Pa­trick Lu­mumba: How to be­come a Colo­nial Con­sta­ble

Sunday News (Zimbabwe) - - Big Read -

PA­TRICK Loch Otieno Lu­mumba does not only speak on African so­lu­tions for African prob­lems, he raises hell and does not let any sleep­ing dogs lie. The Kenyan Pan-African­ist lawyer and judge does not take pris­on­ers when it comes to call­ing a spade a spade in cri­tiquing lead­ers and call­ing them out of their cor­rupt and thiev­ing ways that have let the world down.

There is no doubt that Pro­fes­sor Lu­mumba has the poor and down-trod­den African masses at heart when he con­fronts the mighty and high among African lead­ers. Gifted with fire eat­ing ora­tory skills and cut­ting bari­tone voice, Lu­mumba is only a good in­ter­locu­tor if he is on your side and ad­vanc­ing your cause, not when he puts you on the fir­ing line of his ma­chine gun mouth.

He has been de­scribed as the le­gal mind that has kept the Kenyan and African po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ments awake with his scathing cri­tique and no holds barred nam­ing and sham­ing of lead­ers. For that rea­son, Lu­mumba is to­day one of Africa’s most im­por­tant public in­tel­lec­tu­als and cham­pi­ons of so­cial jus­tice. He has held the po­si­tion of Di­rec­tor of the Kenya An­tiCor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion and he presently is the Di­rec­tor of the Kenya School of Laws.

His su­pe­rior ed­u­ca­tion, a doc­tor­ate in Laws of the Sea from the Univer­sity of Ghent in Bel­gium and a lead­ing African le­gal mind gives Lu­mumba power, priv­i­lege and at­ten­tion wher­ever he goes and that makes his work im­por­tant and also dan­ger­ous. He is, in truth, not the first African in­tel­lec­tual to iso­late African lead­ers, Africans and African govern­ments for crit­i­cism and scathing de­scrip­tions.

There is a long gen­er­a­tion of public in­tel­lec­tu­als like Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Paul Tiyambe Zeleza, Jack Ma­panje and other African thinkers that had to go to ex­ile to es­cape the wrath of their govern­ments that they haunted with vol­canic critic and scathing satire. What is spe­cial and there­fore very dan­ger­ous about Pro­fes­sor Lu­mumba’s brand of po­lit­i­cal and in­tel­lec­tual cri­tique of Africa, African lead­ers and Africans, is the way in which he eas­ily lends him­self to the role of a colo­nial con­sta­ble who uses his rare and su­pe­rior in­tel­lect and stature to mul­ti­ply and am­plify colo­nial stereo­types about Africa and Africans.

As a ven­er­ated Pro­fes­sor and dis­tin­guished lawyer and judge he car­ries com­mu­nica­tive priv­i­lege and po­lit­i­cal stamina, he is a role model, to the ex­tent that even his mis­takes and mis­di­rec­tions may be eaten and swal­lowed as wis­dom and law by the un­cir­cum­cised. It is im­por­tant that such po­lit­i­cal and le­gal voices like Lu­mumba are care­fully and closely lis­tened to and watched, per­ad­ven­ture their own lim­i­ta­tions lead many astray. Vigilant Pan-African­ists such as Chin­weizu, a Nige­rian de­colo­nial in­tel­lec­tual, as early as the 1960s gave such icons as Wole Soyinka a tor­rid time, crit­i­cis­ing them for us­ing words and lan­guage in Africa about Africans that ben­e­fited rather than con­fronted the Bri­tish Em­pire in the con­ti­nent. In that de­colo­nial ges­ture as that of the Bolekaja crit­ics, Chin­weizu and his crit­ics, mad­ness in great Africans must truly not go un­watched.

When Lu­mumba pur­sues the theme of san­i­ta­tion and clean­li­ness in African pol­i­tics he crushes and smoth­ers his sub­jects, some­thing that Ali Mazrui was way too crit­i­cal to be care­less about. Not so with Lu­mumba. The African leader is an in­cor­ri­gi­ble thief and a cor­rupt scoundrel.

Once Lu­mumba in­sin­u­ated that Africa was poor and back­ward be­cause Nige­ri­ans are too cor­rupt and dirty thieves. In Africa thieves elect other thieves to power and thiev­ery is there­fore re­warded and pro­moted in the con­ti­nent as a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture and a phi­los­o­phy of life. Lu­mumba does not only de­liver his speeches, like any gifted or­a­tor who knows his job well, he per­forms them, he is dra­matic and spec­tac­u­lar, and words obey him.

In pol­i­tics as it is in phi­los­o­phy one can be true and still not be cor­rect in what he says. Yes, truth is not sim­ply right. Like all other ex­pert and trained com­mu­ni­ca­tors, Lu­mumba should know bet­ter about au­di­ences, the the­atre and the gallery, who are the peo­ple that rel­ish in his de­liv­ery and who are those that are wounded and why. Lu­mumba speaks at the dear ex­pense of Africans and Africa, and his oth­er­wise con­struc­tive cri­tique has lost its con­struc­tive for de­struc­tive, a Grade One stu­dent in Africa might lose con­fi­dence for­ever in be­ing African af­ter lis­ten­ing to a treat by Prof Lu­mumba judges Africa un­kindly.

Stu­dents of lan­guage, dis­course and po­lit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion will point to it that such words as “hy­giene” and “clean­li­ness” are im­por­tant words in life but carry a lot of colo­nial bag­gage. In the lan­guage of colonis­ers and en­slavers, the African was a dirty ob­ject that needed sani­ti­sa­tion and clean­ing. To give body and power to such terms in try­ing to con­struc­tively cri­tique Africans and African lead­ers is to play the po­lit­i­cal and his­tor­i­cal ball all wrong at the wrong place and wrong time.

Lu­mumba feeds into, from and con­firms colo­nial stereo­types about Africa and Africans, a sin that African men and women of let­ters and laws should not be com­plicit in. The rea­son why Lu­mumba’s cri­tique of Africa and Africans is spread­ing world­wide like a wild in­ter­na­tional fire is not sim­ply be­cause of his ob­vi­ous men­tal gifts or rel­e­vance in world pol­i­tics, no. His in­sults

of Africa and Africans please white su­prem­a­cists and racists who have found in Lu­mumba an elo­quent colo­nial con­sta­ble who can ex­press crude racism on their be­half.

This is not to hang the pro­fes­sor out to dry, to throw his baby of cri­tique to­gether with the wa­ter of his mes­sage, no, but it is to throw this very baby away first that we need, Lu­mumba is wrong in blam­ing all prob­lems of Africa on Africans. That Africa is largely what it has be­come be­cause of slav­ish and colo­nial un­der­de­vel­op­ment still re­mains a tru­ism even as African lead­ers have sinned against Africa, sold the proud con­ti­nent to the prover­bial dogs, in cor­rup­tion and in­com­pe­tence that smells to the high heav­ens, nau­se­at­ing the very gods.

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