Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)

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Not to be confused with Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville).
Republic of the Congo
(1960–1964)
République du Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo
(1964–1971)
République démocratique du Congo
1960–1971
Flag Coat of arms
Motto
"Justice – Paix – Travail" (French)
"Justice – Peace – Work"
Anthem
Debout Congolais (French)
Arise, Congolese

Capital Léopoldville (renamed Kinshasa in 1966)
Languages French (official)
Lingala · Kikongo · Kiswahili
Tshiluba (national)
Government Parliamentary republic
President
 •  1960–1965 Joseph Kasa-Vubu
 •  1965–1971 Joseph-Desiré Mobutu
Prime Minister
 •  1960 Patrice Lumumba
 •  1961–1964 Cyrille Adoula
 •  1965 Évariste Kimba
Historical era Cold War
 •  Independence 30 June 1960
 •  Kasai defeated 30 December 1961
 •  Katanga defeated 15 January 1963
 •  Country renamed DRC 1 August 1964
 •  Coup d'état 25 November 1965
 •  Name changed to Zaire 27 October 1971
Area 2,345,410 km² (905,568 sq mi)
Currency Congolese franc
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Belgian Congo
South Kasai
State of Katanga
Zaire
Today part of  Democratic Republic of Congo
1964 Constitution de la République démocratique du Congo

The Republic of the Congo (French: République du Congo) was a sovereign state in Central Africa that was created with the independence of the Belgian Congo in 1960. The country was often known as Congo-Léopoldville (after its capital) in order to distinguish it from its north-western neighbour, also called the Republic of the Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. On 1 August 1964, the state was re-named the Democratic Republic of the Congo.[1][2] In 1971, the state's name changed to Zaire.

The period between 1960 and 1965 is referred to as the First Congolese Republic, and the current Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Third Republic.

Unrest and rebellion continued to plague the government until 1965,[citation needed] when Lieutenant General Joseph Désiré Mobutu, now commander-in-chief of the national army, seized control of the country. Mobutu changed the country's name to Zaire in 1971 and remained its president until 1997.

Colonial rule[edit]

Main article: Belgian Congo

Conditions in the Congo improved following the Belgian government's takeover in 1908 of the Congo Free State, which had been a personal possession of the Belgian king. Some Bantu languages were taught in primary schools, a rare occurrence in colonial education. Colonial doctors greatly reduced the spread of African trypanosomiasis, commonly known as sleeping sickness.

During World War II, the small Congolese army achieved several victories against the Italians in East Africa. The Belgian Congo, which was also rich in uranium deposits, supplied the uranium that was used by the United States to build the atomic weapons that were used in the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

The colonial administration implemented a variety of economic reforms to improve infrastructure: railways, ports, roads, mines, plantations and industrial areas. The Congolese people however lacked political power and faced legal discrimination. All colonial policies were decided in Brussels and Léopoldville. The Belgian Colony-secretary and Governor-general, neither elected by the Congolese people, wielded absolute power.

Among the Congolese people, resistance against their undemocratic regime grew over time. In 1955, the Congolese upper class (the so-called "évolués"), many of whom had been educated in Europe, initiated a campaign to end the inequality.

Congo Crisis[edit]

Main article: Congo Crisis

In May 1960, the MNC party or Mouvement National Congolais, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections, and Lumumba was appointed Prime Minister. Joseph Kasa-Vubu of ABAKO was elected President by the parliament. Other parties that emerged include the Parti Solidaire Africain (PSA), led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (PNP), led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko).

The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name "Republic of Congo" or "Republic of the Congo" ("République du Congo"). As the French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name "Republic of Congo" upon receiving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as "Congo-Léopoldville" and "Congo-Brazzaville", after their capital cities. Following a constitutional referendum in 1964 it was renamed the "Democratic Republic of the Congo", and in 1971 it was changed again to "Republic of Zaïre".

Secessionist movements[edit]

Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (with Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership.

Subsequent events led to a crisis between President Kasavubu and Prime Minister Lumumba. On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu's action "unconstitutional" and a crisis between the two leaders developed.

Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congolese army, the Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to inspire mutinous action. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu made payments to his soldiers to generate their loyalty. The aversion of Western powers towards communism and leftist ideology in general influenced their decision to finance Mobutu's quest to maintain "order" in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy.

On 17 January 1961, Katangan forces, supported by the Belgian government, which desired to retain mining rights for copper and diamonds in Katanga and South Kasai, and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which desired to remove leftist sympathizers from the region, assassinated Patrice Lumumba.[3][page needed] From 1960 to 1964 the peacekeeping effort was the largest, most complex, and most costly operation ever carried out by the United Nations. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government led by technicians (Collège des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba, and several short governments Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, Moise Tshombe took over in quick succession.

Coup d'état[edit]

Following five years of extreme instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, overthrew Kasa-Vubu in a 1965 CIA-backed coup. He had the support of the US for his staunch opposition to communism, which would presumably make him a roadblock to communist schemes in Africa.

Mobutu declared himself president for five years, saying that he needed that long to undo the damage that the politicians had done in the country's first five years of independence. However, within two years, he had set up the Popular Movement of the Revolution as the country's only legal party. In 1970, he appeared alone on the ballot in the country's first direct presidential election. Two weeks later, a single list of MPR candidates was elected to the legislature. For all intents and purposes, the Democratic Republic of the Congo had effectively come to an end, but it would be another year before Mobutu officially changed the country's name to Zaire.

Flags[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Frank R. Villafaña, Cold War in the Congo: The Confrontation of Cuban Military Forces, 1960-1967. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012.