Fulbert Youlou

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Fulbert Youlou
Fulbert Youlou 1963.jpg
Fulbert Youlou in 1963
1st President of Republic of the Congo
In office
15 August 1960 – 15 August 1963
Preceded by None
Succeeded by Alphonse Massemba-Débat
2nd Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo
In office
8 December 1958 – 21 November 1959
Preceded by Jacques Opangault
Succeeded by Post abolished, 1959–1963; Alphonse Massemba-Débat
Personal details
Born (1917-07-19)19 July 1917[1][2][3]
Madibou, Moyen-Congo
Died 6 May 1972(1972-05-06) (aged 54)
Madrid, Spain
Nationality Congolese
Political party Democratic Union for the Defence of African Interests
Religion Roman Catholic

Abbé Fulbert Youlou (9 June,[1] 17 June [2] or 9 July 1917[3] – 6 May 1972) was a laicized Brazzaville-Congolese Roman Catholic priest, nationalist leader and politician.

Early life[edit]

Youlou, whose last name means "Grape" in Lari,[4] was born the son of a Lari merchant in Madibou, Moyen-Congo. He was baptized at age nine and three years later, entered a seminary.[5] He attended mission schools in Gabon, Cameroon, and Mbamu, where he met Barthélemy Boganda, the future nationalist leader of Oubangui-Chari and the first president of the Central African Republic but also Andre-Marie Mbida, Cameroon's first head of state. He taught in mission schools in French Moyen-Congo and was ordained as a Catholic priest in either 1946[5] or 1949.[6] In defiance of orders from his superiors, he ran unsuccessfully in the 1956 elections for the French National Assembly and was then defrocked by the church. Ignoring the church's decision, he continued to wear his ecclesiastical robes. Due to his defrocking, he was acclaimed by his fellow countrymen as being a victim of discrimination, which helped launch his political career.[7] Soon after, he took control of Amicale, an anti-French, quasi-religious Lari self-help organization founded by the now-deceased André Matsoua.[5]

He lost the 2 January 1956 election for the Moyen-Congo (African) seat by a close margin, finishing third with 27.6% of the vote, behind 31% for Jean-Félix Tchicaya and 29.1% for Jacques Opangault.[6] However, the loss only skyrocketed his political profile amongst the Congolese people. With his newfound support, on 29 May he founded the Democratic Union for the Defence of African Interests (UDDIA), a political party supporting close relations with France, to compete with Tchicaya's Congolese Progressive Party (PPC) and Opangault's African Socialist Movement (MSA) parties.[6][8] In November 1956, Youlou filed papers declaring his candidacy for the election of the mayor of Brazzaville. However, these papers were in fact supposed to be filed in Pointe-Noire. French colonial officials, aware of Barthélemy Boganda's similar dramatic rise to power in Ubangi-Shari, did not want to take the risk of letting Youlou's request lapse, which could have caused unrest amongst the public, so they informed him of his error. They believed that they could utilize Youlou's influence among the Lari people to their benefit.[9] Youlou won the vote of the majority of Brazzaville's Bakongo population to become the first black elected mayor in French Equatorial Africa.[10] His surprise victory drastically altered the political landscape in Congo.[9]

Entrance into national government[edit]

Support for Tchicaya's PPC collapsed almost entirely, leaving Opanagult and Youlou as the main political contenders in the 31 March 1957 Moyen-Congo Territorial Assembly elections. Youlou was elected as a deputy to the Territorial Assembly, and on 1 May 1957 appointed Minister of Agriculture in the newly established Moyen-Congo Government Council, Jacques Opangault was appointed Vice-President displacing the Moyen-Congo French National Assembly deputy Tchicaya as the leading politician in the country - French colonial governors remained as Presidents until 14 July 1958 when these positions were taken by the elected African Vice-Presidents.[11][12] In 1958, Opangault and Youlou both supported political autonomy, which French President Charles de Gaulle considered giving to the Franco-African Community.[8] The UDDIA achieved majority support in Congo's legislative assembly later that year, which resulted in the formation on 8 December 1958 of a provisional government headed by Youlou in the newly established position of Prime Minister.[13][14]

Antagonism between the Mbochi (who supported Opangault) and Balali (who supported Youlou) ethnic groups resulted in a series of riots in Brazzaville in February 1959, which had to be subdued by the French army. Youlou used the series of events to attack the opposition.[8] Through gerrymandering, Youlou's UDDIA party obtained 84% of the legislative seats after only receiving 58% of the vote in the April 1959 legislative elections. Three months later, he formed a new government, which was shortly joined thereafter by Opangault and the MSA. By the time independence was declared in the Republic of the Congo in August 1960, Opangault had agreed to serve under Youlou in a highly symbolic position.[8]

The Youlou regime was described as being mildly corrupt and authoritarian, aimless in domestic policy, and deferential to France. The high-profile development projects it undertook did little to help ordinary Congolese citizens, and its pro-Katanga foreign policy irritated many of Congo's left-wing educated urban youth and bureaucracy. Youlou was re-elected as President in elections in March 1961 in which he was the only candidate. The situation came to a head when Youlou hinted that he intended to make Congo a one-party state. Youlou's regime was brought to its demise following three days of street riots in August 1963, which became known as "les trois glorieuses".[15] Youlou was succeeded by a string of leaders who were committed to a form of socialist development for Congo. Ironically given their condemnation of Youlou's attempt to abolish all other parties, they also set up a one-party state that remained in place until 1991.[14]


  1. ^ a b In African Powder Keg: Revolt and Dissent in Six Emergent Nations, author Ronald Matthews lists Youlou's date of birth as 9 June 1917. This date is also listed in Annuaire parlementaire des États d'Afrique noire, Députés et conseillers économiques des républiques d'expression française (1962). Matthews 1966, p. 169; Annuaire parlementaire des États d'Afrique noire: Députés et conseillers économiques des républiques d'expression française, Paris: Annuaire Afrique, 1962, OCLC 11833110 .
  2. ^ a b In Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and K. Anthony Appiah list Youlou's date of birth as 17 June 1917. Appiah & Gates 1999, p. 2036.
  3. ^ a b The Encyclopedia of World Biography by Gale Research Company lists Youlou's date of birth as 19 July 1917. Gale Research Company 1999, p. 466.
  4. ^ Matthews 1966, p. 94.
  5. ^ a b c Young 1999, p. 2036.
  6. ^ a b c Mengisteab & Daddieh 1999, p. 162.
  7. ^ "Failure of a Fetish", Time, 23 August 1963, retrieved 2 August 2008 .
  8. ^ a b c d Gale Research Company 1999, p. 466.
  9. ^ a b Bernault 1996, p. 234.
  10. ^ Gondola, Ch. Didier (2002), The History of Congo, Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, p. 109, ISBN 0-313-31696-1, OCLC 49959456 .
  11. ^ Italiaander, Rolf (1961), The New Leaders of Africa, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, p. 170, OCLC 565528 .
  12. ^ Daggs, Elisa (1970), All Africa: All Its Political Entities of Independent Or Other Status, New York: Hastings House, p. 324, ISBN 0-8038-0336-2, OCLC 82503 .
  13. ^ Lentz 1994, p. 194.
  14. ^ a b Clark & Gardinier 1997, p. 63.
  15. ^ Terray, Emmanuel (October 1964), "Les révolutions congolaise et dahoméenne de 1963", Revue française de science politique 14 (5): 918–925, doi:10.3406/rfsp.1964.403464, ISSN 0035-2950 .


Preceded by
Jacques Opangault
Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo
Succeeded by
Alphonse Massemba-Débat
post abolished, 1959–1963
Preceded by
President of the Republic of the Congo
Succeeded by
Alphonse Massemba-Débat