Patrice Lumumba

Statement at the Closing Session of the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference

February 20, 1960

Source: The Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference, Bruxelles, Impr. C. Van Cortenbergh, 1960, pp. 43-44.
Written: by Patrice Lumumba;
Transcribed: by Thomas Schmidt.

Mr. Prime Minister,

Mr. President,

Gentlemen of the Belgian delegations,

My dear Congolese brothers,

At this moment when the Round Table Conference is closing down, we beg to be allowed to speak in the name of the Congolese National Movement and to express its thoughts and feelings.

We are particularly satisfied with the results of the negotiations which we have just conducted with the representatives of the Belgian Government and Parliament.

We demanded the immediate and unconditional independence of our country. We have just won it.

We demanded that this independence should be complete and absolute. The Belgian Government, in compliance with our demand, assures us that Belgium will retain no measure of control after June 30, 1960. On that date, the Congo will accede to international sovereignty. The Congolese Government and the Belgian Government will be proud to sit side by side at international assemblies where they will defend their common interests.

We demanded that, between now and June 30, the Congolese be closely associated with the government of the country. We have just obtained satisfaction by means of the creation of permanent colleges attached to the Minister of the Congo, the Governor General and the Provincial Governors. From to-day on, until the proclamation of independence, the political and administrative management of the Congo will be assumed jointly by the Congolese through these colleges, and by the representatives of Belgium. No decision will be taken without our consent, either in Belgium or in the Congo.

We are overjoyed at these magnificent results, obtained by means of peaceful and friendly negotiations.

Belgium has realised the store we set by our liberty and our human dignity. She understands that the Congolese people is not unfriendly towards her, but that they merely demand the abolition of the colonial status which shamed the twentieth century.

The good will and good faith of the Belgian representatives at the Round Table Conference were truly remarkable. We encountered no systematic opposition from Belgian members of Parliament. We may assert that the Round Table Conference was to all intents and purposes conducted by the Congolese, for every time we came to an agreement between ourselves on one point or another, the Belgian Government and Parliamentary delegates rallied to it. We are all grateful to them for this.

We are now about to return home “with our independence in our baggage”, proud to be able to give our people the joy of knowing themselves free and independent.

While our brothers in Kenya, Nyasaland, South Africa and Angola are still fighting for their accession to autonomy, we ourselves have acceded to the rank of a sovereign state with no transition.

The fact that Belgium has liberated the Congo from the colonial regime we were no longer prepared to accept, has won her the friendship and esteem of the Congolese people.

We desire this friendship to be enduring and free of all forms of hypocrisy. We shall thus prove to the world that the principle of friendship between nations is one of real significance.

From to-day on we shall forget the mistakes of the past and all the causes of dissension, and concentrate solely on the wonderful future that unfolds before us.

We beg you, Mr. Prime Minister, to be kind enough to convey to His Majesty King Baudouin our heartfelt expressions of liking and friendship.

We hope that he will do us the honour of being present at the proclamation of our independence.

We thank His Excellency the Minister of the Congo and all the Belgian Members of Parliament for their kind attention to our statements.

We would also thank His Excellency Mr. Lilar, who presided over the Round Table debates with patience and deep understanding.

We would also salute that great and worthy jurist, His Excellency Mr. Rolin; his personal contribution was invaluable to us during the work of this Conference.

Finally, we would like to take this opportunity of thanking Mr. Van Hemelrijck, former Minister of the Congo, who paved the way to Congolese Independence. We hope he will be present at the proclamation of the Congo's independence, and that no more tomatoes will be flung at him.

The fact that this Conference closes in amity and to the satisfaction of all the Congolese delegations is a good omen for the relations which are to be established between the Congo and Belgium. These relations will be stamped with the seal of friendship and mutual help between our two countries.

Our independence, which is to be proclaimed four months from now, is only the first stage in our emancipation. Having conquered our political liberty after a fight lasting many months, we must now bend every effort to achieve:

1. the creation, in all parts of the Congo, of an atmosphere of confidence and calm so that the new institutions may be set up in a spirit of joy and fraternal co-operation;

2. the eradication of every vestige of colonialism, notably by the immediate elimination of every trace of racial discrimination and the unjust laws passed under the colonial regime;

3. the immediate cessation of the oppressive measures currently being taken against the local population in some regions of the Congo;

4. the consolidation of national independence by the creation of a stable and prosperous national economy. Our independence will have no significance unless it contributes to the improvement of living standards of the worker and peasant classes.

We shall also fight against every attempt to dislocate our national territory. The greatness of the Congo is based on the preservation of its political and economic entity.

As for the Europeans living in the Congo, we would ask them to stay and help the young Congolese State in building up its national strength. We need their help. We guarantee them the security of their property and their persons. It is with their collaboration that we wish to create the Congolese nation, in which all will find their share of happiness and satisfaction.

The doors of the Congo are wide open to all men of good will wishing to help us. On the other hand, we shall not tolerate any persons or powers with imperialist aims. We prefer liberty with poverty to wealth with tyranny.

Capital investment in the Congo will be respected, for we are an honest people. As for the Belgian civil servants now working in the Congo, we would ask them to serve our government with the same loyalty as they served the Belgian government. They may all be proud of their humanitarian contribution to a work of national reconstruction.

A young State, we shall need the advice and technical assistance of Belgium. We sincerely hope that this assistance will not be refused.

We would appeal fraternally to the democratic youth of Belgium to come and serve the Congolese State. Here you will find a brotherly nation in need of other brothers.

As for the tribal chieftains, we would ask them to acknowledge the need for evolution and to co-operate with the political leaders in building their country. We shall reserve them an honourable place in our future institutions.

Citizens of the Congo, we ask you to unite and combine your efforts so as to build a great, united, strong hardworking and prosperous nation in the heart of Central Africa.

Long live the Independent Congo.

Long live Belgium.

Long live the friendship between our two peoples.