Belgians In The Congo

Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.

Belgians in the Congo refers to the Congo Crisis and the political turmoil in the Congo. Belgium originally took control of the Congo in 1908. The government of Belgium became heavily involved in the country, assisting private businesses in their attempts to run the country’s resources. During the 1940s and 50s, Belgium started pouring tons of resources into the colony, trying to turn it into a more “civilized” place. In the latter part of this time, African natives started rallying for independence. However, the many groups that formed had drastically different viewpoints and goals.

In 1959, the turmoil boiled over. The group Alliance des Bakongo attempted to organize a peaceful rally in Leopoldville, but, when the leaders of the protest asked for permission to hold the rally, they were told it couldn’t be political. Seeing they couldn’t get around this, the leaders tried to cancel it. However, a large group of people still gathered, and they turned violent. By the time the protest came to an end, somewhere between 30 and 500 people were dead, and many had been imprisoned. This wasn’t the only protests, either.

The government took notice of the protests, however, and finally Belgium granted the Congo independence on June 30th, 1960. A local politician gave an angry speech against Belgium on independence day, which almost created a military action against the new-founded country. However, neither country intended the separation to fully take place. Racism still stood strong. Finally, the natives mutinied against the whites in the military - and whites were displaced.

However, the Belgiums weren’t done yet. Without the Congo government’s permission, they dropped paratroopers to protect fleeing white citizens. The action separated the Congo government - half agreed with the move, half denounced it. Because of the denouncement, the Belgians attacked Matadi, a port city - after the whites evacuated. Only a few days after the independence announcement, on July 11, the Congo split. A month later, it split again into the three parts of the Congo, the state of Katanga, and the Mining State of South Kasai.

The United Nations insisted that Belgium pull all troops from the Congo, to be replaced by UN troops. While the Congo government originally agreed with the move, they quickly came to dislike it when they learned that the UN forces would only help with peacekeeping - not the fight with the separated country. The government then turned to the Soviet Union - a move which split the government internally. The USSR helped the Congolese attack South Kasai and multiple ethnic groups.

Less than three months after gaining independence, the Congo government turned over to a new leader. Two months after that, a rival government formed, and both governments tried to run the country at the same time, eventually splitting to form a fourth country.

South Kasai fell in December, 1961. A year later, the Katanga military and UN forces got into a spat, and the UN occupied a portion of the Congo. Katanga fell the next month, as did the rebel government.

All the infighting caused anger among the citizens. Later in 1962, a rebellion broke out, and the country split again. The rebels formed The People’s Republic of the Congo, which was officially recognized by the USSR and China. In November 1964, facing elimination, the rebels rounded up whites in the city of Stanleyville and held them as hostages. The Belgian government quickly intervened, sending paratroopers in to secure the hostages.

In November 1965, Joseph-Desiré Mobutu took over the government. Using his situation to his advantage, he took almost complete control of the country, dissolving parlement in 1967. He suppressed two short rebellions in 1967 and 1968. He held control of the government until 1995.

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