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Patrice Lumumba: His Last Words To His Wife Before His Assassination

On January 17th, 1961, Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo was assassinated.

He was the second of five leaders of independence movements in African countries to be assassinated in the 1960s by their former colonial masters, or their agents.

patrice lumumba
Patrice and Pauline Lumumba with their children.

Before his assassination, Lumumba wrote his wife a letter:

My dear wife,

I am writing these words not knowing how they will reach you and when they will and whether I shall still be alive when you read them.

All through my struggle for the independence of my country, I have never doubted for a single instant the final triumph of the sacred cause to which my companions and I have devoted all our lives.

But what we wished for our country, its right to an honourable life, to unstained dignity, to independence without restrictions, was never desired by the Belgian imperialists and their Western allies who found direct and indirect support, both deliberate and unintentional amongst
certain high official of the United Nations that organization in which we placed all our trust when called on its assistance.

They have corrupted some of our compatriots and bribed others. They have helped to distort the truth and bring our independence into dishonour. How could I speak otherwise?

Dead or alive, free or in prison by order of the imperialists, it is not I myself who count. It is the Congo, it is our poor people for whom independence has been transformed into a cage from beyond whose confines the outside world looks on us, sometimes with kindly sympathy but at other times with joy and pleasure.

But my faith will remain unshakeable. I know and I feel in my heart that sooner or later my people will rid themselves of all their enemies, both internal and external, and that they will rise as one man to say no to the degradation and shame of colonialism, and regain their dignity in the clear light of the sun.

As to my children whom I leave and whom I may never see again, I should like them to be told that it is for them, as it is for every Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstructing our independence and our sovereignty.

For without dignity there is no liberty, without justice there is no dignity, and without independence there are no free men.

Neither brutality nor cruelty nor torture will ever bring me to ask for mercy, for I prefer to die with my head unbowed, my faith unshakeable and with profound trust in the destiny of my country, rather than live under subjection and disregarding sacred principles.

History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that is taught in Brussels, Paris, Washington or in the United Nations. But the history which will be taught in the countries freed from imperialism and its puppets.

Africa will write its own history and to the north, and south of the Sahara, it will be a glorious and dignified history.

Do not weep for me, my dear wife. I know that my country which is suffering so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.

Long Live the Congo. Long Live Africa!



Tony O. Lawson

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La SAPE bid Papa Wemba Adieu

What a week…I thought that Prince’s death was the shocker and blower of the 21st century. And then, I saw a random post from a friend that said Papa Wemba, also, passed away. WOW. Papa Wemba too? I didn’t feel compelled to write a piece about Prince, not that he wasn’t worthy of my lamenting, but because I knew that others who are better equipped to do so – and thousands of people are – would.

Papa Wemba, however, is a different story.

A story that was unknown to me until several years ago when I started researching the sapeurs for The Dandy Lion Project. Credited as the leader of the contemporary sapology movement in the Congo, he was definitely a huge cultural icon known throughout Africa and Europe. La SAPE –  Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (The Society of Ambiance-Makers and Elegant People) formally named Papa Wemba as their leader nearly four decades ago. 

His music, afro-Rhumba was infectious. Arguably, on a musical level, Jules Shungu Wembadio Pene Kikumba, the man known as Papa Wemba, was to the Congo what Fela was to Nigeria. Although his music was not as political, it was certainly as influential. He was a superstar in his own right. Additionally, his flamboyance and cult-like addiction to fashion was not understated. 

His film roles, controversial lifestyle and fashion made him a documentary worthy subject in the 2005 documentary The Importance of Being Elegant. While Papa Wemba may not have been a household name like the Purple One, he will definitely be remembered by thousands of fans around the world. 

Unrelated to his untimely death, the Museum of the Africa Diaspora will be screening The Importance of Being Elegant on May 19, 2016 as part of its Sweet & Dandy Film Series for my Dandy Lion exhibition, that will be on view there through September. Check it out.

Shantrelle P. Lewis