BY WALTER OPINDE
On this day, 30th June, 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) attained its full independence from the Belgium Congo.
The region that is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was first settled on about 80,000 years ago. The Bantu migration arrived in the region from Nigeria in the 7th century AD. The Kingdom of Kongo remained present in the region between the 14th and the early 19th centuries. Belgian colonization began when King Leopold II founded the Congo Free State, a corporate state solely run by King Leopold. Reports of widespread murder and torture in the rubber plantations led the Belgian government to seize the Congo from Leopold II and establish the Belgian Congo. Under the Belgian rule, the colony was run with the presence of numerous Christian organizations, which jointly wanted to Westernize the Congolese people.
After an uprising by the Congolese people, Belgium officially granted the Congo its independence on 30th June, 1960. Nonetheless, the new DRC was left unstable because tribal leaders had more power than the central government. The then Prime Minister- Patrice Lumumba tried to restore order with the aid of the Soviet Union as part of the Cold War. This prompted the United States to support a coup led by Colonel Joseph Mobutu in 1965. Mobutu quickly seized complete power of the Congo and renamed the country Zaire. He sought to Africanize the country, changing his own name to Mobuto Sese Seko, and demanded that African citizens change their Western names to traditional African names. Mobuto sought to repress any opposition to his rule, in which he successfully did throughout the 1980s. However, with his regime weakened during the early 1990s, Mobuto was forced to agree to a power-sharing government with the opposition party. Mobuto remained the head of state and promised elections for the next two years that never happened.
In the First Congo War, Rwanda invaded Zaire, which overthrew Mobuto during the process. Laurent-Desire Kabila later took power and renamed Zaire as the “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” After a disappointing rule under Kabila, the Second Congo War broke out, resulting in a regional war with many different African nations taking part. Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001, and his son, Joseph, succeeded him and was later elected president by the Congolese government in 2006. Upon taking office, Kabila quickly sought peace, ending the era of war in Africa. Soldiers were left in the Congo for a few years and a power-sharing government between Kabila and the opposition party was set up. Kabila later resumed complete control over the Congo and was re-elected in a disputed election in 2011. Until today, the Congo remains dangerously unstable.
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