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"Elisabethville" redirects here. For the Belgian ocean liner, see SS Elisabethville. For the Belgian community in Birtley, County Durham, see The Birtley Belgians.
Ville de Lubumbashi
Skyline of Ville de Lubumbashi
Official seal of Ville de Lubumbashi
Nickname(s): L'shi – Lubum
Location in the Congo
Location in the Congo
Country  Democratic Republic of the Congo
Province Katanga
Founded 1910
 • Mayor Jean Oscar Sanguza Mutunda
 • Total 747 km2 (288 sq mi)
 • Land 747 km2 (288 sq mi)
Elevation 1,208 m (3,963 ft)
Population (2012)
 • Total 1,786,397
 • Density 2,400/km2 (6,200/sq mi)
Time zone DRC2 (UTC+2)
Lubumbashi is located in Democratic Republic of the Congo
Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Lubumbashi (formerly official names: Élisabethville (French) and About this sound Elisabethstad  (Dutch)) in the southeastern part of Democratic Republic of the Congo, is the second largest city in the country, second only to the nation's capital Kinshasa. Lubumbashi is the mining capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, acting as a hub for many of the country's biggest mining companies.[1] The copper-mining city serves as the capital of the relatively prosperous Katanga Province, lying near the Zambian border. Population estimates vary widely but average around 1.5 million.


Lubumbashi lies at around 1,208 meters (3,963 ft.) above sea level. The high altitude serves to cool somewhat the Climate year round which would be very hot otherwise. The Kafue River rises along the Zambian border near the city and meanders through north-central Zambia to the Zambezi River, cutting a long, deep, panhandle into that Country.


Lubumbashi has a humid subtropical climate (Cwa, according to the Köppen climate classification), with warm rainy summers and pleasant, dry winters, with most rainfall occurring during summer and early autumn. Annual average rainfall is 1,238 mm (48.75 inches).

Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: World Climate Guide


From 2000–2006, Floribert Kaseba Makunko served as mayor of Lubumbashi; he was later elected to the National Assembly in 2006.

Elisabethville under Belgian rule[edit]

Belgian people established the modern day government in the city of Élisabethville (sometimes Elizabethville, both in French, or Elisabethstad in Dutch) in 1910, named in honour of their queen Elisabeth, wife to king Albert I. The location of the city was chosen by Vice-Governor-General Emile Wangermée because of the proximity to the copper mine of Etoile du Congo and the copper ore smelting oven installed by Union Minière du Haut Katanga on the nearby Lubumbashi river. The Comité Spécial du Katanga (CSK), a semi-private concessionary company set up in 1906, had its headquarters in Elisabethville throughout the colonial era. It enjoyed large privileges, mainly in terms of land and mining concessions, in the Katanga province.

The city prospered with the development of a regional copper mining industry.[2] Huge investments in the 1920s, both in the mining industry and in transport infrastructure (railline Elisabethville-Port Francqui and Elisabethville-Dilolo), turned the Katanga province into one of the world's major copper ore producers. The population of the city grew apace from approx. 30,000 in 1930, to 50,000 in 1943 and 180,000 in 1957. It was the second city of the Belgian Congo, after Léopoldville.

The city was the seat of the apostolic vicariat of Katanga. The first apostolic vicar, the formidable and authoritarian Mgr Jean-Felix de Hemptinne, occupied this post from the 1930s until his death in 1958. He is buried in the city's cathedral St Pierre et Paul.

As was customary in sub-saharan colonies, the city centre of Elisabethville was reserved for the white (European) population. This consisted mainly of Belgians, but there were also important British and Italian communities, as well as Jewish Greeks. Congolese were only allowed to be present in the white city during the day, except for the house servants ("boys") who often lived in precarious dwellings ("boyeries") in the backyards of the European city houses. The black population consisted of labour immigrants from neighbouring regions in the Belgian Congo (Northern Katanga, Maniema, Kasaï), from Belgian Rwanda and Burundi and from British Northern Rhodesia (Zambia).[3] The black population lived initially in a so-called cité indigène, called quartier Albert (now: Kamalondo), south of the city centre and separated from the white city by a 700 metres wide neutral zone. With population growth new indigenous quarters were created, that still form the main suburbs of present-day Lubumbashi: Kenia, Katuba, Ruashi. The proximity of the mines made Elisabethville the most prosperous region of the Congo during the final decade of Belgian rule. In 1954 there were eight thousand black home owners in the city while thousands more were skilled workers. It was estimated that black Africans living in Elisabethville had a higher standard of living than anywhere else on the continent at that time.[4]

Lubumbashi: 1920s Palace of Justice

Miners in Élisabethville conducted a strike in December 1941 to protest the increasingly severe forced-labor regime that the Belgians imposed on the population, because of the "war efforts".[5] A rally in the Union Minière football stadium got out of hand. Police opened fire and numerous protesters were killed. In early 1944, the city was again in the grip of severe tensions and fear of violent protests, following a mutiny of the Force Publique in Luluabourg.[6]

Starting in 1933, the Belgian colonial authorities experimented with a limited form of self-governance by creating the cité indigène of Elisabethville into a so-called "centre extra-coutumier" (a centre not subject to customary law), administered by an indigenous council and presided over by an indigenous chief. However, through constant interference from the Belgian authorities, the experiment soon proved a failure.[7] The first indigenous chief – Albert Kabongo – appointed in 1937, was dismissed in 1943 and not replaced. The system was abandoned in 1957, when Elisabethville was created a fully autonomous city and the first free municipal elections were organised in which the Congolese population participated. The people of Élisabethville gave a vast majority to the Nationalist Alliance de Bakongo, which demanded immediate independence from the Belgians.

Elisabethville functioned as the administrative capital of the Katanga province. It was also an important commercial and industrial centre, and a centre of education and health services. The Benedictine Order and Order of Salesians offered a wide range of educational facilities to Europeans and Congolese alike, including vocational training (Kafubu). The Belgians established the University of Élisabethville in 1954–1955 (now the University of Lubumbashi).

Lubumbashi: cathedral St Pierre et Paul

Lubumbashi from 1960[edit]

Élisabethville served as the capital and centre of the secessionist independent state of Katanga during the 1960–1963 Congolese civil war. Moise Tshombe proclaimed Katangan independence in July 1960. Congolese leaders arrested him and charged him with treason in April 1961; however, he agreed to dismiss his foreign advisers and military forces in exchange for his release. Tshombe returned to Élisabethville but repudiated these assurances and began to fight anew. United Nations troops opposed Katangan forces and took control of the city in December 1961 under a strong mandate. Roger Trinquier, well known for his published works on counter-insurgency warfare, served as a French military advisor to President Tshombe until international pressure, led by Belgium, caused his recall to France.

Mobutu Sese Seko ultimately assumed power and renamed Élisabethville "Lubumbashi" in 1966 and, in 1972 renamed Katanga "Shaba."

In May 1990, the university campus of Lubumbashi was the scene of a brutal killing among students by Mobutu's security forces. In 1991–92 ethnic tensions between the Luba from Katanga and the Luba from Kasaï resident in the city led to violent confrontations and the forced removal from the city of the latter.

Congo entered another genocidal civil war in the late 1990s. The Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo rebels captured Lubumbashi in April 1997. Rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila spoke from Lubumbashi to declare himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 17 May 1997 after Mobutu Sese Seko fled Kinshasa.

When Laurent-Désiré Kabila decided to appoint a transitional parliament, in 1999, a decision was made to install the Parliament in Lubumbashi, in order to consolidate the fragile unity of the country. The parliament was installed in the building of the National Assembly of secessionist Katanga (the former city theatre), which had its capital in this city as well, in the 1960s. Lubumbashi was therefore the Legislative capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1999 to 2003, when all the country's central institutions were brought back to Kinshasa.

On 7 September 2010 a large prison break happened in Lubumbashi after gunmen attacked a prison on the outskirts of the city. 960 prisoners managed to escape, including the Mai-Mai leader Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga.[8]

On 23 March 2013 a militia group of 100 fighters attacked Lubumbashi and seized a United Nations compound which was then surrounded by Congolese soldiers and members of the president's Republican Guard.[1]


Lubumbashi serves as an important commercial and national industrial centre. Manufactures include textiles, food products and beverages, printing, bricks, and copper smelting. The city is home to the Simba brewery, producing the famous Tembo beer. The area also has a daily newspaper.

The city hosts the headquarters of one of the country's largest banks, Trust Merchant Bank. The airline Korongo Airlines, a joint-venture between Brussels Airlines and the Belgian multinational Groupe George Forrest International, also maintains its head office in Lubumbashi.


Lubumbashi, the mining capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a hub for many of the country's biggest mining companies. The Democratic Republic of Congo produces "more than 3 percent of the world's copper and half its cobalt, most of which comes from Katanga."[1]



Lubumbashi lies at the centre of railway lines to Ilebo, Kindu, Sakania and Kolwezi.

In the 1960s, the section from Mutshatsha to Lubumbashi was electrified at 25 kV AC.


Lubumbashi is home to the modern Lubumbashi International Airport. The city consequently serves as a distribution centre for such minerals as copper, cobalt, zinc, tin, and coal.


Attractions in the city include a botanical garden, a zoo and the regional archaeological and ethnological National Museum of Lubumbashi. Some of the most prominent examples of colonial architecture, such as the art-déco style Palace of Justice, the Grand Hotel or the cathedral St Pierre et Paul, have been restored over recent years. The city also hosts the major University of Lubumbashi, which maintains a library.


The zoo of Lubumbashi is one of the most visited tourist attractions. It was created during the colonial period, and is undoubtedly the nicest zoo in the country. After a quite long period of deterioration from the mid-1990s up to the mid-2000s, it has been rehabilitated by AZLU a non-profit-making organization. By 2007, great animals could be seen again in its cages. AZLU is keeping the zoo “for education purposes, and the protection of the natural heritage of the country,” as it can be read on signs. Today, it has almost been restocked with lions, tigers, monkeys, apes, pelicans, wart hogs, crocodiles, snakes, turtles, monitor lizards, eagles, parrots, ostriches, gazelles, etc.

Apart from animals, there is a restaurant, a veterinary center, and a termite museum. Since its rehabilitation dozens of visitors including school children, university students, tourists, and young couples walk daily on its paths.

Parks and farms[edit]

Muyambo Kyasa popularized the concept of park. “Muyambo Park” opened in 2010. Located at 15 km from Lubumbashi, it is a quite large garden where children can play games, and adults relax. Other parks (or farms) include Mikembo and Futuka) on Kasenga Road in the city’s outskirts.



Jewsiewicki presents Lubumbashi art as very weak, especially when compared to the Kinshasan. He writes, “No Lubumbashi popular painter has had an international career like that of the Kinshasa artist Chéri Samba, and there are in fact a number of artists and musicians in Kinshasa whom the whirlwind of international success has whisked farther from local audiences than any artist in Lubumbashi, and not only in Lubumbashi but in the surrounding province of Katanga.” [9] He names painters like Pilipili, Mwenze, Angali, Nkulu wa Nkulu, Maka, Tshimbumba, Dekab, and others.


Ciné Bétamax, formerly “Ciné Palace” next “Ciné Eden”,[10] is the only real modern movie theater in the city which generally shows popular recent Hollywood productions as well as NC-17 films. However, it often also shows movies about Congolese and African recent history like Mister Bob, Sniper: Reloaded, SEAL Team 8: Behind Enemy Lines, and Tears of the Sun. Before films, it shows Congolese and international music videos, and US wrestling great fights. Ciné Bétamax primarily addresses the young adults of Lubumbashi. Children are just exposed to huge NC-17 posters, but seldom get in. this year, the communication department of the University of Lubumbashi collaborated with the movie theater to show some students’ films. Apart from films, great football matches are shown, not mentioning the local singers’ concerts and Christian meetings which also take place there. All over the city, especially in crowded neighborhoods, are spread small rooms in which children are exposed to violent movies from morning to night.


The popular music from Kinshasa is very much appreciated and played in Lubumbashi. However, the virtuoso Jean-Bosco Mwenda is undoubtedly the most famous Katangese musician. Many of his songs have become classical, and are endlessly remixed by new young artists. Modern Lubumbashi singers can be grouped in two: those who play Soukous like Jo Kizi and Képi Prince on the one hand, and those who play international urban music like Oxygène, Agresivo, Tshumani, M-Joe, RJ Kanyera, Nelson NJ, and Costa on the other. The former are influenced by successful Kinshasa singers like Fally Ipupa and Ferre Gola while the latter are by the music from Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria. The Lubumbashi music is characterized by the use of many languages (Swahili, Lingala, Tshiluba, French, and little English) in the lyrics. It is extremely scarce to hear songs fully composed in a single language. This code switching and mixing expresses the cosmopolitan character of the city, but it weakens the lyrics which seem to be particularly made for teenagers. Recently, even humorists have started singing. Serge Manseba and Karibyona are certainly the most talented humorist-singers.

French cultural influence[edit]

The “Institut Français” (formally known as “Centre Culturel Français”), located in the heart of the city, contributes a great deal to the cultural and artistic life of Lubumbashi. Students and researchers spend time in its library; films are shown, plays and other shows are performed in its theater; and local singers’ records for sale are exposed at its entrance.

Okapi Radio’s cultural participation[edit]

Okapi Radio’s Lubumbashi presenters participate each Saturday evening in “métissage” the cultural program of the radio. Through them the whole country is informed of the cultural activities in the city.


Although French is the official language, the main lingua franca in Lubumbashi is Kiswahili although it is not the 'pure' form found in Tanzania. The dialect of Kiswahili spoken all down the east side of Congo (including the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu, Maniema, Katanga and Oriental, Western Kasai and Eastern Kasai) and almost all the way across to the Katangan border with Angola is called Kingwana.[11] As many people move into Lubumbashi for employment from rural areas there many other local languages spoken in Lubumbashi including kiluba, Chokwe, Bemba and Kisanga but Kiswahili has always been the most practical and suitable solution for the prospering mines and surging ethnic influx.[12]


Lubumbashi is home to football clubs TP Mazembe, FC Saint Eloi Lupopo and CS Don Bosco. Chairman of Mazembe is the current governor of the province of Katanga Moïse Katumbi Chapwe.

Basketball players Myck Kabongo and Bismack Biyombo are from Lubumbashi.[13]


National channel (RTNC/Katanga)[edit]

RTNC (Congolese National Radio and Television) has a provincial station located in Lubumbashi district at the junction of Lubilanshi and Sandoa. It has been very influential from the 1960s to the mid-1990s, at the end of the one-party system, and before the information technology revolution.

Private channels[edit]

Since 1996, the year that Zenith Radio, the first independent radio station started broadcasting, there have been numerous radio and television stations in the city. They can be classified in three: religious channels (Zenith, RTIV, Cannal de Vie, RNS, etc.), commercial channels (RTA, Mwangaza, Nyota, RTLJ, Malaïka, Kyondo, etc.), and mixed ones like Wantanshi Radio and Television.

Sister city[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Michael J. Kavanagh (23 March 2013). "Congolese Militia Seizes UN Compound in Katanga's Lubumbashi". Retrieved 23 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Brion, R. and J.-L. Moreau (2006), De la mine à Mars, La genèse d'Umicore, Tielt : Lannoo.
  3. ^ Fetter, Bruce (1976), The Creation of Elisabethville, 1910–1940, Stanford: Hoover Institution Press.
  4. ^ John Gunther, page 640 "Inside Africa" Hamish Hamilton Ltd London 1955
  5. ^ Dibwe dia Mwembu, Donatien (2001), Histoire des conditions de vie des travailleurs de l'Union Minière du Haut-Katanga et Gécamines, 1910–1999, Lubumbashi : Presses Universitaires de Lubumbashi.
  6. ^ Rubens, Antoine (1945), Dettes de guerre, Lubumbashi: L'essor du Congo.
  7. ^ Grévisse, F. (1951), Le Centre Extra-Coutumier d’Elisabethville, Elisabethville-Bruxelles: CEPSI-Institut Royal Colonial Belge.
  8. ^ "UN voices concern after mass prison outbreak in DR Congo". UN News Center. 7 September 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011. 
  9. ^ Brassinne, J. and Kestergat, J. (1991). Qui a tué Patrice Lumumba? Paris : Duculot. P 141. ISBN 2-8011-0979-7.
  10. ^ Jewsiewicki, B. (1999). A Congo Chronicle: Patrice Lumumba in Urban Art. New York:The Museum for African Art. P 13. ISBN 0-945802-25-0
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ Rothbart, Davy. "What's Your Deal? This month's guest: Bismack Biyombo". Grantland. Retrieved 22 June 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 11°40′S 27°28′E / 11.667°S 27.467°E / -11.667; 27.467