60 years of independence in the DRC: back under the tree where Lumumba perishes

Audio 1:32

Patrice Lumumba (d) in December 1960. He was then Prime Minister of Congo-Kinshasa. Beside him, Senate Vice-President Joseph Okito (g). Patrice Lumumba will be murdered with two of his relatives, Joseph Okito and Maurice Mpolo, on January 17, 1961. AFP PHOTO / STRINGER STRINGER

Text by: RFI Follow

Sixty years ago, the Democratic Republic of Congo, which was then called Belgian Congo, gained independence. This resounded throughout the African continent, notably through one of the figures who embodied it, Patrice Lumumba, a great Pan-Africanist, murdered in Katanga when he was Prime Minister for six months. RFI returned to the site of his death.


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With our correspondent in Lubumbashi,  Denise Maheho

Shilantembo. Lumumba and his two companions were murdered 2 km from this village. A wooded savannah through which Professor Sumba Mali guides us

" We will start there but first we greet Papa Ilunga, the guardian ...

- Hello ! It's okay ?

- Ehhh prof ... "

An old tree is still standing, it is quite a symbol in this place.

It was under this tree that there was an assassination. It was the night after midnight that we took them, we came with them. This road goes to the Mwadingusha power station. We got to this place, we brought them down. We started with the two companions and as a last resort, it was Lumumba himself that we murdered.  "

The assassination wanted to take place in secret, but there was nevertheless a witness, explains Professor Sumba Mali: “  A young boy had come out to come and see his traps around 4 am. It was then that he heard shots being fired. He then hid in that bush, and he could see the whole scene. He then ran to see the village chief.  "

Kasongo Mwanza, site guard, is the grandson of Mr. Kasanda, the only witness to the shooting. “  Tshombe was surprised to see Lumumba with eyes flat. We first sent it to Kasai, we didn't receive it, we bring it here, [Moïse] Tshombe [president of Katanga] opposes it. Faced with this resistance, Mobutu gave the order to assassinate him. That's how he was brought here.  "

What really happened? There are still many gray areas around Lumumba's death.

► To go further: Life and death of Lumumba: the murdered anticolonialism

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