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Straßenszene DR Kongo. Foto: Hartmut HeuserFoto: Hartmut HeuserFoto: Hartmut Heuser

History of the Democratic Republic of Congo

From the first man to Henry Morton Stanley

1872 Henry Morton Stanley, der Wiederentdecker des Kongo, London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Morton_Stanley,_1872.jpg
Henry Morton Stanley, Rediscoverer of the Congo 1872 © London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company

The history of the Congo, the third largest country in Africa starts in most representations with colonization by the Belgians under King Leopold II in 1885. Here the land was already inhabited around 4,500 years ago by the company today known as pygmies. Later, in the 5th Populated century Bantu peoples from the areas around the Niger the country. 1484 became the first Europeans Diego Cão in his search for a new sea route to India, the area around the Congo River and made ​​initial contacts with local kings. These were the forerunners of the later colonization by the Belgian king. Preceded the colonization of the exploration of Central Africa by the English-born and living in the U.S. Henry Morton Stanley was in the middle of the 19th Century. He later turned to the service of the Belgian king Leopold II, to secure the rights of Belgium in the Congo (with plenty of gun violence). The real goal Léopold was not as specified, the “exploration and civilization of the continent,” but the protection of the valuable resources (copper, iron, ivory, palm oil and rubber, and of course slaves), which was then on the strategically located both in the East also the west of seaports of the German colonies (now the Democratic Republic of Congo has just to the west of the country on a 40-km-wide access to the sea) were brought into the international world trade in favor of Belgium.

Der Belgische König Leopold II
Leopold II, Belgian king from 1865 till 1909.

The Berlin Congo Conference – each his piece of Africa

1885, the Congo Free State was at the Berlin Congo Conference recognized, in spite of some concerns of the neighboring colonial powers, who were concerned about their supremacy in Africa and certainly wanted to be involved as well to the rich natural resources in the Congo. In the negotiations all colonial powers in Africa participated. So-called objective was the abolition of the slave trade, but actually it was about the division of the continent. The new borders were drawn arbitrarily. So brutal Belgian rule began, it was continued as brutal and systematic exploitation of the Congo. An important export in addition to iron, ivory and palm oil was rubber. Up to three million people (the historian Adam Hochschild speaks of ten million Mneschen!) To have been killed primarily as forced labor in the time Léopold II. 1904 King Leopold was forced because of his inhuman procedure to assign and from the Congo Free State became a Belgian colony in 1908: Belgian Congo, incidentally, the only colony of Belgium. Again, the goal was clear and unambiguous – the exploitation of the country in favor of Belgium, or in favor of the Belgian king, who saw the Congo as his possession.

After the First World War to the supposed independence

An important population policy situation arose after the First World War, when Germany’s colony Ruanda-Urundi (then part of East Africa, and today parts of Uganda and Burundi) in East Africa had to give to the Belgian colony of Congo. Many people from these areas were forcibly relocated to meet the great demand for labor in the Congo. The still smoldering conflicts with Rwanda and Uganda are also considered as the result of these measures. The Catholic missionary by the Belgians, along with the non-equivalent treatment of various ethnic groups can be considered as the origin of some of today continuing ethnic conflicts. During World War II, the Congo was an important supplier of raw materials, primarily for uranium, for the Allied war powers. Later grew slowly, the resistance against the colonialists in the Congo, but these are rather to be regarded as antikolonialistisch and anti-Belgian, because as a national efforts to create a unified state. Only in 1950 were also voices in Belgium by the slow decolonization of Africa then loudly called for the political emancipation of the Congo. 1957 was a first attempt to introduce a municipal parliament. However, the country had no trained civil servants and it was hoped Belgium, in the resulting chaos to occur as helping rescuers again, what then occurred. However, it was at a round table with 155 delegates (including 100 Congolese and 55 Belgians, as well as several consultants) the date of independence on the 30th June 1960 set. Six days earlier, on 24 June 1960 the party of the Nationalists (MNC) by Patrice Lumumba strongest force with 21 ministers and Joseph Kasavubu was elected by the National Union as first president of the country. The country’s government did not last long. There were multiple attempts to spin different regions of the country, during which Lumumba, the Soviet Union called for help. The United States, Europe and the UN had refused, the Pan-Africans to grant him assistance. He now applied to them as “communist anti-Christian.” After nearly five years of Congo turmoil took over the former Sergeant Joseph Mobutu, now army chief, to power. Because they feared the hegemony of the Soviet Union in Central Africa. Later, during his house arrest, he had a parallel government can be formed. was murdered under suspicious circumstances within a year on January 17 in 1961.

Präsident Nixon und Präsident Mobutu 1973 im Oval Office
President Nixon and President Mobutu 1973 in the Oval Office.

Mobutu to Kabila – a permanent state of emergency in the country

1971 Come baptized in 1965 by a military coup to power dictator Joseph Mobutu and the river named after the River Congo in Zaire to. Its ideology of “authentic nationalism” Following tried to eliminate everything European, for example, the nationalization of Belgian companies and the “Africanization” of Christian names. He also reiterated his claim to power, he was executed by his opponents, brooked no opposition and a government dominated by corruption etablierte.Die Mobutu dictatorship is considered the longest in Africa, it lasted all of 32 years. Europe and the United States could give him, because under his rule, they were able to secure their interests in the great resources of the country and also their influence over the Soviet Union. By 1997, Zaire remained the official name of the country. Early 90s had Mobutu way to the increasing national and international pressure and agreed to a constitutional multi-party system to that but failed. During this time, flared, whose origins are also seen in the time of colonization, the conflict between Hutu and Tutsi in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. The Hutus participated in the genocide pursued together with the army of Mobutu, the Zairian Tutsis, which in turn joined with other groups of ADFL (Alliance of Democratic Forces pour la Libération du Congo-Zaire). The leadership of Laurent Kabila’s ADFL had. Their goal was to overthrow Mobutu, which they succeeded by the conquest of Kinshasa in March 1997. Kabila declared himself the new president and renamed the country back to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Although Rwanda and Uganda were heavily involved in its seizure of power, Kabila himself was not grateful. He put the mining contracts in question, canceled contracts for forest use and dismissed his Rwandan consultant. These and other rejections led among other things to the second Congo war, which lasted from 1998 to 2003. According to a UN report, it went into the war, the * cost the lives of 2.5 to 3 million people, a third of which were children, mainly around the five main commodities of the country (coltan, diamonds, copper, cobalt and gold) where of course Uganda and Rwanda had interest. A third of the population has suffered from the wars even more from malnutrition and half of the country from lack of water supply.

Kabila II and the constant hope of change

Joseph Kabila 2003
Joseph Kabila 2003.

Joseph Kabila, the son of former President Laurent Kabila, “inherited” after his father was killed in an assassination attempt in January 2001, the government and became president of the country. Although several peace agreements have been signed and UN peacekeepers were allowed to observations and peace talks in the country, it was not possible so far to pacify the various parties to the conflict. After the peace agreement of 2002 in Sun City and many other negotiations (“Intercongolese dialogue”) was the way still free for first democratic elections. Joseph Kabila is confirmed in 2006 as president of the country and re-elected in 2011. But the country is still far from becoming a stable democracy. Are different from the interests of the various population groups. In the third Congo war, from 2006 to 2009 playing the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda in a supporting role, as many of the Hutu perpetrators fled back in the Congo – from there they try, among other things, to overthrow the Rwandan government and the Tutsi-minority continue to fight. Played an important role in the conflicts in the Congo (and still plays) and the military. The FARDC (Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo), used after the second Congo war, a man occupied with about 14,000 troops suffering from the civil war and the chaotic conditions. The army leadership is disorganized, which equipment is archaic and the soldiers are poorly trained. You get the equivalent of only about $ 20 and also pay more irregular. The soldiers, who were already as child soldiers in the militia partially before serving themselves in attacks on the population with food and what they need for living. Sexual assault, both women as well as men (Perras, 2012), are on the agenda.

Kindersoldat im Kongo
Child soldier in the Congo.

The distribution of power within the troop and their composition is heterogeneous and opaque that when observers the impression that a structured and solid built army is not in the interest of the government in Kinshasa, yet profits in turn from the control of the (illegal) export of raw materials from the mines in the east of the country by the military (see Wondo Omanyundu, 2011). For the general situation before the elections in 2011, the Federal Centre for Political Education writes: “Congo is far from providing a democratic and constitutional framework. In the run up to the presidential elections of 28 November 2011 again there were clashes between the various political camps and attacks on journalists and members of non-governmental organizations. Any form of opposition was systematically obstructed “(Roxin, 2011). In presidential and legislative elections in November 2011, Joseph Kabila was confirmed with 48.5 percent claims to be in office. International election observers doubt the result, however. The population in the DRC is certainly even more strongly affected by the troubled situation, because looting and riots are reported again.

* This is a “political” statement of the UN organization, exact figures are not exisitieren. In Congo it is called since then more than eight million victims. In many publications should be read in general of five million victims.


Heise, A.: Der alltägliche Ausnahmezustand. Kongo im Chaos, Wien 2006

Gieler, W. (HG): Demokratische Republik Afrika in Afrika Lexikon, Frankfurt am Main, 2010

Kanu, G. u. Indongo-Imbanda, I.: Die Geschichte der Demokratischen Republik Kongo aufKongo-Kinshasa
 (abgerufen am 6.01.2012)

Perras, A.: Die unaussprechliche Katastrophe in Süddeutsche Zeitung vom 12.01.2012, S.9

Roxin, H.: Demokratische Republik Kongo auf der Website der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung
(abgerufen am 6.01.2012)

http://mangamobile.over-blog.com/article-de-la-force-publique-aux-fardc-anatomie-d-une-armee-virtuelle-intravertie-et-pervertie-72307846.html (abgerufen am 06.01.2012)

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