Patrice Lumumba: Speech at the Proclamation of Congolese Independence

(1960)

Patrice Lumumba, the first prime minister of the former Belgian Congo, led his country to independence. In Lumumba's Speech at the Proclamation of Congolese Independence (June 30, 1960), he denounced the oppression and humiliation of colonial rule in the presence of Belgium's King Baudouin. The king, scandalized, nearly left Léopoldville (modern-day Kinshasa), but he was persuaded to stay for the lunch that followed the ceremony. Lumumba, for his part, was persuaded to give a second speech at the lunch, in which he attempted to make amends, crediting Belgium and its monarchy for its positive contributions to Congo. However, the damage had been done.

Lumumba's Speech at the Proclamation of Congolese Independence had not been included in the program for the day's events, a program negotiated by representatives of Congo and Belgium. The heads of state, King Baudouin of Belgium and President Joseph Kasavubu of Congo, were to exchange speeches. In Lumumba's view, Kasavubu was a...