put on trial some of the bankers that caused the problems.

This not only boosted the morale and confidence of the people but it also turned around their economic fortunes.

There are numerous examples in South America that prove austerity is a rich man’s bluff and doesn’t work. Austerity is nothing but a class war masquerading as a measure of good and sound governance. In reality, it is like a bomb made of paper, that silently devastates whole communities and nations. It’s impact and after-effects will be felt decades after it first hit just like the bombs dropped in Hiroshima are still affecting people today.

Business tends to be very reactive in situations like this. It ignores the fact that austerity serves nobody’s interest in the long term because the middle class is the market.

If the middle class declines business will pay the ultimate price. They won’t have any business in the long run to buy their products.

The message by the people of Greece to stand up strengthened their prime minister’s position because he was appearing to be very vulnerable.

A hand is held up in front of a blue and white Greek flack in the background and a night sky. The inside of the palm is written in black in OXi which means NO!

This has rejuvenated his negotiating power because he is backed by the mandate handed to him by the nation.

Tsipras and the people of Greece are in a difficult situation. They are been held hostage and issued with threats to honour debts they had nothing to do with. They are been blamed for a situation they never created.

All the blame rests on the financial community and traditional political parties that encouraged Greece to go down the austerity route.

This route has not paid any dividends and it has hurt the Greek economy, the middle class and those who are worse off at the bottom end of the economic and social ladder.

Those people who were been blamed for the mistakes made by their leaders who were in cahoots with big banks and international monetary corporations illustrated that the power in any nation lies with the poor people and the middle class. They are the true revolutionary force in any society.

If the people stand united, international creditors, IMF and business cannot force them to act against their own interests regardless of the scaremongering and threats.

They cannot be terrorised to tow the line and burden themselves with unnecessary debt which will reduce them to slaves.

image of a woman with red hair, wearing dark sunglasses, waving a Greek white and blue flag and punching the air with a clenched fist.

There is little doubt that Greece like many other countries was targeted by the economic hitmen and presented with fancy financial set-ups to take on debts that would hurt their economy.

These debts were never received by the people of Greece but now they are being asked to foot a tab they never ran up which is absurd.

This is how these financial creditors work. They lend countries money but the middle class and the average person never physically see that money.

The financial creditors use the money which goes back to their corporations to enrich themselves, but leave the middle class and the poor with debts that will take generations to pay off if that is even possible.

This video below briefly explains how the game is played and it is worth taking two minutes to watch this short animated clip.

The insistence by the financial creditors for Greece to adopt policies dictated by them to enable them to pay the debt makes a mockery of democracy.

This obligation removes the people’s duty to make their own decisions because they are forced to do as the creditor’s demand because that puts the corporations in charge.

True democracy was illustrated in the decision made by the people; i.e. refusing the terms of the bailout tabled by the EU.

It is a different scenario from the African “democratic” model which is an illusion because the people in Africa have no say in how their counties are run because the countries are actually run by the IMF.

The IMF determines where their money is going to spend, how much is going to spent on social welfare, how much will be spent on maintaining or building infrastructure, etc. No one group in Africa has more say on spending than the IMF does.

In fact, debt is used as a tool to control Africa and keep it underdeveloped.

If Greece are kicked out of the EU, it might hurt in the short term. However, the benefits long term are beneficial. It puts them back in charge of their destiny.

They can focus on building up the middle class, sorting out employment issues to generate a disposable income for the average person which is the lifeline of a viable economy.

What does this result mean for countries in the same boat?

They can learn that it is not impossible to stand up to the financial creditors and say no to austerity because it does not develop an economy. Africa in particular can take a leaf out of the Greek’s strategy.

Countries can take their destiny back into their own hands and decide which route works best for them. It might not be easy but it is possible because there is hope in despair.

Other countries and movements in similar circumstances will be watching to see what lessons can be learnt from the Greek decision.

A nation united in the face of enormous challenges can overcome all the scaremongering, threats and propaganda thrown at them to act against their own interests.

You can dare to dream and change the world.

Africa can learn that new and younger leadership is well equipped to face the challenges brought on by an ever changing world.

The new guard is the antidote to the old order. They are prepared to take risks and challenge the old order.

Youthful leaders are the real revolutionaries and they have the right spirit and mentality to face the challenges their generation is faced with.

The old guard tends to be more conservative to protect their entrenched positions and the status quo hence their pay lip service to socialism while lapping up the trappings of capitalism.

I think the result from Greece illustrates that the middle class and the average person are the real revolutionary forces in any society, and united they can charter a truly revolutionary path. One cannot do without the other.

They are the real power brokers in society but they are unaware of the power they yield. They let a small unholy trinity or cabal of politicians and corporations control them like a circus elephant is controlled by a string.

If the people said enough is enough, they would end the circus, pull the whole charade down, trample the circus underfoot and run that political cabal out of town before sundown.

In conclusion, if the vanguard party acts with clarity and trusts the people and communicates clearly to the people, the people will support it in all its endeavours.

There is still a lot more to learn from Greece because they still have a lot of challenges to overcome.

One thing is certain: they have made history and they will be remembered by generations to come.

Their decision will become a case study that will be referenced by scholars, intellectuals and many others for years to come.

A friend I was chatting to earlier said, “The big issue domestically is actually not the EU but what Alexis is going to do about capital controls”. That is the biggest challenge for the Greeks right now. But there is no doubt that they are an inspiration to all the small movements out there fighting the big boys for their dignity and make this world a more humane place for everyone. They can see that you can take the big boys on and win.

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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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In memory of Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara, The Upright Man: 27 quotes on Women’s liberation and the African freedom struggle


Thomas Sankara

The Upright Man: Captain Thomas Isidore Sankara

Captain Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara is the late Burkinabe military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan African theorist and the President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987. He is more popularly known as The Upright Man. He was born on the 21st of December 1949 in Yako, Burkina Faso.

He rose to power through a popular revolution or coup in what was known as Upper Volta in West Africa. He was only 33 at the time. His goal was the socioeconomic and political transformation of his nation, eliminating corruption, oppression, exploitation and dominance of France, the former colonial power.

He renamed Upper Volta and called the new country Burkina Faso  which literally means Land of Upright Man, hence his popular moniker.

Sankara is remembered for some of the most ambitious and successful programmes for social and economic change he implemented when he came to power. Within four years, he transformed Burkina Faso from an impoverished nation to a self reliant country through his commitment and drive to transform his political and moral ideology into action.

He conducted a struggle against imperialism, foregoing foreign aid for his government, nationalising the land and mineral wealth, neutralising the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

He was one of the first presidents to launch a tree planting programme to arrest the desertification of the Sahel, agrarian self sufficiency, local production of Burkinabe goods, nationwide literacy campaigns and vaccination programmes.

These are only a few examples of his programmes. It is by no means an exhaustive list. He was deeply committed to the liberation of women from exploitation and oppression by outsiders and society and culture.

He banned female circumcision, forced marriages, polygamy, expelling girls from school when they fell pregnant. Sankara appointed women to high governmental positions, employed women in the army, encouraged them to be employed outside the home and set up committees and institutions to tackle women’s liberation.

This article is not going to focus on his accomplishments and programmes. The focus is on his words and ideas and one of his concerns – Women’s Liberation.

Therefore, I have chosen 27 quotes, mainly from The book Women’s Liberation and the African freedom Struggle. The book features two speeches. The first, Women’s Liberation and the African freedom Struggle, was made he made in 1987.

The second, Women’s role in the democratic and popular revolution, was made earlier on the 2nd of October 1983. I was reading the book and was going to write and post a review. However, time was not on my side.

Therefore, I thought that 27 quotes, one for each year since he passed away, was a befitting way to remember Thomas Sankara through his own words and ideas and something, women’s liberation, that concerned him very much while he was still alive.

In a sense, it captures the essence of Thomas Sankara and provides a focus on the man himself, his convictions and his essence without an interpreter or narrator providing their own opinion of what they made or understood of the Upright Man.

Look forward to the review in a few days. In the meantime enjoy these quotes and please share them so that more people become aware of Sankara and what he stood for; his ideas, his quest for the liberation of the oppressed worldwide and women’s liberation.

In his own words, “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas”. He would happy that his ideas are still alive and are a source of inspiration to the people he sacrificed his life for – you and me – and humanity.Caption of Thomas Sankara

  1. The weight of age-old traditions in our society has relegated women to the rank of beasts of burden. Women suffer doubly from all the scourges of neocolonial society. First, they experience the same suffering as men. Second they are subjected to additional suffering by men.
  2. Our revolution is in the interests of all the oppressed and all those who are exploited in today’s society. It is therefore in the interests of women, since the basis of their domination by men lies in the system through which society’s political and economic life is organised. By changing the social order that oppresses women, the revolution creates the conditions for their genuine economic emancipation.
  3. The men and women of our society are all victims of imperialist oppression and domination. That is why they wage the same battle.
  4. The liberation and women’s liberation go together. We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or out of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the revolution to triumph. Women hold up the other half of the sky.
  5. A diploma is not a free pass to emancipation.
  6. We must have a correct understanding of the question of women’s emancipation. It is not a mechanical equality between men and women, acquiring habits recognised as male – drinking, smoking and wearing pants. That’s not emancipation. Nor will acquiring diplomas make women equal to men or more emancipated. A diploma is not a free pass to emancipation. Picture of Thomas Sankara
  7. The genuine liberation of women is one that entrusts responsibilities to women, that involves them in productive activity and in different fights the people face. The genuine emancipation of women is one that compels men to give their respect and consideration. Emancipation, like freedom, is not granted, it is conquered. It is for women themselves to put forward their demands and mobilize to win them.
  8. Could it be possible to eliminate the system of exploitation while maintaining the exploitation of women, who make up more than half of our society?
  9. The final goal of this great understanding is to build a free and prosperous society in which women will be equal to men in all spheres.
  10. We should be conscious of the battles that have been waged, the successes that have been achieved, the setbacks that have been suffered, and the difficulties that have been encountered. This will aid us in further preparing and leading future struggles.
  11. It now falls to you to act with the great sense of responsibility in breaking through all the chains and shackles that enslave women in backward societies like ours and to assume your share of the responsibilities in the political fight to build a new society at the service of Africa and at the service of all humanity.
  12. As long as women don’t have a clear appreciation of the just nature of the political battle to be fought and don’t see clearly how to take it forward, we can easily stop making headway and eventually slip backward.Image of Thomas Sankara emblazoned with the quote "I want people to remember me as someone whose life has been useful to humanity".
  13. Education and economic emancipation, if not well understood and channelled in a constructive direction, can be be a source of misfortune for the woman and thus for society as a whole.
  14. Our women should not retreat in face of the so many-sided struggles that lead a woman to take charge of herself fully and proudly, so as to discover the happiness of being herself, not the domesticated female of the male.
  15. We must say again to our sisters that marriage, if it brings society nothing positive and does not bring them happiness, is not indispensable and should be avoided.
  16. As revolutionaries, we should see to it that marriage is a choice that adds something positive, and not some kind of lottery where we know what the ticket costs us, but have no idea what we’ll end up winning. Human feelings are too noble to be subjected to such games.
  17. The revolution cannot triumph without the genuine emancipation of women.
  18. Women, like men, have qualities and weaknesses – which undoubtedly proves they are equal to men. Placing the emphasis deliberately on women’s qualities in no way means we have an idealistic vision of them. We simply aim to single out the qualities and capacities that men and society have always hidden in order to justify their exploitation and subjugation of women.
  19. Though our resources are ridiculously small, our goals are ambitious. The will to go forward and our firm conviction are not sufficient to make our wager succeed. We must marshall our forces – all our forcs, organise them, and channel them toward winning our struggle. Image of Thomas Sankara addressing a rally
  20. We should avoid shirking responsibilities, which has led to a failure to bring all forces into the struggle and to making this pivotal question of women’s emancipation into a marginal one. We must avoid rushing ahead, leaving far behind those, especially the women, who should be on the frontlines.
  21. It’s in the heat of the struggle that important and decisive victories are won.
  22. Conceiving a development project without the participation of women is like using only four fingers when you have ten. It’s an invitation to failure.
  23. It is an obvious fact that wherever women have had access to education, their march to equality has been accelerated. Emerging from the darkness of ignorance allows women to take up and use the tools of knowledge in order to place themselves at the disposal of society.
  24. Living in squalor produces squalid relations. Look at the pigs if you don’t believe me.
  25. For the time being, we have no choice but to recognise that male behaviour – made up of vanity, irresponsibility, arrogance, and violence of all kinds toward women – can in no way result in coordinated action against women’s oppression. What can be said of these attitudes, which can sink to the level of stupidity, and which in reality are nothing but a safety valve for oppressed males, who, through brutalising their wives, hope to regain some of the human dignity denied them by the system of exploitation. This male stupidity is called masichismo. It includes moral and intellectual impoverishment of all types, even (acknowledged or not) physical powerlessness, which often compels politically conscious women to consider it their duty to fight on two fronts. Thomas Sankara
  26. We must pay close attention to the situation of women because it pushes the best of them to talk of a war of the sexes, when what we really have is a war of social groups and of social classes that should simply be waged together, with men and women complementing each other. We have to say frankly that it’s the attitude of men that makes such confusion possible. That in turn paves the way for the bold assertions made by feminism, some of which have not been without value in the fight that men and women are waging against oppression. This fight is one we can and will win – if we understand that we need one another and are complementary, and finally, if we understand that we are condemned to being complementary.
  27. Comrades, there is no true social revolution without the liberation of women. May my eyes never see and my feet never take me to a society where half the people are held in silence. I hear the roar of women’s silence. I sense the rumble of their storm and feel the fury of their revolt. I await and hope for the fertile eruption of the revolution through which they will transmit the strength and the rigorous justice issued from their oppressed wombs.

Keep your eyes peeled for two book reviews coming within the next few days. The first is Woman’s liberation and the African freedom struggle based on speeches by the late Captain Thomas Isidore Noel Sankara.

The second is I Write What I Like written by the late Steve Bantu Biko. It is a compilation of his speeches, letters, reports, articles and interviews. Don’t miss them. Thanks for reading. Spread the word. Spread the ideas.

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