Independence?

The scene where Lumumba gives his speech on Independence Day is a something that has stuck with me throughout the movie. From the first words in the speech, he set the tone for the type of government he wanted the Congo to have. He was the only speaker who actually addressed the people of the Congo and referred to them as equal to the Belgians. He reminded the people that they had to fight for their freedom and it wasn’t given to them contrary to what the King suggested. At this point was when the Belgian government realized that Lumumba would be a problem for them.

Unlike the British, the Belgians believed in direct rule and so they were hesitant to grant Congo their independence. During his speech, the King said, “do not replace the Belgian institutions unless you are sure you can do better.” That statement was one that stuck with me throughout the movie as well. In the 50s and 60s, many African nations began to receive their independence but this was a farce in a sense. Many of these nations were still expected to be tied to their colonizing countries. This is why many of the problems that exist in Africa still persist today. While these countries were given ‘independence’ they weren’t really given their freedom. They were expected to keep and continue to maintain the institutions under which they were colonized. They weren’t encouraged to start their own institutions and figure out what is better for them as a country.

Another important point made in the movie was when one of the white delegates said: “the Congo is just a bunch of tribes, colonialism is the only thing keeping it together.” This statement shows how important it was for African nations to get rid of the European institutions and come up with their own. The European institutions only worked while they were there. Once the Europeans were gone, Africans began to focus on their differences and that led to many of the conflicts we see in the region today.

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Posted on September 18, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Interesting observations, Somayina. You bring up an undeniable schism between the indirect colonial rule of the British (who just wanted to maximize profits) versus the direct colonial rule of the Belgium. Considering that the French also resorted to a direct manner of governance, I think it’s interesting that you brought up these comparisons. I find these dichotomies to be so fascinating that they are the focal points of my research in International Studies Research Methods.

    Although the French and Belgian colonists both belonged to the category of “direct rulers,” their tactics varied in terms of integrating Africans into their societies. Do you remember when one of the white delegates said, “We didn’t make the French mistake: Africanize the cadres” to reinforce the notion that the Congo would surmount to chaos once the Belgian left?

    Like we talked about in class, the Belgian colonists made little effort to integrate the Congolese into their public sphere. As a result the social institutions that formed under Belgian rule couldn’t have possibly persisted after decolonization simply because the Congolese were never in the loop to begin with. While the French went through great lengths to directly assimilate their colonies into Francophone culture, and the Belgium were more ruthless in ruling their colonies with a “heavy hand,” they both essentially harmed the development of their African colonies through direct rule, systematic racism, and cultural appropriation. We can see this in the instability that prevails today in the Congo.

    While I continue to do more research, I’m learning how direct rule of the French (specifically) stunted the solidarity movements of their former African colonies, usually resulting in an array of economic inefficiencies and dependability on their colonial relatives for financial assistance, especially in West Africa. In a nutshell, I’m figuring out how post-colonial leaders from former French colonies were inherently hindered to lead a sovereign nation upon independence.

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