Joseph Kasa-Vubu

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Joseph Kasa-Vubu
Joseph Kasa-Vubu at the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference.jpg
Joseph Kasa-Vubu at the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference, January 1960
1st President of the Republic of the Congo
In office
27 June 1960 24 November 1965
Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba
Joseph Iléo
Justin Marie Bomboko
Joseph Iléo
Cyrille Adoula
Moise Tshombe
Évariste Kimba
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded by Mobutu Sese Seko
Personal details
Bornc. 1915
Kuma-Dizi, Mayombe, Belgian Congo
Died24 March 1969 (aged approx. 53-54)
Boma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Political party ABAKO
Children Justine Kasa-Vubu

Joseph Kasa-Vubu, alternatively Joseph Kasavubu, ( c. 1915 – 24 March 1969) was the first President of the Republic of the Congo (1960–65), today the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Circa – frequently abbreviated c., ca., or ca, and less frequently circ. or cca. – signifies "approximately" in several European languages and as a loanword in English, usually in reference to a date. Circa is widely used in historical writing when the dates of events are not accurately known.

Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville) former country in Africa

The Republic of the Congo was a sovereign state in Central Africa that was created with the independence of the Belgian Congo in 1960. From 1960 to 1966, the country was often known as Congo-Léopoldville in order to distinguish it from its north-western neighbour, also called the Republic of the Congo or Congo-Brazzaville. With the renaming of Léopoldville as Kinshasa on 1 June 1966, it was known as Congo-Kinshasa until 1971.

Democratic Republic of the Congo Country in Central Africa

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa. It is sometimes anachronistically referred to by its former name of Zaire, which was its official name between 1971 and 1997. It is, by area, the largest country in Sub-Saharan Africa, the second-largest in all of Africa, and the 11th-largest in the world. With a population of over 78 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the most populated officially Francophone country, the fourth-most-populated country in Africa, and the 16th-most-populated country in the world.

Contents

Early life

Joseph Kasa-Vubu was born in the village of Kuma-Dizi in the Mayombe district of the Belgian Congo. Different sources list his year of birth as 1910, 1913, 1915, or 1917, though 1915 is the most probable date. He was the eighth of nine children in a family of the Yomba ethnic group, a subset of the Kongo people. His father was a successful farmer who, as an independent entrepreneur, traded with street merchants in Cabinda and built his house at the outskirts of the village. This earned him the animosity of the villagers and in an attempt to assuage their hostility he volunteered to undergo a "poison test" with a substance extracted from a kasa tree. [lower-alpha 1] The word "Kasa" was appended onto his name in commemoration of the event. [3] Kasa-Vubu's mother died four years after his birth, and his father died in 1936. On 31 January 1925 he was baptised under the Christian name of Joseph at the Scheutist Catholic mission of Kizu, near Tshela. [4]

Mayombe geographic area on the western coast of Africa occupied by low mountains extending from the mouth of the Congo River in the south to the Kouilou-Niari River to the north

Mayombe is a geographic area on the western coast of Africa occupied by low mountains extending from the mouth of the Congo River in the south to the Kouilou-Niari River to the north. The area includes parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, the Republic of the Congo and Gabon. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mayombe is part of the north-western province of Kongo Central on the right bank of the River Congo, and contains the cities and towns of Lukula, Seke Banza, Kangu and Tshela.

Belgian Congo former Belgian colony corresponding to modern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Belgian Congo was a Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present-day name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), in 1964.

Kongo people The largest ethnic group of the Democratic Republic of Congo, also found in Angola and ROC

The Kongo people are a Bantu ethnic group primarily defined as the speakers of Kikongo.

In 1927 Kasa-Vubu enrolled in primary school at the third-year level. The following year he transferred to a minor seminary in Mbata-Kiela, 50 kilometers away from Tshela. There he completed his primary studies and began learning Latin and humanities in preparation for instruction at major seminary. An industrious student, Kasa-Vubu graduated second in his class in 1936 and was admitted to the Kabwe seminary in Kasai Province. He intended to study three years of philosophy and five years of theology before becoming an ordained priest. But following the completion of the former courses in 1939 he was expelled by the bishop. [4] [lower-alpha 2]

Minor seminary

A minor seminary is a secondary boarding school created for the specific purpose of enrolling teenage boys who have expressed interest in becoming priests. They are generally Roman Catholic institutions, and designed to prepare boys both academically and spiritually for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. They emerged in cultures and societies where literacy was not universal, and the minor seminary was seen as a means to prepare younger boys in literacy for later entry into the major seminary.

The Kasai region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is divided administratively into Kasai-Occidental and Kasai-Oriental. It shares its name with the Kasai River.

Kasa-Vubu subsequently returned to Mayombe and took up work as a bookkeeper for the Kangu mission. Dissatisfied with his salary of 80 francs per month, Kasa-Vubu passed the instructor's exam and became a sixth-grade teacher at the mission school in early 1941. However, his pay was not increased and he left the mission in open disagreement with the superior and the local bishop. In May he found a new job at Agrifor, an agricultural and logging company. With a monthly pay of 500 francs, he felt financially secure enough to marry; on 10 October Kasa-Vubu wedded Hortense Ngoma Masunda in a Catholic ceremony at the Kangu mission. They had nine children. [4]

In June 1942 Kasa-Vubu earned a job as a clerk in the finance department of the Belgian colonial administration in Léopoldville, the capital of the Congo. He worked there for 15 years, [4] attaining the rank of chief clerk, the highest level of employment available to Congolese civil servants under Belgian rule. [5] In 1956 he was in charge of accounting for all of the administration's general stores. [6]

Kinshasa Capital in Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kinshasa is the capital and the largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The city is situated alongside the Congo River.

Political activities

Kasa-Vubu began semi-clandestine political organising work while he was still employed by colonial authorities. [7]

Following the resignation of its leader on 21 March 1954, Kasa-Vubu was elected president of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO). [8] Under his leadership, the group swept the first open municipal Leopoldville elections in 1957 and he was elected mayor of the Dendale district of the city. [5]

Kasa-Vubu quickly became known as one of the first Congolese leaders to call for independence. At first, he advocated for independence from Belgium on a 30-year timeline, but he shortened the timetable as the ABAKO movement gained in strength. [7] In his inauguration speech as mayor of Dendale, Kasa-Vubu reiterated his demand for independence, drawing a reprimand from Belgian colonial authorities, which only strengthened his image as a Congolese leader. [5]

On 4 January 1959, an ABAKO political gathering organised by Kasa-Vubu erupted into violence, sparking the Léopoldville riots, a pivotal moment in the Congolese struggle for independence. Kasa-Vubu was set to address the crowd on African nationalism, but colonial authorities banned the meeting. They were unable to calm the crowd and thousands of Congolese began rioting. Kasa-Vubu was arrested, along with several other leaders, and imprisoned for inciting the riot. He was released two months later. [5]

Presidencey

Kasa-Vubu with the outgoing Governor-General of the Congo, Hendrik Cornelis, before the latter's departure from the country, July 1960. Kasa-Vubu and Governor-General Cornelis.jpg
Kasa-Vubu with the outgoing Governor-General of the Congo, Hendrik Cornelis, before the latter's departure from the country, July 1960.

Upon Congo's independence from Belgium, the ABAKO won a significant number of votes in the new parliament but not an outright victory. In a political compromise, it was agreed that Patrice Lumumba, of the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) would be prime minister, and Kasa-Vubu would face Jean Bolikango, a former mentor in the ABAKO, for the presidency. [9] The election of Kasa-Vubu brought about wide-ranging acceptance of the Congo's new administration. The Belgian press reacted positively to the development, while the Léopoldville's daily newspaper Courrier d'Afrique, edited by a Kongo, showed much warmer approval of the government. International opinion expressed satisfaction at the striking of a proper balance in leadership. [10] Belgian politicians hoped that Kasa-Vubu would check Lumumba's impulses and personal disdain for Belgium. [11] He was officially sworn in as President on 27 June. [12]

The new republic was immediately disrupted by political and military strife and regional secessionist movements, and the central government was paralyzed by conflict between the more conservative Kasa-Vubu and leftist Prime Minister Lumumba. While Lumumba advocated for a stronger central government, Kasa-Vubu preferred a more decentralised form of government that gave autonomous powers to provinces under a federal system. [7]

Kasa-Vubu was regarded as rather mysterious in his motivations and his actions, frequently preferring to stay silent or give ambiguous answers when he was confronted. His role as head-of-state was theoretically ceremonial and far less influential than Lumumba's role as prime minister. During the immediate upheaval following independence, Kasa-Vubu took few steps and made few definitive statements, even as Lumumba appealed for international assistance to the Americans, the United Nations and the Soviet Union. [7] Meanwhile, Kasa-Vubu faced criticism from ABAKO and President Fulbert Youlou of Congo-Brazzaville for not curbing Lumumba's authoritarian actions. He resisted their pressure, and on 13 August he broadcast an appeal for unity and support for the government. Nevertheless, he cautioned the government against arbitrariness and excess: [13]

If I am under a moral obligation to support and defend the government within the limits set by the law, the members of the government themselves have a duty to work together as a team. Their policy must be the policy of the government and not that of one party, one race, or one tribe. It must be a policy which reflects the interests of the nation and which allows humanitarian values to flourish in freedom. This imperative excludes all feelings of hatred, suspicion, and bad faith towards those who have collaborated loyally with us. It is also the duty of the government to respect the institutions which have been set up and to abide by the normal rules of democratic practice.

Kasa-Vubu with Colonel Joseph-Desire Mobutu in 1961 Mobutu and Kasa-Vubu in 1961.jpg
Kasa-Vubu with Colonel Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in 1961

On 5 September, Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba, who was accused of communism. Lumumba refused to accept that but announced Kasa-Vubu's dismissal, [14] creating a stalemate that endured until 14 September, when Army Commander Joseph-Désiré Mobutu seized power and arrested Lumumba. Lumumba was later handed to Moise Tshombe's secessionist forces in the southern province of Katanga and killed.

Over the next five years, Kasa-Vubu presided over a succession of weak governments. In July 1964, he appointed Tshombe as prime minister, with a mandate to end the Simba Rebellion. Tshombe recalled the exiled Katangese gendarmerie and recruited white mercenaries, integrating them with the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Many of the mercenaries had fought for Katanga while Tshombe was the leader of that breakaway province. Despite the successes against the Simba rebels, Tshombe's prestige was damaged by his use of white mercenaries and western forces. He lost the support of Kasa-Vubu, who dismissed him from the post of prime minister, in October 1965.

Mobutu seized power for a second time on 25 November 1965, now deposing Kasa-Vubu and subsequently declaring himself head of state.

Death

Mobutu placed Kasa-Vubu under house arrest [15] before eventually allowing the deposed president to retire to his farm in Mayombe. Kasa-Vubu died in a hospital in Boma four years later in 1969, possibly after a long illness. [5]

Legacy

Following his death, Kasa-Vubu's family went into exile, first to Algeria and then Switzerland. [9] One of his daughters, Justine M'Poyo Kasa-Vubu, eventually returned to the Congo (then called Zaire) in the 1990s. In 1997, she was appointed a cabinet minister by Laurent Kabila and then ambassador to Belgium. [16]

Kasa-Vubu's role in Congolese history has been overshadowed in literature by Lumumba and Mobutu. [17] Anthropologist Yolanda Covington-Ward wrote that, contrary to Lumumba's "privileged" position in historiography on Congolese nationalism, Kasa-Vubu and ABAKO were the primary "driving force" behind the independence movement. [18]

Honours

Notes

  1. The poison from a kasa tree was used to determine whether or not a person was a witch. [1] According to biographer Charles-André Gilis, the test occurred on the day of Kasa-Vubu's birth. [2]
  2. No official reasoning was ever given for Kasa-Vubu's expulsion, though Gilis and Kasa-Vubu's daughter, Justine, attribute this to his alleged commitment to an academic pursuit of justice that ran afoul of his teachers' ideals. [4]

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Lumumba Government

The Lumumba Government, synecdochically known as the Lumumba Ministry or Lumumba Cabinet, was the first set of ministers, ministers of state, and secretaries of state that governed the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from 24 June until 12 September 1960. Weak and divided, its tenure was dominated by a widespread mutiny in the army and two secessions. The government suffered from and inherited many problems from the era of the Belgian Congo, a tightly-administered colony which for most of is existence had few political freedoms. In the late 1950s an independence movement suddenly emerged, led by figures such as Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasa-Vubu. Fears that the situation might turn violent led the Belgian government to agree to relinquish the Congo and grant it independence on 30 June 1960. A provisional constitution, providing for a parliamentary regime with a responsible government and prime minister and an irresponsible head of state, was instituted, and general elections were hastily organised. Lumumba's nationalist party, the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC), won a plurality of the seats in Parliament. After much hesitation, King Baudouin of Belgium appointed Lumumba formateur, tasking him with creating a government. On 23 June Lumumba announced his completed government, a broad coalition consisting of 23 ministers, 4 ministers of state, and 10 secretaries of state, and presented it to the lower house of Parliament, the Chamber of Deputies. The vote of confidence succeeded by only a small margin. The Senate gave a more decisive vote of approval the following day, and the Lumumba Government was officially invested. With Lumumba's backing, Parliament elected Kasa-Vubu President.

Rémy Mwamba (1921–1967) was a Congolese politician who twice served as Minister of Justice of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was also a leading figure of the Association Générale des Baluba de Katanga (BALUBAKAT).

1960 Force Publique mutiny mutiny by soldiers of the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo at Léopoldville and Thysville garrisons

On 5 July 1960, soldiers of the garrisons of Léopoldville and Thysville of the Force Publique, the army of the newly independent Democratic Republic of the Congo mutinied against their white officers. The revolt quickly spread throughout the Lower Congo and engulfed the country in disorder, beginning the Congo Crisis.

On 5 September 1960 President Joseph Kasa-Vubu of the Democratic Republic of the Congo dismissed Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from office. He also dismissed six other members of his government: Deputy Prime Minister Antoine Gizenga, Minister of Justice Rémy Mwamba, Minister of Interior Christophe Gbenye, Minister of Information Anicet Kashamura, Secretary of State Antoine-Roger Bolamba, and Secretary of State Jacques Lumbala.

Formation of the Lumumba Government

The Lumumba Government was the first set of ministers, ministers of state, and secretaries of state that governed the Democratic Republic of the Congo under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba from 24 June until 12 September 1960. It was hastily formed over the period of several weeks in June, and was supported by a slight majority coalition in Parliament. Weak and divided, its tenure was dominated by a widespread mutiny in the army and two secessions.

References

  1. Morris 2006, p. 157.
  2. Biographie belge d'outre-mer 2015, p. 218.
  3. Biographie belge d'outre-mer 2015, pp. 217–218.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Biographie belge d'outre-mer 2015, p. 219.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Reuters 1969.
  6. Biographie belge d'outre-mer 2015, p. 220.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Tanner 1961.
  8. Covington-Ward 2012, p. 75.
  9. 1 2 Kisangani 2009, p. 265.
  10. Hoskyns 1965, p. 79.
  11. Hoskyns 1965, p. 83.
  12. Bonyeka 1992, pp. 248–249.
  13. Hoskyns 1965, p. 198.
  14. Doyle 2006, p. 175.
  15. Rich 2012, p. 304.
  16. Kisangani 2009.
  17. Loffman, Reuben (22 June 2017). "From Mobutu to Kabila, the DRC is paying a heavy price for autocrats at its helm". The Conversation . Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  18. Covington-Ward 2012, p. 73.
  19. http://www.lavdc.net/portail/les-discours-du-30-juin-1960-roi-baudouin-pdt-joseph-kasavubu-et-le-1er-min-patrice-emery-lumumba/

Sources

Further reading

Preceded by
Position created on independence from Belgium
President of the Republic of the Congo
1960–1965
Succeeded by
Mobutu Sese Seko