Documentary: Lumumba | by Raoul Peck (2000)
Lumumba is a film that must be seen. It is a brilliant and majestic work which documents the extraordinary contributions and self-sacrifice that the 1960’s Congolese leader Patrice Emery Lumumba made in attempting to safeguard the territorial integrity and tremendous wealth of the Congo against the greed and power plays of the United States of America and its allies.
Peck deals with a particularly nefarious part of U.S. history, which is still ongoing. Lumumba shows how the U.S. and its allies undermine democracy in African states, destabilize fledgling governments, and, after bringing down a government, help to create a mythical consensus that the people of the targeted African country were not yet ready for self-rule. Covert operations by Western counter-intelligence agencies stealthily undermine African governments and make them appear to be ungovernable, thus fostering the myth that once European colonialists left, Africans automatically slide back to atavism, stagnating until the good white father returns to rescue them through recolonization. It is of vital importance that people, particularly the black community, see Lumumba so that they become conscious of the real motivations of U.S. foreign policies and how the machinations to reach their objectives are accomplished.
What happened after the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on June 30, 1961 is a classic case of such foreign intrigue. This subversion of the dreams and aspirations of the Congolese people still haunts the second Democratic Republic of Congo today. In my view, it is no coincidence that the DRC’s late president, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated one day short of the 40th anniversary of the assassination of his mentor Patrice Lumumba. In time we will likely see that the forces behind the brutal murder of Patrice Lumumba, along with that of two of his closest aides, are the same as those which engineered Laurent Kabila’s assassination five months ago.
The film reveals how Western nations concocted a communist bogeyman to justify their covert actions on behalf of Western capitalist monopoly interests.
Peck depicts how Lumumba and his Congolese National Movement (MNC), democratically elected in a free and fair election, were undermined by a conspiracy between the former Belgian colonial rulers and their longtime financial partner, the U.S. This alliance arranged the assassinations of Lumumba and his cadre and imposed a puppet to protect their vested economic interests: Col. Joseph Desire Mobutu, the moody, envious, self-serving opportunist who was co-opted—and contracted—by the U.S. to betray the Congo’s national independence.
Mobutu’s brutal reign was maintained by financial and material assistance from eleven U.S. Administrations As a result, according to several press reports, Mobutu would become second only to the Shah of Iran as the richest leader in the world, while the Congo had its precious natural resources sucked away and was reduced to an economic basket case, leaving the Congolese masses wretchedly impoverished.
Lumumba, which is in French with English subtitles, is a tremendously moving film experience, with beautiful cinematography and a stupendous soundtrack. The casting of both African and European actors is outstanding, with exceptional performances throughout. Raoul Peck’s directing exhibits as much finesse as a maestro guiding an orchestra. It is no wonder that the film has already won the Director Fortnight Award at Cannes last year and was the winner for best feature film at the Pan- African Film Festival in Los Angeles. It is a phenomenal depiction of the human suffering caused by the hypocrisy of Western democracies.
As Lumumba wrote in his last message to his wife, Pauline Opanga, History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that will be taught in countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.
An essential part of that history was written 10 years ago in Raoul Peck’s award-winning documentary Lumumba – Death of a Prophet. That bio-doc has now been magnificently complemented by this poignant and breathtaking film masterpiece, whose screenplay Peck wrote with Pascal Bonitzer. Lumumba is a major contribution to the reclaiming of Africa’s glorious history in dignity. The puppeteers are not likely to be happy with Peck’s product. But all people who believe in common decency, fair play, social justice, and redressing old grievances by making right past wrongs, they will love Raoul Peck’s Lumumba. [Review of Raoul Peck’s ‘Lumumba:’ A tale of human suffering, sacrifice and hypocrisy by Elombe Brath, Haiti Progres, Vol. 19 no. 14, June 20–26, 2001]
My dear companion,
I write you these words without knowing if they will reach you, when they will reach you, or if I will still be living when you read them. All during the length of my fight 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 myself have consecrated our lives. But what we wish for our country, its right to an honorable life, to a spotless dignity, to an independence without restrictions, Belgian colonialism and its Western allies-who have found direct and indirect support, deliberate and not deliberate among certain high officials of the United Nations, this organization in which we placed all our confidence when we called for their assistance-have not wished it.
They have corrupted certain of our fellow countrymen, they have contributed to distorting the truth and our enemies, that they will rise up like a single person to say no to a degrading and shameful colonialism and to reassume their dignity under a pure sun.
We are not alone. Africa, Asia, and free and liberated people from every corner of the world will always be found at the side of the Congolese. They will not abandon the light until the day comes when there are no more colonizers and their mercenaries in our country. To my children whom I leave and whom perhaps I will see no more, I wish that they be told that the future of the Congo is beautiful and that it expects for each Congolese, to accomplish the sacred task of reconstruction of 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.
No brutality, mistreatment, or torture has ever forced me to ask for grace, for I prefer to die with my head high, my faith steadfast, and my confidence profound in the destiny of my country, rather than to live in submission and scorn of sacred principles.
History will one day have its say, but it will not be the history that Brussels, Paris, Washington or the United Nations will teach, but that which they will teach in the countries emancipated from colonialism and its puppets. Africa will write its own history, and it will be, to the north and to the south of the Sahara, a history of glory and dignity.
Do not weep for me, my dear companion. I know that my country, which suffers so much, will know how to defend its independence and its liberty.
Long live the Congo!
Long live Africa!
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