A Colonial Style Death – Patrice Lumumba, an African Tragedy – Death: Colonial Style. The Execution of Patrice Lumumba (2000)


Directed by: Thomas Giefer | 52 minutes | documentary

Patrice Lumumba. This name will undoubtedly not sound familiar to the Dutch. All the more for Belgians. Belgium had to give up Congo in 1960 and free elections were held. The first prime minister was Patrice Lumumba, a left-wing Congolese nationalist. Lumumba was later executed by soldiers of the renegade Katanga province following a coup d’état by General Mobutu. Belgian officers were present. He appeared to be the victim of an (inter) national power game between the United Nations, the United States, Russia, various Congolese political factions and the Belgian government.

Giefer’s documentary is a collection of interviews with a few people who were close to the events of the time surrounding the rise and fall of Lumumba. Belgian diplomats and soldiers are interviewed, but also a CIA agent and a military advisor for the UN. The events are told in chronological order based on their testimonies. Striking in contrast to the contributions of these political figures are interviews with Lumumba’s son and daughter. They symbolize the injustice and the cry for justice that speaks clearly from this documentary. Why and by whom was Lumumba murdered? And why have none of the perpetrators ever been brought to justice?

The strong side of this documentary is the chilling carelessness with which the Belgian secret service employees and Belgian diplomats involved tell about the events surrounding Lumumba’s death. They still speak of Lumumba’s death as a necessary elimination of a tormentor for Belgian interests. One of the men, who was responsible for getting rid of Lumumba’s corpses and two others, even has “war trophies” that he displays with misguided pride. You may wonder if these individuals have never repented of their actions. The reactions of the men speak for themselves in that regard.

Although the documentary does not elaborate on the statements of those involved and does not present deeper historical research about colonial and political relations, it can be considered by many as an eye opener and a start for further questioning of the precise circumstances surrounding Lumumba’s death and the role of the international community. At the very least, the average Belgian will be able to look at recent Belgian history with a different eye.

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