Colonial powers would see many rebellions during the 19th century–mainly because of poor treatment of its now-colonial subjects and for overextending its power. The Batetela Rebellion in the Congo was one such instance.
Beginning in January 1895, the native Tetela people serving in the Force Publique would lash out at French in a conflict that went on for over a decade.
The Batetela Rebellion
The FP was an entirely White Belgian force made up of mercenaries, non-commissioned officers and rich people with little to do back home. The force was involved in a number of crimes against humanity under King Leopold II. It was backed by native African troops who served underneath the Force Publique and had mutinied in the past.
In the case of the Tetela, they mutinied in 1895, 1897, and in 1900. Their numbers increased whenever there were conflicts that the Force Publique needed them for such as the prior Congo Arab War in 1892. This conflict ended in 1894 and Gongo Lutete, a warlord among the Tetela was executed for treachery. This prompted the first mutiny with the Lulabourg garrison.
Baron Francis Dhanis’ force was the stage of the 1897 mutiny by the Tetela and Kusu conscripts. Occurring during an expedition into the Upper Nile, the intent was to bring Fashoda under Belgian rule. The mutineers numbered 1,300 and turned against the FP because of harsh conditions and treatment.
The final rebellion started in mid-April 1900, these mutineers took over a fort and fire on a Belgian ship. The Tetela were tenacious during the third conflict. They experienced extreme losses each encounter but were still able to hold Belgium off for almost a decade.
Perhaps finally learning their lesson because of the Batetela Rebellion, Belgium restructured the Force Publique to admit Black troops. The force would eventually become the Armed Force of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1960.
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