“Pleure, Ô Noir Frère Bien-Aimé” de Patrice Lumumba / “Weep, Beloved Black Brother” by Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Emery Lumumba
Patrice Emery Lumumba

The 30 June 1960 marks the independence of the then Congo-Belge (Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)) from Belgium. We will celebrate DRC’s independence today with a poem by one of Congo’s proud sons, none other than its first democratically elected Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba, “Pleure, Ô Noir Frère bien-aimé (Weep, beloved black brother)”. This poem was published in the journal INDEPENDANCE, organe du M.N.C., en septembre 1959 (Cf. La pensée politique de Patrice LUMUMBA, textes et documents recueillis par Jean VAN LIERDE, Présence Africaine, 1963, p. 69-70). Translated to English by Lillian Lowenfels and Nan Apotheker.


Pleure, O Noir Frère bien-aimé

O Noir, bétail humain depuis des millénaires
Tes cendres s’éparpillent à tous les vents du ciel
Et tu bâtis jadis les temples funéraires
Où dorment les bourreaux d’un sommeil éternel.
Poursuivi et traqué, chassé de tes villages,
Vaincu en des batailles où la loi du plus fort,
En ces siècles barbares de rapt et de carnage,
Signifiait pour toi l’esclavage ou la mort,
Tu t’étais réfugié en ces forêts profondes
Où l’autre mort guettait sous son masque fiévreux
Sous la dent du félin, ou dans l’étreinte immonde
Et froide du serpent, t’écrasant peu à peu.
Et puis s’en vint le Blanc, plus sournois, plus rusé et rapace
Qui échangeait ton or pour de la pacotille,
Violentant tes femmes, enivrant tes guerriers,
Parquant en ses vaisseaux tes garçons et tes filles.
Le tam-tam bourdonnait de village en village
Portant au loin le deuil, semant le désarroi,
Disant le grand départ pour les lointains rivages
Où le coton est Dieu et le dollar Roi
Condamné au travail forcé, tel une bête de somme
De l’aube au crépuscule sous un soleil de feu
Pour te faire oublier que tu étais un homme
On t’apprit à chanter les louanges de Dieu.
Et ces divers cantiques, en rythmant ton calvaire
Te donnaient l’espoir en un monde meilleur…
Mais en ton cœur de créature humaine, tu ne demandais guère
Que ton droit à la vie et ta part de bonheur.
Assis autour du feu, les yeux pleins de rêve et d’angoisse
Chantant des mélopées qui disaient ton cafard
Parfois joyeux aussi, lorsque montait la sève
Tu dansais, éperdu, dans la moiteur du soir.
Et c’est là que jaillit, magnifique,
Sensuelle et virile comme une voix d’airain
Issue de ta douleur, ta puissante musique,
Le jazz, aujourd’hui admiré dans le monde
En forçant le respect de l’homme blanc,
En lui disant tout haut que dorénavant,
Ce pays n’est plus le sien comme aux vieux temps.
Tu as permis ainsi à tes frères de race
De relever la tête et de regarder en face
L’avenir heureux que promet la délivrance.
Les rives du grand fleuve, pleines de promesses
Sont désormais tiennes.
Cette terre et toutes ses richesses
Sont désormais tiennes.
Et là haut, le soleil de feu dans un ciel sans couleur,
De sa chaleur étouffera ta douleur
Ses rayons brûlants sécheront pour toujours
La larme qu’ont coulée tes ancêtres,
Martyrisés par leurs tyranniques maîtres,
Sur ce sol que tu chéris toujours.
Et tu feras du Congo, une nation libre et heureuse,
Au centre de cette gigantesque Afrique Noire.


Weep, Beloved Black Brother

O black man, beast of burden through the centuries,
Your ashes scattered to the winds of heaven,
There was a time when you built burial temples
In which your murderers sleep their final sleep.
Hunted down and tracked, driven from your homes.
Beaten in battles where brute force prevailed.
Barbaric centuries of rape and carnage
That offered you the choice of death or slavery.
You went for refuge to the forest depths,
And other deaths waylaid you, burning fevers,
Jaws of wild beasts, the cold, unholy coils
Of snakes who crushed you gradually to death.
Then came the white man, more clever, tricky, cruel,
He took your gold in trade for shoddy stuff,
He raped your women, made your warriors drunk,
Penned up you sons and daughters on his ships.
The tom-toms hummed through all the villages,
Spreading afar the mourning, the wild grief
At news of exile to a distant land
Where cotton is God and the dollar King.
Condemned to enforced labor, beasts of burden,
Under a burning sun from dawn to dusk,
So that you might forget you are a man
They taught your to sing the praises of their God,
And these hosannas, tuned in to your sorrows,
Gave you the hope of a better world to come.
But in your human heart you only asked
The right to live, your share of happiness.
Beside your fire, your eyes reflect your dreams and suffering,
You sang the chants that gave voice to your blues.
And sometimes to your joys, when sap rose in the trees
And you danced wildly in the damp of evening.
And out of this sprang forth, magnificent,
Alive and virile, like a bell of brass
Sounding your sorrow, that powerful music,
Jazz, now loved, admired throughout the world,
Compelling the white man to respect,
Announcing in clear loud tones from this time on
This country no longer belongs to him.
And thus you made the brothers of your race
Lift up their heads to see clear, straight ahead
The happy future bearing deliverance.
The banks of a great river in flower with hope
Are yours from this time onward.
The earth and all its riches
Are yours from this time onward.
The blazing sun in the colorless sky
Dissolves our sorrow in a wave of warmth.
Its burning rays will help to dry forever
The flood of tears shed by our ancestors,
Martyrs of the tyranny of the masters.
And on this earth which you will always love
You will make the Congo a nation, happy and free,
In the very heart of vast Black Africa.


Selection from the 1885 Berlin Conference Final Act

Le partage de l'Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884
Le partage de l’Afrique a la Conference de Berlin de 1884

Today I would like to talk about the atrocity which divided Africa in 10,000 pieces… you know, the one known as the Berlin Conference. How the livelihood of millions of lives could be decided by some foreigners at some tables thousands of kilometers away is beyond me! In reality, the Berlin Conference drafted from 1884 to 1885 is still in action today, over 132 years later, and that is why it is important to talk about it today. This conference regulated European colonization and trade in Africa during the New Imperialism period. Organized by Otto von Bismarck, first Chancellor of Germany, its outcome, the General Act of the Berlin Conference, is seen as the formalization of the Scramble for Africa. This conference officialized European colonization, and eliminated or overrode existing forms of African autonomy and self-governance. I print here a selection from the final 1885 Berlin Act from Chapter 1-3, and I will print the rest later.


Selections from the 1885 Berlin Act

Conference de Berlin 1884
Conference de Berlin 1884

Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India; His Majesty the German Emperor, King of Prussia; His Majesty the Emperor of Austria, King of Bohemia, etc, and Apostolic King of Hungary; His Majesty the King of the Belgians; His Majesty the King of Denmark; His Majesty the King of Spain; the President of the United States of America; the President of the French Republic; His Majesty the King of Italy; His Majesty the King of the Netherlands, Grand Duke of Luxemburg, etc; His Majesty the King of Portugal and the Algarves, etc; His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias; His Majesty the King of Sweden and Norway, etc; and His Majesty the Emperor of the Ottomans,

WISHING, in a spirit of good and mutual accord, to regulate the conditions most favourable to the development of trade and civilization in certain regions of Africa, and to assure to all nations the advantages of free navigation on the two chief rivers of Africa flowing into the Atlantic Ocean;

Berlin Conference_1
Division of Africa between European powers resulting from the Berlin Conference

BEING DESIROUS, on the other hand, to obviate the misunderstanding and disputes which might in future arise from new acts of occupation…on the coast of Africa; and concerned, at the same time, as to the means of furthering the moral and material well-being of the native populations;

HAVE RESOLVED, on the invitation addressed to them by the Imperial Government of Germany, in agreement with the Government of the French Republic, to meet for those purposes in Conference at Berlin, and have appointed as their Plenipotentiaries, to wit:

Who, being provided with full powers, which have been found in good and due form, have successively discussed and adopted:

  1. A Declaration relative to freedom of trade in the basin of the Congo, its embouchures and circumjacent regions, with other provisions connected therewith.
  2. A Declaration relative to the slave trade, and the operations by sea or land which furnish slaves to that trade.
  3. A Declaration relative to the neutrality of the territories comprised in the Conventional basin of the Congo.
  4. An Act of Navigation for the Congo, which, while having regard to local circumstances, extends to this river, its affluents, and the waters in its system…, the general principles enunciated in Articles CVIII and CXVI of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna, and intended to regulate, as between the Signatory Powers of that Act, the free navigation of the waterways separating or traversing several States—these said principles having since then been applied by agreement to certain rivers of Europe and America, but especially to the Danube, with the modifications stipulated by the Treaties of Paris (1856), of Berlin (1878), and of London (1871 and 1883).
  5. An Act of Navigation for the Niger, which, while likewise having regard to local circumstances, extends to this river and its affluents the same principles as set forth in Articles CVIII and CXVI of the Final Act of the Congress of Vienna.
  6. A Declaration introducing into international relations certain uniform rules with reference to future occupations on the coast of the African Continent.

And deeming it expedient that all these several documents should be combined in one single instrument, they (the Signatory Powers) have collected them into one General Act, composed of the following Articles:



Article I

The trade of all nations shall enjoy complete freedom….

Article II

Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town - the most imperialist ever
Cecil Rhodes with his transafrican train project from Cairo to Cape Town – the most imperialist ever

All flags, without distinction of nationality, shall have free access to the whole of the coastline of the territories above enumerated, to the rivers there running into the sea, to all the waters of the Congo and its effluents, including the lakes, and to all the ports situated on the banks of these waters, as well as to all canals which may in future be constructed with intent to unite the watercourses or lakes within the entire area of the territories described in Article I. Those trading under such flags may engage in all sorts of transport, and carry on the coasting trade by sea and river, as well as boat traffic, on the same footing as if they were subjects.

Article III

Wares, of whatever origin, imported into these regions, under whatsoever flag, by sea or river, or overland, shall be subject to no other taxes than such as may be levied as fair compensation for expenditure in the interests of trade, and which for this reason must be equally borne by the subjects themselves and by foreigners of all nationalities.

All differential dues on vessels, as well as on merchandise, are forbidden.

Article IV

Merchandise imported into these regions shall remain free from import and transit dues….

Article V

No Power which exercises or shall exercise sovereign rights in the abovementioned regions shall be allowed to grant therein a monopoly or favour of any kind in matters of trade.


Article VI

All the Powers exercising sovereign rights or influence in the aforesaid territories bind themselves to watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improvement of the conditions of their moral and material well-being, and to help in suppressing slavery, and especially the slave trade. They shall, without distinction of creed or nation, protect and favour all religious, scientific or charitable institutions and undertakings created and organized for the above ends, or which aim at instructing the natives and bringing home to them the blessings of civilization.

Christian missionaries, scientists and explorers, with their followers, property and collections, shall likewise be the objects of especial protection.

Freedom of conscience and religious toleration are expressly guaranteed to the natives, no less than to subjects and to foreigners. The free and public exercise of all forms of divine worship, and the right to build edifices for religious purposes, and to organize religious missions belonging to all creeds, shall not be limited or fettered in any way whatsoever….

Slave capture



Article IX

Seeing that trading in slaves is forbidden in conformity with the principles of international law as recognized by the Signatory Powers, and seeing also that the operations, which, by sea or land, furnish slaves to trade, ought likewise to be regarded as forbidden, the Powers which do or shall exercise sovereign rights or influence in the territories forming the Conventional basin of the Congo declare that these territories may not serve as a market or means of transit for the trade in slaves, of whatever race they may be. Each of the Powers binds itself to employ all the means at its disposal for putting an end to this trade and for punishing those who engage in it.

Africa’s partition 1885-1914 among European powers



Article XII

In case a serious disagreement originating on the subject of, or in the limits of, the territories mentioned in Article I, and placed under the free trade system, shall arise between any Signatory Powers of the present Act, or the Powers which may become parties to it, these Powers bind themselves, before appealing to arms, to have recourse to the mediation of one or more of the friendly Powers.

In a similar case the same Powers reserve to themselves the option of having recourse to arbitration….

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF the several plenipotentiaries have signed the present General Act and have affixed thereto their seals.

DONE at Berlin, the 26th day of February, 1885

Proverbe sur la force / Proverb on Strength


L’éléphant mange même les fruits du palmier borassus (Proverbe Mangbetu – République Démocratique du Congo (RDC)). – Un homme fort est capable de réaliser beaucoup.

Borassus palm tree

The elephant eats even the fruits from the Borassus palm tree (Mangbetu proverb – Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)). – A strong man is able to achieve a lot.

Why the Name: Lubumbashi?

Map of DRC with Lubumbashi highlighted

Have you ever wondered what the name of the second largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Lubumbashi, meant? Well, growing up, I always loved the sound of it as it rolled off the tongue: LUBUMBASHI: so full of power… so full of ummph, like thunder! So do you think the name has anything to do with power? or thunder?

Express to Rhodesia from Elisabethville’s train station (trains-worldexpresses.com)

The area as it is known today has been inhabited for centuries, but the modern-day city itself  was ‘founded’ by the Belgians in 1910 under the name of Élisabethville (sometimes Elizabethville, both in French, or Elisabethstad in Dutch), in honor of their queen Elisabeth, wife to king Albert I. It was affectionately referred to as É-Ville. It was the second city of the Belgian Congo, after Léopoldville. Élisabethville functioned as the administrative capital of the Katanga Province. It was also an important mining, commercial and industrial center, and a center of education and health services. The work and businesses related to the mines made Élisabethville the most prosperous region of the Congo during the final decade of Belgian rule. Today it is the mining capital of the entire country, with its production in copper, cobalt, zinc, gold, Tin, etc.

Malachite specimen from Katanga, on display at the Royal Ontario Museum (Wikipedia)

In 1965Mobutu Sese Seko with his campaign to identify himself with African nationalism or “Zairianization” politics assumed power of Congo, which he renamed Zaïre. In this push, he renamed Élisabethville as “Lubumbashi” in 1966 and, in 1972 renamed the Katanga Province as “Shaba.” It was named Lubumbashi after the local river by the same name Lubumbashi. It is also called the copper capital. Copper mining in Katanga dates back over 1,000 years and mines in the region were producing standard sized ingots of copper for international transport by the end of the 1st Millennium AD.

Aerial view of Lubumbashi (Source: Aerocam Congo)

As was customary in sub-Saharan colonies, the city center of Élisabethville was reserved for the white (European-Only Neighborhoods in African Cities before Independence) population. This consisted mainly of Belgian nationals, but also British, Italian, and Jewish Greek communities. The black population lived initially in a so-called cité indigène called quartier Albert (now: Kamalondo), south of the city center and separated from the white city by a 700-metres-wide neutral zone. With population growth, new indigenous neighborhoods were created. These still form the main suburbs of present-day Lubumbashi: Kenia, Katuba, Ruashi. In addition to these 3, 4 more communes have been added to this day: Kamalondo, Kampemba, Lubumbashi, and la Commune Annexe.

Fountain at the Place Moise Tshombe in Lubumbashi (Source: Congo-Autrement)

Today, the city of Lubumbashi is affectionately called by locals, L’shi or Lubum, and its inhabitants are known as the Lushois. French is the official language, but the main language spoken by most is Kiswahili. Lubumbashi lies at high altitude at about 1,208 meters (3,963 ft) above sea level, which gives rise to a cooler climate. It is a cosmopolitan city, with people from all over Congo, neighboring countries, and Europeans, Chinese, Americans, etc who mostly come for the mining industry; this has given rise to a gastronomical melting pot as well. The city is also host to one of Africa’s greatest soccer club: The  TP Mazembe (Tout Puissant Mazembe). The club’s chairman is former Katanga governor Moïse Katumbi Chapwe. It is a vibrant city. To learn more about Lubumbashi, the cosmopolitan city named after its local river, check out the articles  Lubumbashi urban mosaic, Presentation of Lubumbashi. Enjoy the video below on Lubumbashi, the mining capital of DRC!

Ghanaian Talented Inventor

Ghanaian inventor, Asidu Abudu, fabricates things to make every day chores easier and faster. Imagine helping women who just finished a whole day in the fields, and who have to come back and pound eba to feed the entire family? Now you have a machine which pounds it for you, and gives you a break, all compliments of this brilliant inventor!

Great Quote by Miriam Makeba

True African Beauty: Miriam Makeba

The conqueror writes history; they came, they conquered, and they write. You don’t expect people who come to invade us to write the truth about us…” Miriam Makeba

Le vainqueur écrit l’histoire, ils sont venus, ils ont vaincu et ils ont écrit. On ne peut pas attendre de ceux qui nous ont envahi qu’ils écrivent la vérité sur nous…” Miriam Makeba

The Two Cowards

Tapper harvesting palm wine
Tapper harvesting palm wine

Two cowards were banished from their village. They met and walked together into the deepest forest. Once there, they decided to start a home outside of God’s care. They lived there until winter (rainy season from July to October). They then decided to find some handles for their hoes. For that, they walked a long time until they arrived under the shadow of a raat (combretum glutinosum – tree with medicinal properties). One of them said:

  • You will climb on top of the tree to keep an eye out on the forest, while I will dig deep to find some good roots. If you see someone, let me know.
  • Sure, but you too, if you see something, do not forget to let me know.

The watchman climbed up the tree, while the other started digging at once. Soon, he finds two straight and long roots so beautiful that he can’t stop himself from shouting:

  • Ah! Here are two at last!

At these words, the watchman tumbled from the tree and, taking to his heels, dashed as an arrow. The other one, seeing his colleague running, throws away his shovel and runs after him.

running-iconThey run, they run losing their breaths and, when they think themselves safe, they stop. One of them asks:

  • What did you see?
  • No, I should be the one asking you that question, because I started running when I heard your warning!
  • But no, I did not raise the alarm! I was just cutting two beautiful roots that I had dug up. I only made a sigh of joy.
  • It is precisely your sigh that scared me.
  • And I, I ran away as soon as I saw you dash like an arrow!

Which of the two is the most coward?

According to the public, it is the one up in the tree, since the one digging only saw his roots.

Told by Khady Diouf, Contes Wolof du Baol, J. Copans and P. Couty, Ed. Karthala, 1988, p. 79. Translated to English by Dr. Y., Afrolegends.com