Legacy of Lumumba is
discussed in Stockholm
BY CATHARINA TIRSÉN
STOCKHOLM, Sweden—About 30 people attended a January 20 presentation and discussion at the Malcolm X-Café Pan Africa here, sponsored by the Afro-Swedes Organization.
“We all think of Haiti tonight. Why is it that Haiti is poor, and France and other countries are rich?” said Kitimbwa Sabuni, who chaired the event. “We might get some answers tonight, as we will discuss colonial revolution, imperialism, and the murder of Patrice Lumumba.” Sabuni introduced the speaker, Dag Tirsén, from the Communist League.
Tirsén described the mass movement that lead to the independence of Congo from Belgium on June 30, 1960, which was part of a broader wave of struggles for national independence throughout Africa at that time.
Although not officially scheduled to speak, Lumumba, who was prime minister, took the podium at the independence ceremonies. His speech, broadcast on radio, electrified the population as he spoke the unvarnished truth about the fight for independence and the exploitation of Congo by the imperialist powers.
“The Belgian and other imperialists wanted to maintain their control over the country and its riches,” Tirsén said, “and they found that Lumumba was an obstacle to that.”
When soldiers in the Congolese army rose up against their Belgian officers, Lumumba carried through their demands. This included the removal of the Belgian Lt. Gen. Emil Janssens, replacement of Belgian officers with Congolese, and pay increases.
After Belgian occupation of the mineral rich Katanga, Lumumba made the fatal error of asking the United Nations for help to stop the aggression. Seeing an opportunity to intervene, Washington voted for sending UN troops in the Security Council.
Dag Hammarskjöld , then secretary-general of the United Nations, played an key role in forming the imperialist intervention. He was a former Swedish cabinet minister as well as a member of one of the Swedish ruling families with interests in Africa, including in the LAMCO mine in Liberia.
“It was Hammarskjöld that came up with the plan of how to get rid of Lumumba and place the blame on internal African disputes,” said Tirsén.
When the chief of staff Joseph Mobuto seized power in a coup, “UN troops from Ghana were forbidden by Hammarskjöld to protect Lumumba outside his residence” Tirsén said. After Lumumba was captured, Swedish UN troops stood by at the Katanga airport as he was beaten. Lumumba was tortured and killed shortly thereafter.
“This story about Congo is not about history, it is about what is happening now, as more and more Swedish and other imperialist troops are sent to Afghanistan. At the same time the rights of workers here are under attack as the capitalist crises worsens,” Tirsén said.
The presentation was followed by a lively debate and question period.
“You talked about the Congolese bourgeoisie. But as I see it, you have the imperialists, and you have their henchmen,” said Samson Tomas, one of the participants.
“I heard an expert on Haiti that said the problems there were because of corruption and incapable governments,” said Sabuni. “Can governments in Third World countries get more power today, or is it the same as in Lumumba’s time?”
“The whole system has to be changed,” said Tirsén. “When there is a crack in it, people can organize and move forward like Lumumba and his organization tried to do.” Tirsén pointed to the example of the Cuban Revolution, where working people took power out of the hands of the U.S. backed dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.
“That is the kind of leadership you need, including in Sweden,” Tirsén said.