A Rwandan friend recently sent me a 9-minute speech via Whatsapp, thinking I might have already heard it. About a week later, I finally listened to it for the first time. I’m glad I did. Attributed to Kenya’s Professor Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba – current Kenya School of Laws Director and a former director of Kenya’s Anti-Corruption Commission – the speech which seems to be fairly recent (2014/15) brings up a question that crops up whenever an African nation is celebrating its “independence”: How “free” are we really? Are these the throes of neo-colonization or the remnants of colonization? Is Pan-Africanism dead? More importantly, are we actually thinking or simply living and acting in oblivion?
Below is an audio version of the speech via YouTube and a transcript for those who prefer to read the speech. I should also point out that the speech seems to end abruptly, which might suggest that this isn’t the complete version. Anyone who has a full version should kindly share, thanks.
“When I look at Africa, many questions come to mind. Many times I ask myself, what would happen if Mwalimu were to rise up and see what is happening. Many times I will ask myself what will happen if Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba were to rise up and see what is happening. Because what they would be confronted with is an Africa where the Democratic Republic of Congo is unsettled.
“There is a war going on there but it is not on the front pages of our newspapers, because we don’t even control our newspapers and the media. “
As I speak to you the Central African Republic is at war. But we talk of it only mutedly. As I speak to you now, in South Sudan, the youngest nation in Africa, the Nuwera have risen against the Dinka. As I speak to you now, Eritrea is unsettled. As I speak to you now there is unease in Egypt, as there is unease in Libya. In Niger it is no better, in Senegal in the Cassamance, it is no better. In Somalia it is no better. Africa is at war with ourself.
This is what they would be confronted with. They would be confronted with an Africa which statistician and romantic economists say is growing, but which in truth is stagnated. That is the Africa that they would be confronted with. They would be confronted with an Africa which, as Professor Mlama intimated in our presentation here, is an Africa which is suffering from schizophrenia – it does not know herself.
“They would be confronted with an Africa whose young men and women have no interest and no love for their continent.”
They would be confronted with an Africa where young men and young women are constantly humiliated at embassies of European countries and the United States as they seek the almighty green card. They would be confronted with an Africa where young men and women from Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali and Mauritania drown in the Mediterranean as they seek to be enslaved in Europe. This time around, Africans are not wailing and kicking as they are being taken away to be enslaved, they are seen wailing and kicking as they seek to be enslaved in Europe and America. This is the tragedy of Africa.
They would be confronted with an Africa where people have lost their self-pride. An Africa where Africans are not proud of their things. An Africa where in the hotels of Dar es Salaam or Nairobi, even food has foreign names. When we fry potatoes we call them French fries even when they are fried in Dar es Salaam.
“They would be confronted with another Africa, an Africa which does not tell her story. An Africa whose story is told by Europe and America – the CNN, Radio Deutsche-Welle, Radia France.”
That is the Africa they would be confronted with. They would be confronted with young men and women who have no pride in Africa. When they want to enjoy themselves they sing the praises of football teams from Europe and America. It is Manchester United, it is Arsenal, it is Real Madrid and Barcelona. Not Yanga, not Mufulira Wanderers, not Gor Mahia, not FC Leopards. No, that is the Africa that they would be confronted with. They would be confronted with an Africa which does not enjoy its theatre and drama. That Africa celebrates Leonardo di Caprio, it celebrates Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. The Africa does not celebrate Genevive Nnaji of Nigeria or Rita Dominic or Olu Jacobs of Nigeria. It does not celebrate Bongohood or Nollywood or Riverwood. It celebrates Hollywood. That is the Africa which with they would be confronted. They would be confronted with African women whose greatest source of joy is cheap Grade B Mexican soap opera: la patrona, la muher de me vida.
Why must we remind ourselves of these realities? Because throughout the ages, the battle has always been the battle of the mind. If your mind is conquered, then you are going nowhere. And that is why in the age of enlightenment in Europe, the great René Descartes said “Cogito ergo sum.” I think, therefore I am.
“And therefore if Africans are to begin to make a contribution in their affairs, Africans must begin to think. But the question is, are we thinking?”
We have universities in their numbers. Tanzania has universities including Dar es Salaam. Nairobi has universities as indeed Kampala, as indeed South Africa, Johannesburg. We have all these universities. We have engineers, but our roads are not being made by Tanzanian civil engineers, it is the Chinese who are present in this assembly who are making our roads. So we have engineers who cannot even make roads. We have doctors whom we have trained, but when we are sick – particularly if we are of the political class – depending on who colonized you, if you are colonized by the United Kingdom, you rush to London. If you colonized by the French, you rush to Paris. If you are colonized by the Portuguese, you rush to Lisbon, and if you are colonized by the Spaniards, you rush to Madrid, Spain.
And recently, because the Asians are beginning to get their act together, we run to India. And very lately, because the Arabs are also beginning to get their act together, we run to Dubai. Notwithstanding that we have the Kenyatta hospitals of this country, the Muhimbilis of Tanzania, the Chris Hani Baragwanaths of South Africa and the Mama Yemos of Kinshasa in Zaire or the DRC. But we have no faith in our doctors.
In the area of education we also don’t have faith. Our political class introduced something that they call free education, that is free indeed. Free of knowledge. Because they are so suspicious of those institutions, that the typical African politician will not dare take their children to those schools. Their children will be educated in the British system, in the American system, so that when they graduate they go to the United Kingdom, to the United States.
“Not that there is anything wrong with those institutions, but the agenda is wrong because our leaders long lost the script and ought to be described for who they are – our misleaders.”
But we are co-authors of our own misfortune. Whenever we are given an opportunity to elect our leaders, we are given a blank check. And if you permit me a little latitude, and if you give me a blank check and you allow me to analogize and you say that I am given the blank check to buy a Mercedes Benz, what we do is when we are called upon – having been so empowered – we buy what we call a tuk-tuk from India and we expect it to behave ike a Mercedes Benz. How does that happen?
“Because what we do is to elect thieves. We elect hyenas to take care of goats and when the goats are consumed, we wonder why.”
Agree or disagree with the Professor? Got ideas of your own? We’d love to hear your perspective!
Speech transcribed by Jemila Abdulai.
Jemila Abdulai is the creative director, editor and founder of the award-winning website Circumspecte.com. A media and international development professional and economist by training, she combines her business, communications and project management expertise with her strong passion for Africa. Besides writing and reading, she enjoys travel, global cuisine, movies, and good design.
Re the video: So, the energy is there, very strong too, but it drains a lot. I respect criticism, even more so when it is constructive. We as Africans have invested so much time into downgrading ourselves and turned a blind eye to the way forward. I’d love to hear his version of the way forward because that’s where the solution lays. There’s a reason why the powers that be can’t afford to see an #AfricaRising and we as Africans must return to our roots to discover that reason because therein lays the freeing of the mind. The Songhai Dynasty did it, the great Zimbabwe did it, Mansa Musa did it, the Pharoahs of Egypt did it, and we of contemporary times can do it too. The need for an awakening is so dire that we can’t afford to miss this glorious opportunity of the information age to bring it to pass. Africa is where it’s at! They know it, and have invested a lot of negative evergies and distractions to ensure we keep forgetting who we are, but alas a new breed arises, slowly but surely it does. All it needs now is a people that can look within themselves and begin to re-believe in the images they see in their mirrors and conscience and each other, I can get explicit, but we all know the truth (hopefully we all really do). Blaming the West won’t solve the melee, neither would blaming ourselves. We need to take back what is rightfully ours–Our Minds! I love you +Jemila Abdulai, thank you for believing in the Africa that resides in the breast of your positivity and your continued efforts towards welcoming that awakening which is so often talked of and little pursued. #AlutaContinua!
Thanks for sharing Oral – I agree that it sounds a tad on the pessimistic side, which makes me wonder about when it was originally presented (there doesn’t seem to be a date from my research) and also, the audio ends somewhat abruptly so its possible he does suggest some ways forward. At the very minimum he points to key situations which can be looked at and the need to think more holistically.
Those are words well said by prof lumumba. Africa will never succeed with corrupt leaders and corrupt citizens. Its number one continent in corruption. Her recovery from schizophrenia is entirely dependent on change of mindset. Everybody should feel obliged to stop/fight corruption. Justice will never be practical with a corrupt system.
Thanks for your comment Kimere! And yes, corruption wrecks havoc!
I am really moved by words from the speaker. We really need to think for ourselves for the sake of the future of our kids. The TIME IS NOW.
Great stuff. I want to link up with this great man
There is no need to wait for his wards again the ways forward are the opposite of the critism. We need action to act and male change.
Rightly so, thanks for your comment!
Hello everyone, Prof P Lumumba, he is making us aware that, the Americans & Europeans are really in control of Africa (land) & Africans (people) by far. I was expecting to hear more solutions than our problems and unfortunately the speach is incomplete. As far as I know and my understanding is that, we will never win this war, because of lack of unity, trust amongst ourselves (Africans), poor education & failure to understand the current system thats controlling this world.
Right, it was more of a diagnosis than anything. What solutions would you propose?
Powerful message indeed that if we are to look at it critically it wakes us up. Africa has the potential to be among the best but we always lack behind. The only things that we top the chat is something on the wrong side of the news.
Actually, I am an admirer of prof Lumumba,and I have being following few of his works.Though the speech is half ,but I think one can admit to the fact that his speech proffered out Africans derogation of their own cultural heritage and their destiny.Africans don’t take pride in themselves nowadays.It’s so true that foreign interest has widely over taken our economy, our government and our living standard.This has broaden my horizon to know that corruption which is one of the major factors of underdevelopement in Africa,is not seen as a temporary evolutionary stage,but a persistent natural condition.But with zero tolerance for divisiveness,marginalization,corruption,and amongst other societal ills,can help us get to where we want to go as we have known history of pitfalls.
I agree that there seems to be a lack of identity or pride for many Africans. This is something I really struggle to understand, especially when you consider how many elements of our countries, continent and cultures have inspired things around the world.
I fully agree with his perception of an African of today but what is the way forward how do we get out of the situation we are in..?
What is the solutions?
Very inspiring speech, never been moved by words before this much
This speech moved you, it inspired you, it touched you, it made you sober as Africans are willingly enslaved in their mind and behavior, all of that has changed nothing. This question to you is this = WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO CHANGE YOUR SELF SO YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It begins with you.
I am an African!! The beauty of the African dust and its ashes is what I take pride on and so embrace. We’re uniquely and wonderfully made by the God the Almighty Jehovah therefore there’s no need for us to feel inferior as African and forever embrace colonialism ideas but it is time for our minds to be trully liberated. Aluta Continua beauriful Africans!
Understanding the real problem is 70% solution to the problem itself! Now that our problems are vividly revealed, our solutions are at our doorstep…May Prof. PLO Lumumba live long.
The diagnosis has been made by Professor Lumumba . The time to act is now or else Africa will forever remain behind in all things we do.First thing first african need to have pride in themselves , african should not expect other countries to come and develop there nations no way.We need to route out coruption in our leaders and elect to govements people with merits and are able to deliver development and not elect leaders because they are from my tribe and the feel good effect where depite suffering you say the president is from my tribe. Not until these ethenic tribe censors are routed out will africa develop.
Well i guess there has always been a clarion call for the next generation to rise up and uplift our continent. But the question still remains: “Are we willing to sacrifice our lives for the true emancipation of Africa -just as the Turks defended their democracy. ”
Freedom and development comes at a cost and sometimes bloodshed comes first. Show me a developed country that has no history of violence or “dictatorial government ” of some form.This is the real issue at hand now.
Taking back our resources from the “neocolonialists” wouldn’t go without a fight. We must remind ourselves of that.
Remember Martin Luther King?
So its a question of : underdevelopment and stability v bloodshed and development or dictatorship and progress vs poverty and retrogression.
Inspiring speech by professor Lumumba. It true that we actually elect hyenas to take care of goats in Africa