15. Belgian Congo (1908-1960)

 

Pre-Crisis Phase (November 15, 1908-January 3, 1959):  King Leopold II of Belgium formally relinquished control of the Congo Free State (Belgian Congo) to the Belgian government on November 15, 1908.  Baron Théophile Wahis served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from November 15, 1908 to May 20, 1912.  Félix Alexandre Fuchs served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from May 20, 1912 to January 5, 1916.  Eugène Joseph Marie Henry served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from January 5, 1916 to January 30, 1921.  Maurice Eugène Auguste, Count Lippens served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from January 30, 1921 to January 24, 1923.  Simon Kimbangu, a Congolese religious leader who founded a branch of Christianity known as Kimbanguism, was arrested in Nkamba and charged with sedition by the colonial government on September 12, 1921.  Simon Kimbangu was convicted of sedition and sentenced to death by a military court on October 3, 1921, but the sentenced was commuted to life imprisonment by King Albert I of Belgium.  Martin Joseph Marie René Rutten served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from January 24, 1923 to December 27, 1927.  Auguste Constant Tilkens served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from December 27, 1927 to September 14, 1934.

Government troops clashed with Pende tribesmen in Kisenzele on May 29, 1931, resulting in the death of one tribesman.  Pende tribesmen killed a colonial tax collector, Maximilien Balot, in Kilamba on June 8, 1931.  Government troops suppressed the Pende rebellion led by Matemu-a-Kenenia in the Kwilu region in September 1931, resulting in the deaths of several hundred (344 to 550) members of the Pende tribe.  Pierre Ryckmans served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from September 14, 1934 to December 31, 1946.  During this twelve-year period, there was a significant amount of unrest in the Belgian Congo.  Mine workers went on strike in Jadotville (Likasi) and Élisabethville (Lubumbashi) in southern Belgian Congo on December 3-10, 1941.  Fifteen striking workers were killed by government troops in Jadotville (Likasi), and one striking worker was killed by mine policemen near Élisabethville (Lubumbashi) on December 8, 1941.  Several striking workers (possibly 60 to 100) were killed by government police in Élisabethville (Lubumbashi) on December 9, 1941.  Congolese soldiers led by Sergeant-Major Ngoie Mukalabushi mutinied in Luluabourg (Kananga) in Kasai Province on February 20, 1944, resulting in the deaths of one Belgian soldier and two European civilians.  The mutiny spread to other locations, including Kamina in Katanga Province and Jadotville (Likasi) on February 22, 1944.  Belgian troops suppressed the mutiny in May 1944.  Some 100 Congolese soldiers, including  Sergeant-Major Ngoie Mukalabushi, who participated in the mutiny in Luluabourg (Kananga) were later executed by colonial authorities.  Dock workers staged a general strike for union rights and higher wages in Matadi beginning on November 26, 1945, resulting in the deaths of at least seven individuals.  Eugène Jacques Pierre Louis Jungers served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from December 31, 1946 to January 1, 1952.  The Alliances des Bakongo (ABAKO) was established by Joseph Kasa-Vubu to promote Kongo language and culture in 1950.  Simon Kimbangu, a Congolese religious leader who was imprisoned for sedition in 1921, died in prison on October 12, 1951.  Léon Antoine Marie Pétillon served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from January 1, 1952 to July 12, 1958.  The ABAKO issued a “declaration of civil rights” on August 23, 1956.  The document called for the immediate granting of civil liberties and political rights, including the rights of free speech and free press, in Belgian Congo.  Local elections were held in December 1957.  Henri Arthur Cornelis served as Governor-General of Belgian Congo from July 12, 1958 to June 30, 1960.  The Congolese National Movement (Mouvement Nationale Congolais – MNC) was established with Patrice Lumumba as president on October 10, 1958.  Patrice Lumumba, leader of the MNC, called for the total independence of the Congo from Belgium in a speech given in Léopoldville (Kinshasa) on December 28, 1958.

Crisis Phase (January 4, 1959-June 30, 1960):  Government troops clashed with Congolese (including many supporters of ABAKO which had planned a rally) in Léopoldville (Kinshasa) on January 4-7, 1959, resulting in the deaths of numerous individuals (most estimates range from 49 to 500).  Joseph Kasa-Vubu, leader of ABAKO, was arrested by government police on January 12, 1959.  Government troops clashed with Congolese nationalists in Léopoldville (Kinshasa) on January 27-28, 1959, resulting in the death of one individual. The African Solidarity Party (Parti Solidaire Africain – PSA) was established by Antoine Gizenga and Cléophas Kamitatu on February 1, 1959.  On September 27, 1959, the PSA and ABAKO called for a boycott of the upcoming local elections. Six Congolese were killed by government police during riots in Matadi, and 20 individuals were killed in inter-tribal (Lulua and Baluba) violence in Luluabourg (Kananga) on October 11-12, 1959.  Government police clashed with Congolese nationalists in Stanleyville (Kisangani) on October 29-31, 1959, resulting in the deaths of several dozen individuals (most estimates range from 24 to 75).  Government police arrested Patrice Lumumba for sedition on November 1, 1959, and he was sentenced to six months in prison for inciting the violence in Stanleyville (Kisangani).  Local elections were held in December 1959.  Congolese nationalists demanded immediate independence at a conference in Kisantu on December 25, 1959.  Belgian and Congolese representatives held “roundtable” negotiations in Brussels on January 20-February 20, 1960.  Patrice Lumumba was released from prison to attend the conference in Brussels.  Government police and Congolese nationalists clashed near Léopoldville (Kinshasa) on May 6, 1960, resulting in the deaths of two individuals.  Parliamentary elections were held on May 11-22, 1960, and Patrice Lumumba’s faction of the MNC won 36 out of 137 seats in the Chamber of Representatives. The African Solidarity Party (Parti Solidaire Africain – PSA) won 13 seats in the Chamber of Representatives.  Patrice Lumumba formed a coalition government as prime minister on June 24, 1960. Joseph Kasavubu was elected president by the parliament on June 24, 1960, and he was inauguarated as president on June 27, 1960. The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) formally achieved its independence from Belgium, with Joseph Kasa-Vubu as president, on June 30, 1960.

[Source: Butterworth, 1976, 281-283; Facts on File, January 1-7, 1959, January 15-21, 1959, January 29-February 4, 1959, October 29-November 4, 1959, December 24-31, 1959; Jessup, 1998, 825-830; Keesing’s Record of World Events, October 31-November 7, 1959; March 19-26, 1960, August 20-27, 1960; Langer, 1972, 1269-1272; The Gaurdian, November 1, 1959; Tillema, 1991, 73-76.]