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The post-colonial era of 1960’s and 1970’s ushered in a class of radical African leaders and thinkers into power who inspired a renewed optimism in the people across the continent. This optimism was short lived as former colonial states and emerging superpowers assassinated various leftist juggernauts such as Patrice Lumumba, Amilcar Cabral and Felix Moumie. The planned removal of these figures altered the trajectory of Africa’s growth in ways that can still be felt to this day.
The Crucial Period of Decolonization and Independence
The early ‘60’s saw a wave of liberation movements across the continent which called for the independence of African inhabitants under colonial rule. Sylvanus Olympio led the Comie’ de L’Unite’ Togolaise which helped Togo gain its independence from Britain and France in 1960 and became its first elected president. Patrice Lumumba led the Congolese National Movement which was responsible for the Democratic Republic of Congo gaining its freedom from Belgium and the US and became the first minister of the DRC. Felix Moumie led the Union des populations du Cameroun which mounted an armed struggle against French colonial subjugation. Moumie’s armed struggle was carried on by the brilliant theorist, Amilcar Cabral, who led the Liberation Movement of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde against the Portuguese.
Why African Leaders were Assassinated
The leaders of the independence movements who had gained political power and won the hearts and minds of the masses held a similar vision for the future of Africa. They believed in Africanized nation states which were built on cultural unity and pride, Pan-Africanism and anti-western capitalism. They were adamant that Africans should be given the platform to determine their own futures without foreign intervention. They saw a cultivation of cultural, political and economic frameworks built on African values as the clearest path. These ideas would have disrupted a global system led by western powers that have placed Africa at the bottom of the totem pole, to be used for cheap, raw materials, exploitable labour and strategic coastlines.
With the Cold War increasing in its severity, the US, France, Britain and Portugal could not afford to let the continent have any resemblance of agency lest it falls to Russia and communism or worse, increases the cost of trade. Thus, they conspired to remove the leaders they deemed too radical and a hinderance to their own agenda. Moumie was poisoned while in exile in Geneva by a French secret service agent 1960. Lumumba was assassinated by Congolese, US-aided solider, Joseph Mobutu in 1961. Olympio was killed by a French military sergeant in 1963. Cabral was assassinated in 1973.
How the Assassinations Changed the Course of African History
With the removal of leaders who genuinely cared about the continent and its people, who had vision, intellect, and grit, Africa has continuously fallen into the hands of political and military figures who are more concerned with enrichening themselves and consolidating their own power. These figures put self interest above all else which makes them susceptible to Western coercion and control to the detriment of the people they govern. Africa is stuck in a cycle of war and corruption, tyranny and suffering which hinders growth and renders us the exploitable foundation that keeps the rest of the world thriving. One would not go as far as to claim that the leaders of independent movements would have created a utopia, but one strongly believes that they would have given the continent agency in much better conditions than we currently experience daily.