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The Self-Determination of a Man and a Nation

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Nervous Conditions, I believe that watching Lumumba was an excellent continuation in our understanding of self-determination. Allow me to backtrack. When I completed Nervous Conditions, it dawned on me that Tambu’s development as a freethinking liberated individual was essentially the birth of her own independent nation. Even under the impressionable dominion of the English, Tambu slowly but surely found her autonomy.

While learning about Lumumba’s role in Congolese history, however, I drew upon similar parallels. Granted that Lumumba and Kasavubu were the bearers of Congolese independence in 1960, there is no denying (at least in accordance to how the film portrayed history) that Patrice Lumumba bore the brunt of responsibility in bringing (valiantly trying to bring) stability to the Congo. The self-determination of a sovereign Congo was encapsulated in his every action, for he was truly a man of the people striving to instill unification across the nation.

Allow me to analyze a couple of scenes were Lumumba’s self-determination to prove his (and Congo’s) independence were blatantly clear and interconnected. For example, the scene where Lumumba reprimands General Janssen for his ill-treatment of the Congolese soldiers signifies how former Belgian tactics of governance were no longer acceptable. Not only was Lumumba telling the general to address him appropriately as “excellency” but also stressing the point that the brutal authority the Belgians once yielded over their military constituencies has ended. As the utterly shocked expression dawned upon Janssen’s face after hearing that he must resign, we can see how strongly Lumumba wanted to rectify the dehumanizing facets of Belgian governance.

Another example of Lumumba’s (and consequentially Congo’s) self-determination was his outright refusal to accept foreign aid from Belgium. Soon enough Lumumba went off on a tangent about Belgium being responsible for the strife engulfing the Congo, signifying the manner in which he believed his colonial predecessors were plotting against him. Perhaps Lumumba was so vehemently against Belgian foreign aid because it would have signified to the world how unprepared the Congo was to be its own nation, and consequentially, this would have been a reflection on himself. Along similar lines to this proposed outside assistance, this scene also related to Lumumba’s conversation to the American ambassador where he coyly delivered a Bantu verb: “the hand that gives, rules.” Is foreign aid a subtle way of controlling the affairs of another nation? How can this relate to modern day examples of neocolonialism? 

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