Modules for History Lessons
Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn
The Representation of Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and his Speech on 30 June 1960 (Congolese Independence Day) – Food for Controversy
Introduction to the Module
30 June 1960: Belgian Congo becomes the independent Congo Republic. Sovereignty is given during an official ceremony in Léopoldville, now Kinshasa. Congolese and Belgian politicians are present, as well as ambassadors of many countries. Belgian king Baudouin gives a paternalistic speech in which he refers to the genius of Leopold II, whom he depicts as a “civilizer”. Baudouin asks the Congolese to cherish the Belgian legacy. Unexpectedly and unagreed, Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba gives a speech as well. His speech can be interpreted as a direct answer to Baudouin: what Lumumba says is the opposite of the words of Baudouin. Lumumba is very critical of the colonial system, which he describes as “slavery”.
It might be plain that both actors refer to the past in very specific ways, all with a view to shaping a specific colonial collective memory. Whereas Baudouin wants to fix a positive representation of Leopoldian and Belgian rule, in order for Belgium to make a good impression on the international scene, Lumumba aims at fixing an image of a brave and courageous Congolese people that, despite the oppression, never gave up, and gained its independence on its own strength. Through this specific group representation, Lumumba strived for social change with the help of a unified people.
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