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|Republic of the Congo in 1960
Exuberantly proclaimed on June 30, 1960, the Republic of the Congo faced internal conflicts almost immediately.
On January 20, 1960, a conference on the progress of Congo independence opened in Brussels. Presided over by Albert Pilar, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, the conference brought together 10 members of the Belgian Parliament appointed from among the government and opposition parties and 44 Africans, including tribal chiefs and party leaders. At the end of the conference, Patrice Lumumba said that the Africans had achieved all their aims. A crown council of cabinet ministers and ministers of state regarded the outcome of the conference as logical. The Congo would become independent on June 30 after provincial and general elections, the formation of a government, and the election of a head of state.
It was decided that the Congolese legislature would consist of a House of Representatives with one Representative for every 100,000 citizens, elected by universal adult male suffrage and a Senate formed of members designated by the six provicincial assemblies on the basis of 14 for each province, of whom at least 3 would be tribal chiefs or leaders. The central government would control external relations, defense and national police forces, finances, and foreign trade. The provincial governments would organize the local police, as well as grant mining, agricultural, and forestry concessions. An economic conference was held in Brussels April 26 to May 16 to organize economic, financial, and social cooperation between Belgium and the Republic of the Congo. King Baudouin signed the provisional constitution for the Congo on May 19.
In the elections for the provincial assemblies Lumumba and his supporters won 27% of the seats. His party, the Congolese National Movement (M.N.C.) also won 74 of the 137 seats in the House of Representatives. The posts of president and two vice-presidents of the House were filled by his supporters but leadership of the Senate was won by Joseph Ileo, an ally of Joseph Kasavubu, Lumumba's principal rival. The first Congolese government was formed on June 24, with Lumumba as Prime Minister and Kasavubua as head of state. A Belgian-Congolese treaty of friendship was signed on June 29, and the independence of the Republic of the Congo was formally proclaimed by King Baudouin at ceremonies in Léopoldville on June 30.
Serious internal troubles began almost immediately after the declaration of independence. Tribal violences flared up at Luluabourg between the Lulua and Baluba tribes and within a week a mutiny broke out in the Belgian-officered Congolese army; the mutiny was soon joined by police. Officers were injured, looting began, Belgians were attacked, and Belgian women were raped. Lumumba dismissed Major General Emil Janssens and other Belgian officers whom he accused of being responsible for the mutiny, and appointed Congolese Sergeant-Major Victor Lundula Commander of the Army.
An airlift for the departure of Belgians had already begun in June, and after the disorders broke out about 15,000 Europeans fled. Belgian forces stationed at the bases in Kitona, at the mouth of the Congo River, and Kamina, in the Katanga province, reinforced by troops sent from Belgium, intervened to protect Belgian residents. The Congolese government appealed to Ghana for military aid and broke off official relations with Belgium. A month later the Belgian ambassador was expelled from Léopoldville.
Lumumba asked the United Nations to intervene and on July 14 the Security Council voted to organize and send a U.N. force to Congo. Ghana put two battalions at U.N. disposal. Other units were sent by Sweden, Morocco, Guinea, Tunisia, Ethiopia, the Republic of Ireland, Canada, and the United Arab Republic, all of which were placed under the command of Major-General Carl von Horn of Sweden. U.N. Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, who visited the Congo in July and August, was represented in Léopoldville first by Ralph Bunche of the United States and after August 20 by Rajeshwar Dayal of India.
A U.N. policeman from Ghana maintains order on the
streets of Léopoldville, August 9.
Belgian forces began withdrawing after a decision by the Security Council, but a number of officers remained as technicians at the request of Moishe Tshombé, who had declared the independence of Katanga on July 11. Katanga's independence was not recognized by any country, however. The presence of Belgian technicians in Katanga caused friction between the Belgian government and Hammarskjöld in October. Secession also took place in Kasai province.
The main political crisis started on September 5, when President Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba. Lumumba, who had the support of the Soviet Union and Soviet-backed African nations, declared that he was still Prime Minister, however, even after Kasavubu appointed Senate President Joseph Ileo as Prime Minister. There were now two rival governments operating in the Congo, with some ministers serving both. On September 14, Army Chief Colonel Joseph Mobutu suspended President Kasavubu and both Prime Ministers and established a committee of students to run the administration. He also expelled the Soviet and Czechoslovak embassies. In November, Lumumba was arrested. Political confusion continued through the end of the year.
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This page was last updated on 05/17/2017.