We read in an article published on the website for The Chicago Council on Global Affairs:
“The most significant event in United State-Africa [sic] relations this year was covered by every major news outlet in Africa– and went largely unreported in American media. It was a state funeral held in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on June 30. They were burying a tooth.”
This gold-capped tooth belonged to Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961). He was the first prime minister of the independent Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire, formerly the Congo Free State). He was also one of the leaders against colonialism in Africa (along with others such as Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, who was also assassinated).
The Belgian police officer who killed Lumumba burned his body in acid. All that remained was a tooth, which the officer kept as a “trophy.” This tooth was later returned to Lumumba’s family.
The Congo Free State was ruled by Belgium and its savage, blood-thirsty King Leopold II from the early 1880s to 1908. The country was basically his personal property, and he did his best to rape it of resources, particularly rubber.
Those of Leopold’s slaves (all Congolese) who did not harvest enough rubber would often have a hand cut off. Many died from this. Others were simply killed or died from starvation (little focus was given to agriculture that could sustain the population). It is estimated that Leopold II likely killed around half of the Congolese population.1
Leopold II and the ‘horror’ that was the Belgian Congo was made famous (at least in the English-speaking world) by Joseph Conrad through his novel, Heart of Darkness, wherein he provided a fictionalized account based on his own time there.
Mark Twain also had a go at Leopold in his satirical King Leopold’s Soliloquoy:
“They [those who have criticized his actions in Congo] tell how I [Leopold II) levy incredibly burdensome taxes upon the natives—taxes which are pure theft; taxes which they must satisfy by gathering rubber under hard and constantly harder conditions…and it all comes out that when they fall short of their tasks through hunger, sickness, despair, and ceaseless and exhausting labor without rest, and forsake their homes and flee to the woods to escape punishment, my black soldiers, drawn from unfriendly tribes, and instigated and directed by my Belgians, hunt them down and butcher them and burn their villages…they tell it all: how I am wiping a nation of friendless creatures out of existence by every form of murder, for my private pocket’s sake.” (Page 7)
Once the Congo was finally freed from this savagery, one of their own rose up to rule the country. This man was none other than Patrice Lumumba.
Lumumba’s speech addresses the suffering of the Congolese people at the hands of Leopold. In a speech that is described as marking “the beginning of his descent into hell” (he was killed soon thereafter), Lumumba recounted the suffering of the Congolese at the hands of Leopold II and the Belgians:
“‘We remember the ridicule, insults, and beatings we had to endure morning, noon and night, because we were ‘negroes’. We recollect the atrocious suffering of those persecuted for political opinions or religious beliefs. Exiled in their own homeland, their fate was really worse than death itself’”
But the West simply couldn’t have Lumumba assuming power, so they did exactly what you can imagine they would do—they plotted to assassinate him.
The New York Times reports:
“The poison, the scientist said, was somehow to be slipped into Lumumba’s food, or perhaps into his toothpaste. Poison was not the only acceptable method; any form of assassination would do, so long as it could not be traced back to the United States Government. Pointing out that assassination was not exactly a common C.I.A. tactic, the station chief asked who had authorized the assignment. The scientist indicated that the order had come from the ‘highest authority’—from Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States.”
As was a major part of the ‘post’-colonial period, which took place during the cold war, the US was concerned that Lumumba would be too cozy with the Soviets.
Also from The New York Times:
“The Joint Chiefs were concerned about the possibility of Belgium’s bases in the Congo falling into Soviet hands. The council decided that the United States should be prepared ‘at any time to take appropriate military action to prevent or defeat Soviet military intervention in the Congo.’”
Despite these plans, it was the Belgians, with the support of some Congolese on the ground, who overthrew Lumumba’s government and then killed him:
“Lumumba was toppled as prime minister just over two months later. Then in January 1961, with the tacit backing of Belgium, he was shot by a firing squad, along with two allies.”
RELATED: No Shame: US Officials Admit Plotting Coups and Assassinations
The Horrors We’re Allowed to Forget
Lumumba’s funeral serves as a reminder that genocide and mass slaughter is too common throughout history, and that for what seems to be prejudicial reasons, only some genocides are seared into our memories, with it being absolutely unthinkable that those be forgotten even for a moment. Others on the other hand could be, at most, just a mere thought in passing.
Neal Ascherson, author of The King Incorporated: Leopold the Second and the Congo, made the following observation:
“Most intelligent readers in Europe and North America today, asked to name the most significant even in the last century, would probably nominate the Jewish holocaust. That would not have seemed so obvious when I was writing The King Incorporated . The answer then might well have been the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Bolshevik Revolution or the rise of Adolf Hitler. Since then, however, moral reflection on the details and implications of the Nazi ‘Final Solution’ – implications not only for Germany but for the entire human race – has come to overshadow all assessments of our times. And the discovery that genocide is still with us, in Cambodia or Rwanda, has only made that shadow darker. This change of emphasis has altered perspectives on the history of the Congo Free State. What now seems important is the sheer loss of life brought about by Leopold’s policies, directly or indirectly; while not a case of genocide, in the strict sense, this was one of the most appalling slaughters known to have been brought about by human agency” (8-9)
Ascherson also points out that, while Leopold’s unabashed use of an entire country and its people for his personal gain may not be the way of colonizer’s anymore, such exploitation still remains, just in different forms:
“A thread of continuity connects the methods of Leopold’s ivory and rubber trusts to the way in which global corporations still disempower and shatter traditional societies in their greed for raw materials. And a tradition of barefaced international hypocrisy also links Leopold to the present…In our own time, summit conferences on the saving and healing powers on untrammeled free trade have the same Leopoldian quality.” (10)
Those loans—the debt—accepted by these nations from their colonial masters is more of the same.
RELATED: Muslims Fighting Colonialism 101 Years Ago: The Mappila Rebellion in Kerala, India
Just the other day, we were given another example of the view of the West—and Europe in particular—in relation to the rest of the world. The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, told us that Europe was a “garden” that needed to be protected from “the jungle.”
Thanks, Josep, for keeping things very clear.
“…Allah is sufficient for us. And He is the most excellent Guardian!” (Qur’an, 3:173)
The only suprising thing about this is that he actually said it out loud. With all that history in Europe of colonialism, genocides, pogroms, ghettos, etc., one would have at least hoped for some self-reflection.
As Neal Ascherson pointedly notes, Leopold may be dead, but this system of exploitation continues regardless:
“The brutalities and disruption brought about by that regime, in effect a private and personal colony, whose single purpose was the extraction of wealth without regard to to the human cost, were never overcome. The concept of politics has never risen above an image of plunder extorted by force, whether by a king, a European colonial system, a dictator or a regional warlord.”2
No one needs to be particularly woke (Allah’s refuge is sought from such things) to see the prejudice and constant subjugation of certain types of people and certain parts of the world. In fact, the woke have taken points like this and somehow mashed them together with feminism and LGBTQ+ rights, somehow unaware that the very same traditional cultures which are the actual victims of colonialism and imperialism would not be accepting of things like feminism and LGBTQ rights (here’s a good example of this, with some recommended further reading here).
What does sometimes take a bit more focus, however, is identifying that the systems in place for things like ‘human rights,’ are what makes such subjugation possible. This is in part what is so extremely annoying about the woke. Along with most of them not being victims of anything (just try getting a job while being ‘transphobic’), they seem to be incapable of making the connection between their system and the subjugation of some of the people they claim to stand for.
Anyway, I digress.
May Allah help us to remember the past and not allow for such terrible crimes to be forgotten. Amin.
RELATED: Will France Ever Repent from Its Colonial Past (and Present)?
1 Neal Ascherson, The King Incorporated: Leopold the Second and the Congo, London: Granta, 1999, p.9.
2 Ibid., p.7-8.
The colonial amnesia is real
‘Wayne’, the descendant of Leopold II, will now come and say that this article is a ‘contrarian hit-piece’ against his/her ‘much-loved’ ancestor 😉
may allah swt bless the people of africa and guide them all to islam most of the African brother that i have met whether they be from Sudan,Ethiopia , Somalia they where very kindhearted, helpful people , with clean hearts may allah bring stability to their countries and region and create ease in their affair .
The belgian king Leopold II was jealous of the Dutch East Indies (dutch colonized Indonesia), because of it he sent an expedition to the still not explored by any europeans parts of Africa(regios around the Congo river), to exploit it without limits and incorporate it as part of the belgian colonial empire after the partition of Africa in the Berlin conference.