January 17th 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of Patrice Lumumba's assassination, first elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire. In 1997, with Laurent Désiré Kabila coming to power, this date has become a public holiday in the country. The irony of this morbid calendar is that January 16th 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of the same Laurent Désiré Kabila‘s assassination, head of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFLC).
This confusion of memories has nevertheless not stopped the Congolese people and their diaspora from organizing some commemorations for the fiftieth year of Lumumba's death.
From the Radio Okapi website, one of the first Congolese Information radios, we learn that a mass was celebrated at the Cathedral of Our Lady, in Kinshasa. The peculiarity of this year is that the religious service also honored two companions of the hero of the Congolese indepedence:
“Contrairement aux précédentes commémorations, la messe d’action de grâce de ce lundi 17 janvier 2011 a été célébrée en mémoire de Maurice Mpolo et Joseph Okito, les collaborateurs de Lumumba tués avec lui.”
On the social network twitter, this day of commemoration was also the occasion to remember the last words written by Lumumba to his wife a few days before his death. JF Mikwa, as many others, has shared the link to the said letter.
Friends of the Congo, an organization based in Washington DC working on promoting good governance in Congo, organised this monday night, January 17th, in New York City, a screening of a documentary film on the former prime minister followed by panel discussions.
In Brussels, the blog Cheik Fita News, dedicated to online information of Congolese living in Belgium, reported that an organized march by the collective “mémoires coloniales” (colonial memories) occurred on January 16th 2011. We also learned that this same collective has started a petition untitled “Truth, justice and compensation to the the congolese people” requesting among other things for the Belgian government to ackowledge its responsibility in the assassination of the political figure:
“L'État belge et les divers acteurs de ces multiples meurtres doivent reconnaître leur responsabilité et les assumer”
Despite all these demonstrations, some may ask themselves about the extend of the tibute paid to Lumumba. Faraja Bm on Facebook, regretted that a real day of commemoration wasn't organized around this historical date in the African continent.
“This Guy should also have a day of observation… I mean real day of Observation!”