Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
| Republic of the Congo|
République du Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo
"Justice – Paix – Travail" (French)
"Justice – Peace – Work"
Debout Congolais (French)
|Capital||Léopoldville (renamed Kinshasa in 1966)|
|Languages|| French (official)
|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)|
|Today part of||Democratic Republic of Congo|
The Republic of the Congo (French: République du Congo) or Congo-Léopoldville was a state founded after independence was granted to the former Belgian Congo in 1960. The country's post-independence name remained until 1 August 1964, when it was changed to Democratic Republic of the Congo to distinguish it from the neighboring Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), formerly the French Congo. The period between 1960 and 1965 is referred to as the First Congolese Republic while the current Democratic Republic of the Congo is the Third Republic.
Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965, when Lieutenant General Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, by then 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.
The conditions in the Congo improved following the Belgian government's takeover from the Congo Free State in 1908. Select 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.
The colonial administration implemented a variety of economic reforms that focused on the improvement of 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 of whom was 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.
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.
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 (or PSA, led by Antoine Gizenga) and the Parti National du Peuple (or 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".
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 Congo army, Armee Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create sentiment sufficient 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's desire to retain rights to mine for copper and diamonds in Katanga and South Kasai and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's desire to remove any leftist sympathizers in the region, assassinated Patrice Lumumba. Through 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 (College des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba, and several short governments Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, Moise Tshombe took over in quick succession.
Coup d'etat (1965)
Following five years of extreme instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, overthrew Kasavubu in a 1965 Central Intelligence Agency-backed coup. He had the support of the United States 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, though it would be another year before Mobutu officially changed the country's name to Zaire.
Flags of the Republic of the Congo
Flag used from 1960 to 1963
Flag used from 1963 to 1966
Flag used from 1966 to 1971
- "Zaire: Post-Independence Political Development", Library of Congress
- "Constitution de la République Démocratique du Congo du 1er août 1964" [Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo of 1 August 1964]. Global Legal Information Network (in French). 1964. Retrieved 11 May 2012.
- "Crisis in the Congo" Lefever, Ernest W.
- This article incorporates public domain material from the Library of Congress Country Studies website http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/. - Zaire
- Frank R. Villafaña, Cold War in the Congo: The Confrontation of Cuban Military Forces, 1960-1967. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2012.