Émile Janssens

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Émile Janssens
Nickname(s) Petit Maniaque
Born 1902
Brussels, Belgium
Died 1989 (aged 86–87)
Brussels, Belgium
Allegiance  Belgian Congo
Service/branch Force Publique
Years of service 1939 - 1960
Rank Lieutenant-general
Commands held Force Publique (March 1954-1960)
Other work Historian

Lieutenant-General Émile Robert Janssens (1902-1989) was a Belgian military officer and colonial official, best known for his command of the Force Publique at the start of the Congo Crisis. He described himself as the "Little Maniac" (Petit Maniaque) and was a staunch disciplinarian, but his refusal to see Congolese independence as marking a change in the nature of his command has been cited as the cause of the Force Publique 's mutiny in July 1960.[1]


He served in various military roles during World War II. He served in Abyssinia, Nigeria, the Middle East, France, Holland and Belgium.[2] In 1954, he was given command of the Force Publique, the largely black gendarmerie of the Belgian Congo which also acted as the colony's armed forces.[2]

1960 Mutiny[edit]

With the independence of Congo-Léopoldville in 1960, Janssens remained in charge of the Force Publique. During the final years of colonial rule, he had firmly opposed initiatives to allow black soldiers into the traditionally white officer corps of the Force Publique. Immediately prior to independence there were still no commissioned black officers in the Force, although about twenty Congolese officer cadets had commenced training at military academies in Belgium. This attitude caused unrest among the black troops under his command, already unsettled by the stress of keeping order during the independence celebrations and seeing themselves as excluded from the benefits of freedom.[3] Janssens was determined that the social order created under the Belgian colonial government would continue even in the new independent state.[4]

He called a meeting of the NCOs of the Léopoldville garrison on 5 July 1960[5] (days after national independence) where, in an attempt to remind the soldiers of their oaths of loyalty and obedience, he wrote on a blackboard, "Before independence = after independence."[6]

As I have always told you, order and discipline will be maintained as they have always been. Independence brings changes to politicians and to civilians. But for you, nothing will be changed...none of your new masters can change the structure of an army which, throughout its history, has been the most organized, the most victorious in Africa. The politicians have lied to you.

—Speech to force publique soldiers on 5 July 1960[7]

The message infuriated the soldiers under his command, who mutinied and attacked European settlers. The mutiny, beginning at Camp Hardy near Thysville,[4] prompted an exodus of Europeans in the country towards Brazzaville and Stanleyville where the Belgians deployed paratroopers to rescue their citizens.[6]

Some have seen the rebellion as a result of Janssens' insensitivity, while others suspected he was deliberately trying to incite a rebellion.[8] Regardless, in the aftermath of the mutiny, Janssens resigned from his post, also resulting from differences with the Lumumba government.[9] He was replaced by Victor Lundula, who had been hastily promoted to General from the rank of Sergeant-Major.[4] In the aftermath of the mutiny, the Force Publique was dissolved and replaced by the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC).

Later life[edit]

Janssens returned to Belgium, where in his later years he wrote widely on his experience of the Congo Crisis and of Congolese history in general. He is particularly noted for his 1979 work on the history of the Force Publique.[10]

In 1964, Janssens unsuccessfully stood as lead candidate for the minor far-right Rassemblement démocratique bruxellois ("Brussels Democratic Rally") party in the local elections. The party was closely associated with the far-right colonialist Amitiés Belgo-Katangaises movement which supported the secession of the State of Katanga in the Congo.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 2000 film Lumumba, Janssens was played by Rudi Delhem.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Un Peu d'Histoire: Le Mois De Juillet 1960 à Mweka". CJ News. Josephiteweb.org. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Bailly, Michel (6 December 1989). "Emile Janssens: un officier exaspéré par la politique". Le Soir. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  3. ^ Public Papers of the Secretaries General of the United Nations. New York: Columbia Univ. Press. 1972. p. 17. ISBN 0231036337. 
  4. ^ a b c Gondola, Charles Didier (2002). The History of Congo. Wesport (Conn.): Greenwood. p. 118. ISBN 0313316961. 
  5. ^ Crawford-Young, M. (1966). "Post Independence Politics in the Congo". Transition 26: 34. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Van Reybrouck, David (2010). Congo. Een geschiedenis. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij. p. 304. ISBN 9789023456636. 
  7. ^ Zeilig, Leo (2008). Lumumba: Africa's Lost Leader. London: Haus. p. 103. ISBN 9781905791026. 
  8. ^ Antheunissens, Paul (3 April 2010). "Il y a cinquante ans: " Sire ils vous l’ont cochonné "". La Voix de la Democratie Congolaise. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "Congo Army Revolt Ends: Officers Imprisoned by troops are Freed; Resume Control". The Milwaukee Journal. 7 July 1960. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  10. ^ Janssens, Émile (1979). Histoire de la Force publique. Brussels: Ghesquière.