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Pambazuka News brings you a poem by Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961), one of the first generation of African nationalists who were both militant and strong pan-Africanists. Patrice Lumumba was elected the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Assassinated by Belgian colonialists and the CIA, Lumumba was a founder member of the Movement National Congolais (MNC), which led the Congo to independence. The image of Patrice Lumumba continues to serve as an inspiration in contemporary Congolese and African politics.

For a thousand years, you, African, suffered like a beast,
Your ashes strewn to the wind that roams the desert.
Your tyrants built the lustrous, magic temples
To preserve your soul, preserve your suffering.
Barbaric right of fist and the white right to a whimp,
You had the right to die, you also could weep.
On your totem they carved endless hunger, endless bonds,
And even in the cover of the woods a ghastly cruel death
Was watching, snaky, crawling to you
Like branches from the holes and heads of trees
Embraced your body and your ailing soul.
They put a treacherous big viper on your chest:
On your neck they laid the yoke of fire-water
They took your sweet wife for glitter and cheap pearls,
Your incredible riches that nobody could measure.
From your hut, the tom-toms sounded into dark of night
Carrying cruel laments up mighty black rivers
About abused girls, streams of tears and blood
About ships that sailed to countries where the little man
Wallows in an anthill and where the dollar is king,
To that damned land which they call the motherland.
There your child, your wife were ground, day and night
In a frightful, merciless mill, crushing them in dreadful pain.
You are a man like others. They preach you to believe
That good white God will reconcile all men at last.
By fire you grieved and sang morning songs
Of a homeless beggar that sinks at strangers’ doors.
And when a craze possessed you
And your blood boiled through the night
You danced, you moaned, obsessed by father’s passion.
Like fury of a storm of lyric of manly tune
From a thousand years of misery a strength burst out of you
In metallic voice of jazz, in uncovered outcry
That thunders through the continent like gigantic surf
The whole world surprised, wakes up in panic
To the violent rhythm of blood, to the violent rhythm of jazz,
The white man turning pallid over this new song
That carries torch of purple through the dark of night

The dawn is here, my brother! Dawn! Look in our faces,
A new morning breaks in our old Africa.
Ours alone will now be the land, the water, mighty rivers
Poor African surrendered for a thousand years.
Hard torches of the sun will shine for us again
They’ll dry the tears in eyes and spittle on your face
The moment when you break the chains, the heavy fetters,
The evil, cruel times will go never to come again.
A free and gallant Congo will arise from black soil,
A free and gallant Congo-black blossom from black seed!

Courtesy Third World Resurgence, Issue no. 52 Sept/Oct 08


* This article first appeared in the maiden issue of CHEMCHEMI, Bulletin of the Mwalimu Nyerere Professorial Chair in Pan African Studies of the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and is reproduced here with the kind permission of the Editorial Board of CHEMCHEMI.
* Patrice Lumumba’s gruesome murder is described in The Assassination of Patrice Lumumba (Ludo de Witte, Verso, 2001)
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at Pambazuka News.