Speech at the opening of the All-African Conference in Leopoldville
August 25, 1960
Source: Patrice Lumumba: Fighter for Africa’s Freedom, Moscow, Progress Publishers, 1961, pp 19-25.
Written: by Patrice Lumumba;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.
Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba speaks at the opening of the All-African Conference in Leopoldville, August 25, 1960
Ladies and gentlemen,
The fighting Congolese people are proud and happy to receive their brothers-in-arms in their country today.
For my Government, for us Congolese, your presence here at such a moment is the most striking proof of the African reality whose existence our enemies have always denied and are still attempting to deny. But you, of course, know that that reality is even more stubborn than they, and Africa lives on and fights. She refuses to die to justify the arguments about the backwardness of our history, a history we have made with our hands, our skins and our blood.
It is at conferences such as this that, we first became conscious of our personality, of our growing solidarity. When at our first conferences, which were held in various cities in Africa, we brought up the problem of decolonisation the imperialists never expected we would be successful. However, since the first Conference of the Peoples of Africa in Accra in December 1958 we have traversed the entire road of the liberation of our continent together.
You will recall the upsurge of the liberation struggle of the peoples of Angola, Algeria, the Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Nyasaland and Rhodesia after the Conference in Accra, and of Ruanda-Urundi today. You will remember that a decisive step forward was taken after that historic Conference. Nothing, neither bullets, nor repressions, could stop this popular movement.
The work of this Conference is aimed at accelerating the movement for the independence of the African continent.
Ministers, dear fighters for the freedom of Africa, it is your duty to show the world and those who sneer at us that nothing can deter us from liberating Africa, which is our common aim. We can achieve this aim only in solidarity and unity. Our solidarity will have meaning only when it is boundless and when we are convinced that Africa's destiny is indivisible.
Such are the deep-going principles of the work you will have to do. This meeting will prepare the ground for a Summit Conference at which our countries will have to speak on:
1) the unqualified support of all the African states in the general struggle for a Pan-African bloc;
2) a policy of neutralism with the purpose of achieving genuine independence;
3) the breaking down of colonial barriers through cultural exchanges;
4) trade agreements between the African states;
5) Africa's position with regard to the European Common Market;
6) military co-operation;
7) the building in Leopoldville of a powerful radio station with the aid of all the African states;
8) the creation of a research centre in Leopoldville.
Ministers, you have come into contact with the reality of the Congo here, in the very heart of the crisis that we shall have to resolve.
Your confidence in the future of our continent will unquestionably help you to complete your work successfully. Your principal purpose is to prepare a meeting of our Heads of State, who will in deed establish African unity, for whose sake you have responded to our appeal.
You know the origin of what is today called the Congolese crisis, which is actually only a continuation of the struggle between the forces of pressure and the forces of liberation. At the very outset of the Belgian aggression, my Government, the guarantor and representative of the sovereignty of the Congolese nation, decided to appeal to the United Nations. The U.N. has responded. And so has the free world. Belgium has been condemned. I went to New York to show world public opinion the moving forces of the Congolese drama.
Upon our return from the United Stateswe replied to the invitation of the Heads of the free African states, who publicly adopted a definite position and unanimously extended to us their fraternal support. From this rostrum I express my gratitude to President Bourguiba, His Majesty Mohammed V, President Sekou Toure, President Tubman, President Nkrumah and President Olympio, whom I had the honour to meet at this decisive moment. I regret that material difficulties prevented me from replying to the invitation of President Nasser and His Majesty Haile Selassie.
All of them, fighting for African unity, have said "No" to the strangulation of Africa. All of them immediately realised that the attempts of the imperialists to restore their rule threaten not only the independence of the Congo but also the existence of all the independent states of Africa. They all realised that if the Congo perishes, the whole of Africa will be plunged into the gloom of defeat and bondage.
That is further striking proof of African unity. It is concrete testimony of the unity that we need in the face of imperialism's monstrous appetite.
All statesmen are agreed that this reality is not debated but fought for so that it may be defended.
We have gathered here in order that together we may defend Africa, our patrimony. In reply to the actions of the imperialist states, for whom Belgium is only an instrument, we must unite the resistance front of the free and fighting nations of Africa. We must oppose the enemies of freedom with a coalition of free men. Our common destiny is now being decided here in the Congo.
It is, in effect, here that the last act of Africa's emancipation and rehabilitation is being played. In extending the struggle, whose primary object was to save the dignity of the African, the Congolese people have chosen independence. In doing so, they were aware that a single blow would not free them from colonial fetters, that juridical independence was only the first step, that a further long and trying effort would be required. The road we have chosen is not an easy one, but it is the road of pride and freedom of man.
We were aware that as long as the country was dependent, as long as she did not take her destiny into her own hands, the main thing would be lacking. This concerns the other colonies, no matter what their standard of life is or what positive aspects of the colonial system they have.
We have declared our desire for speedy independence without a transition period and without compromises with such emphasis because we have suffered more mockery, insults and humiliation than anybody else.
What purpose could delays serve when we already knew that sooner or later we would have to revise and re-examine everything? We had to create a new system adapted to the requirements of purely African evolution, change the methods forced on us and, in particular, find ourselves and free ourselves from the mental attitudes and various complexes in which colonisation kept us for centuries.
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.
The classical methods of the colonialists, which we all knew or partially still know, are particularly vital here: survivals of military occupation, tribal disunity, sustained and encouraged over a long period, and destructive political opposition, planned, directed and paid.
You know how difficult it has been for a newly independent state to get rid of the military bases installed by the former occupying powers. We must declare here and now that henceforth Africa refuses to maintain the armed forces of the imperialists in its territory. There must be no more Bizertes, Kitonas, Kaminas and Sidi Slimanes. We have our own armies to defend our countries.
Our armed forces, which are victims of machinations, are likewise freeing themselves from the colonial organisation in order to have all the qualities of a national army under Congolese leadership.
Our internal difficulties, tribal war and the nuclei of political opposition seemed to have been accidentally concentrated in the regions with our richest mineral and power resources. We know how all this was organised and, in particular, who supports it today in our house.
Our Katanga because of its uranium, copper and gold, and our Bakwanga in Kasai because of its diamonds have become hotbeds of imperialist intrigues. The object of these intrigues is to recapture economic control of our country.
But one thing is certain, and I solemnly declare that the Congolese people will never again let themselves be exploited, that all leaders who will strive to direct them to that road will be thrown out of the community.
The resonance that has now been caused by the Congolese problem shows the weight that Africa has in the world today. Our countries, which only yesterday they wanted to ignore as colonial countries, are today causing the old world concern here in Africa. Let them worry about what belongs to them. That is not our affair. Our future, our destiny, a free Africa, is our affair.
This is our year, which you have witnessed and shared in. It is the year of our indisputed victory. It is the year of heroic, blood-drenched Algeria, of Algeria the martyr and example of struggle. It is the year of tortured Angola, of enslaved South Africa, of imprisoned Ruanda-Urundi, of humiliated Kenya.
We all know, and the whole world knows it, that Algeria is not French, that Angola is not Portuguese, that Kenya is not English, that Ruanda-Urundi is not Belgian. We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African.
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.
I think I shall not be making a mistake if I say that the united Africa of today rejects these intrigues. That is why we have chosen the policy of positive neutralism, which is the only acceptable policy allowing us to preserve our dignity.
For us there is neither a Western nor a communist bloc, but separate countries whose attitude towards Africa dictates our policy towards them. Let each country declare its position and act unequivocally with regard to Africa.
We refuse to be an arena of international intrigues, a hotbed and stake in the cold war. We affirm our human dignity of free men, who are steadily taking the destiny of their nations and their continent into their own hands.
We are acutely in need of peace and concord, and our foreign policy is directed towards co-operation, loyalty and friendship among nations. We want to be a force of peaceful progress, a force of conciliation. An independent and united Africa will make a large and positive contribution to world peace. But torn into zones of hostile influence, she will only intensify world antagonism and increase tension.
We are not undertaking any discriminative measures. But the Congo is discriminated against in her external relations. Yet in spite of that she is open for all and we are prepared to go anywhere. Our only demand is that our sovereignty be recognised and respected.
We shall open our doors to specialists from all countries motivated by friendship, loyalty and co-operation, from countries bent not on ruling Africans but on helping Africa. They will be welcomed with open arms.
I am sure that I shall be expressing the sentiments of all my African brothers when I say that Africa is not opposed to any nation taken separately, but that she is vigilant against any attempt at new domination and exploitation both in the economic and spiritual fields. Our goal is to revive Africa's cultural, philosophical, social and moral values and to preserve our resources. But our vigilance does not signify isolation. From the beginning of her independence, the Congo has shown her desire to play her part in the life of free nations, and this desire was concretised in her request for admission to the United Nations.
Ministers and dear comrades, I am happy to express the joy and pride of the Government and people of the Congo at your presence here, at the presence here of the whole of Africa. The time of projects has passed. Today Africa must take action. This action is being impatiently awaited by the peoples of Africa. African unity and solidarity are no longer dreams. They must be expressed in decisions.
United by a single spirit, a single aspiration and a single heart, we shall turn Africa into a genuinely free and independent continent in the immediate future.
Long live African unity and solidarity!
Forward, Africans, to complete liberation!
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