African discoveries acquired in the 19th century attracted the attention of Leopold II, king of Belgium. In 1876 he assembled an International Geographic Conference in Brussels for the study of East Africa. The following year an African International Association was founded.
When in 1877 the American explorer journalist Stanley reached the Atlantic, after having explored the whole course of the Congo jume (in the Zaire indigenous language), Leopold II called him and had him hired by the Committee of Studies of the Upper Congo, created in 1878. Stanley, with a group of Belgian soldiers, went up the entire route of the river, decreeing its possession, and in its basin established the power of the International Association of the Congo, whose authority had already been recognized also by the United States.
According to Abbreviationfinder, Portugal was the only opponent, but Germany and France helped King Leopold II overcome the obstacle. On 15 November 1884 in Berlin Chancellor Bismark promoted a conference which recognized the State of Congo with a “General Act” and on this the following year the sovereignty of the king of Belgium was proclaimed.
Until 1890 Leopold II had intervened at his expense to support the long and continuous exploration of the immense territory; and in that year Belgium intervened financially in aid of the king, and he compiled a will in which he authorized Belgium to annex the Congo after ten years.
From 1885, and for 5 years, three main activities were carried out: the increase in territorial occupation, the construction of communication routes and the fight against slavery.
The exploration of the internal regions continued by some officers of the Belgian army but the most important and certainly most profitable action was that carried out by Captain Bia, together with Lieutenant Francqui and geologist Cornet, and carried out in 1892 in Katanga, where very rich copper deposits were discovered.
From 1892 to 1894 a very hard war was waged against Arab black men. Then expeditions to the north followed, which ensured the state of Congo the border of Ubanghi, later defined with the Franco-Congolese treaty of 1894.
In order to make the best use of the Congo, it was necessary to build a long railway to connect the lower Maritime Congo with the navigable course of the Upper Congo, separated from each other by the cataract area. And this work was completed from 1890 to 1898, with great sacrifices and under the guidance of the expert Lieutenant Colonel Thys. Belgium was always the one to bear all the costs but it was worth it as the economic progress of the country was greatly accelerated by rail. During the works for the production of the rubber, the natives protested for the mistreatment suffered by the staff of some companies, especially the British ones.
In order to avoid further unrest, the Belgian state accelerated the annexation of the Congo and with a special law of 15 November 1908 proclaimed it a Belgian “colony”.
The following 20 years passed peacefully and many public works were built, including new communication routes, the most important of which, inaugurated in 1928, was the one that connected Lower Congo to Katanga, thus obtaining significant advantages for the extraction and the transport of copper.
At the outbreak of the First World War the Congo was attacked by the Germans. These were then rejected by the united French and Belgian troops, who in 1914/15 also conquered the German colony of Cameroon, while the English troops defended Rhodesia. And most of German East Africa was occupied in 1916 by the Belgians and the British.
In August 1919 the League of Nations assigned Belgium a mandate over the territories of Rwanda and Burundi.
During the Second World War Belgium, occupied by the Germans, moved its government into exile in London, which, however, could always count on the loyalty of the “colony”. And when London officially recognized the Belgian government in exile on February 21, 1941, an Anglo-Belgian pact was also signed for the parallel exploitation of the colony.
In September 1942 the American troops arrived on the scene who substantially changed the economy of the Congo and exerted a strong influence on it with their wealth; an influence that almost dominated the Belgian one, given the absence of that government for war purposes.
After the end of the Second World War, Belgium restored its sovereignty over the Congo and with a series of vast investments it had ports, roads, hospitals and schools built. The United States also cooperated in the development of the colony, however, essentially interested in the very rich uranium deposits of the Katanga.
But there was no evolution in the political field and there was no plan on the matter, as the major concerns of officials were always addressed to economic problems.
In 1946 a Council of State was established for Belgium and one for the Congo, with two functions: the consultative one in the legislative field and the jurisdictional one in the administrative one. The following year a 65-member Governing Council was created with consultative functions and within it a permanent delegation to assist the Governor General.
These administrative reforms did not prove satisfactory since around 1955 indigenous political movements had formed in opposition.
In September 1958 the French Community was created; in December the Pan-African Conference in Accra voted for resolutions which, together with a violent speech by Lumumba, head of the Congolese National Movement, caused serious riots in the city.
This episode worried the then king of Belgium, Baldovino, who, in agreement with the Minister for Belgian Congo, immediately ran for cover with the preparation of a plan for constitutional reforms that should have brought, by September 1960, the constitution in Congo of its own Parliament and an absolutely Congolese government.
But this plan was not accepted by the Congolese and then on January 20, 1960 a Round Table Conference met in Buxelles, composed of 81 Congolese members, 6 members of the Belgian government and various Belgian parliamentarians, in order to develop a new Constitution for the Congo. And at the end of the works, which took place on February 20, the creation of the Independent Republic of the Congo was established. On June 30, 1960 there was the official proclamation; the system of government was bicameral, with the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, and with the election of the Head of State.
A serious internal crisis immediately opened up in the Congo, which however had many international repercussions. The new Congolese ruling class was completely immature; graduates, doctors, administrators, lawyers, etc. were missing. So the country was immediately in the hands of exalted extremist leaders, such as Lumumba, head of government. And suddenly an epidemic of xenophobia broke out, especially antibelgae, which led the natives to massacre the whites. On July 9 the Italian consul in Elisabethville, Tito Spoglia, was killed while trying to defend a group of compatriots living there.
On July 14 relations with Brussels were interrupted. Belgian troops began to evacuate the country and the Soviet Union began to stir up the indigenous people by accusing Belgium of wanting to continue applying colonial policy. And on this pretext, both the head of state Kasavubu and the head of government Lumumba, formulating the thought of a hypothetical Belgian coup, presented N. Kruscev with a request for possible intervention. And the Russian chief gave them ample assurances about it.
With this state he said, on July 14, 1960 Moisè Tshombe, also on the basis of previous agreements made in Brussels for the foundation of a federal Congolese state, proclaimed the independence of the very rich region of Katanga, which already contributed 60 to the national income. %.
This grafted crisis quickly became international and the two opposing blocs, east and west, faced each other with different measures. The communist bloc immediately sent aid by air while the United Nations sent its own troops but always with the intent to dominate the situation on a diplomatic level. Thus the “blue helmets” of the United Nations replaced the Belgian troops, now all withdrawn, and entered the two areas of the Congo and Katanga. The United Nations General Assembly began on 19 September 1960 on the discussion to restore order in the Congolese question and the then secretary D. Hammarskjold invited the people to pacify and the member countries not to send weapons to the belligerents.
Meanwhile, Lumumba had done nothing but stir up the people to revolt by accusing the United Nations of wanting to restore a colonial regime in the Congo. This prompted the military, who, under the leadership of Colonel Mobutu on September 14, overthrew the government and appointed a Committee of Government Commissioners. Parliament had to dissolve, Lumumba was placed under house arrest and then in prison in December, after an attempted escape. The situation seemed to be under control, maneuvered by the combination of Kasavubu-Mobutu, but the Eastern Province, openly siding with Lumumba, proclaimed its independence.
Calm and order were largely restored by the presence of United Nations troops who, however, also had to deal with political issues, beyond their jurisdiction.
The situation worsened not long after, when Lumumba was killed on January 17, 1971. A secessionist tussle broke out across the country and the central government, chaired by J. Ileo, was unable to keep control. The result was a vast regional division and the positions increased by far and the various numerous administrators thought only of getting rich. In this climate, the rebellion of the disappointed masses was a logical consequence, and this broke out in 1964 in the Kwilu area, by P. Mulele, a supporter of Maoist ideologies. Only in mid-1965 did the revolt stop. In the east, however, it continued and in June 1964, returned to his homeland from exile in Spain, M. Ciombè took power and with the military aid provided by Belgium and the United States, even in 1965 the revolt was extinguished.
However, the government in Stanleyville in November of the same year took over the government. A hard dispute arose between Ciombe and President Kasavubu, who had dismissed and replaced him with E. Kimba, and General Mobutu emerged victorious and on 24 November 1965 he became the new chief. He dissolved all political parties then formed a civilian government chaired by General L. Mulamba.
Mobutu was believed to be the savior of the homeland; after taming other rebellions in the various areas of the country, in October 1968 he gave a coup de grace to the rebels by executing their leader P. Mulele.
From that moment the government of Mobutu was mainly aimed at the reorganization of the state economy, which was called Zaire; he nationalized the Mining Union and with the help of the United States and the increase in the world price of copper he greatly reduced the debt with Belgium. In June 1967 he practiced monetary reform and liberalism, so foreign investment also increased. In 1966 the administrative system of the provinces was reduced, which became only 8, and the political system could be reorganized throughout the country.
In 1967 the single party called “Popular Movement of the Revolution” was born; in June a new Constitution was promulgated. With the 1970 elections Mobutu was confirmed president with an absolute majority, and in November he updated the national legislative council. Then he granted a broad political amnesty and began an Africanization of the state by changing the Europeanized names. Thus, while Congo had become Zaire, Leopoldville was called Kinshasa; he composed a new national anthem and changed the flag. He himself changed his name and was called Mobutu Sese Seko instead of J. Desirè.
In 1972 he started a diatribe with the archbishop of Kinshasa, cardinal JA Malula, ordering him to stay in Rome and not to return to his homeland. He introduced many constitutional reforms, but did not have the unanimous consent of the population. In fact, a “Congo National Liberation Front” was established, with bases in Angola.
The first rebel movements occurred from 1977 and then in 1978 and the intervention of Belgian and French troops, as well as that of an African peacekeeping force, was needed to bring the government back to control the situation. And there were severe repressions.
Due to the need to obtain economic and military aid from France and Belgium, Mobutu moved closer and closer to the western powers, thus loosening relations with the socialist countries and so from 1976 to 1978 there was a real swing between the breakdown of relations with the ‘Angola, Cuba and the German Democratic Republic, partially restored. With the growing economic difficulties, Zaire was placed under the trusteeship by the International Monetary Fund.
Despite everything Mobutu Sese Seko was re-elected until the expiration of 1991. The only positive thing that occurred in those years was the introduction of multiparty. But for some time now the largest investors such as the United States, France and Belgium were no longer present in the country’s economy. And this also in addition to the disagreement that had arisen with the government of Mobutu Sese Seko who, in violation of human rights, had been guilty of continuous violence. In fact, in 1990 the United States canceled economic assistance to Zaire; in 1992 also those of the European Economic Community ceased, minus the humanitarian ones, and in 1994 the International Monetary Fund also deprived Zaire of the right to vote. Also in 1994, L. Kengo Wa Dondo took over the government, an expert economist who, in addition to planning the restoration of a better internal situation, he also took care to bring international prestige back to Zaire. There was some good results immediately, especially on the inflation front. But economic stability was closely tied to political stability, so new elections were scheduled for 1995 which, however, were postponed to a date to be determined.
Also in 1994 Mobutu decided to welcome Hutu political refugees from neighboring Rwanda to Zaire. The arrival of about two million refugees erupted struggles of different ethnic groups which led to his defenestration, and then to that of his successor LD Kabila. This led the United States and France to offer their aid crosswise, starting in 1996.
The ethnic groups that provoked the unrest were, as in Rwanda, those of the Hutus and Tutsis. The former were backed by Mobutu and the latter by Kabila who, with the help of Rwanda, Uganda and Zimbabwe, between 1996 and 1997 managed to subdue all the provinces; then he proclaimed himself president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, removing the name of Zaire from the state denomination.
Meanwhile Mobutu had sought refuge first in Togo and then in Morocco and here, in Rabat, he died on September 7, 1997.
Kabila began his government by surrounding himself with collaborators all of his own ethnic group, the Luba of the southeast, and therefore liquidated all his allies, ordering them to leave the country.
The discontent that ensued soon became an open revolt and the Tutsi rebels, backed by Rwanda and Uganda, began their march towards Kinshasa, moving from the east of the country, from where the rebellion had arisen on August 2, 1998.
The rebels however they were stopped at the gates of Kinshasa by the troops of Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia, who intervened in the name of that “Southern African Development Community”, which also included the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 1997.
Kabila took advantage of the situation and in the name of Congolese nationalism pushed the population to hunt Tutsi enemies calling them invaders and so, while at the time he had conquered power with their help, at this point he found himself instead to have allies with the Hutus. These, bitter enemies of the Tutsis, went out of their way to help Kabila, but their main aim was always to be able to one day succeed in ousting the Tutsis from the government of Rwanda.
In the early months of 1999 the bloody war still showed no signs of extinguishing, despite the democratic openings promised by Kabila.