Modern history



Congo: A History is the product of much listening and reading. In the notes to this volume, I have listed my sources as comprehensively as possible, yet a number of them deserve special notice. Either because I am so greatly indebted to them, or because they may help curious readers to perform their own research, or simply because I wish to overtly express my enthusiasm.

The first time I flew to Congo, the book I had with me was The Congo from Leopold to Kabila: A People’s History by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja (London, 2002), an excellent and animated introduction to the country; unfortunately, I left that first copy in the magazine compartment of the seat in front of me. But the margins of the copy that subsequently replaced it are also scored with pencil marks. The same goes for Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem’s classic: Histoire générale du Congo (Paris, 1998). A great deal more academic than the former, it has nevertheless often impressed me with its comprehensiveness, its abundant exegeses, and its numerous maps. As I was writing this book, it always lay within arm’s reach. Another useful reference work through which I thumbed regularly was the Historical Dictionary of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Emizet Kisangani and F. Scott Bobb, the third edition of which appeared only recently (Lanham, 2010). Jean-Jacques Arthur Malu-Malu’s Le Congo Kinshasa (Paris, 2002) constitutes a readable and personal overview, and one which deserves to be more widely known.

To get my bearings when it came to new periods and subjects, I started with the better-known reference works. Twenty years after their writing, the chapters dedicated to Central Africa in the seven-volume Cambridge History of Africa remain excellent. I read them alongside the entries in the eight-volume Histoire générale de l’Afrique, which were often written by African researchers. The recent A Historical Companion to Postcolonial Literatures: Continental Europe and Its Empires (Edinburgh, 2008) by Prem Poddar et al. helped me along with its thematic résumés and useful bibliographies.

A few older books are still very useful indeed, including The River Congo by Peter Forbath (New York, 1977) for the precolonial period and Leopold to Lumumba by George Martelli (London, 1962) for colonial times. Robert Cornevin wrote Histoire du Congo(Léopoldville) (Paris, 1963), a lucid but rather Eurocentric work whose lovely maps make up for a great deal. The collection of Jean Stengers’s articles in Congo: Mythes et réalités (Paris, 1989) remain extremely important, particularly by reason of his analyses of the Free State.

Concerning the workings of the colonial economy, the reader of Dutch now has an excellent reference work: Congo 1885–1960. Een financieel-economische geschiedenis by Frans Buelens (Berchem, 2007). In addition to historical information dealing with colonial enterprises, it also provides a good overview of the background of colonial capitalism. For the social aspects of that capitalism, refer also to the classics by Pierre Joye and Rosine Lewin, Les trusts au Congo (Brussels, 1961) and Michel Merlier, Le Congo: De la colonisation belge à l’indépendance (Paris, 1962). Specifically concerning the social aspects of Katangan mining, the works of Congolese historian Donatien Dibwe dia Mwembuie, Histoire des conditions de vie des travailleurs de l’Union Minière du Haut-Katanga/Gécamines (1910–1999) (Lubumbashi, 2001) and Bana Shaba abandonnés par leur père: Structure de l’autorité et histoire sociale de la famille ouvrière au Katanga, 1910–1997 (Paris, 2001) make extensive use of oral sources.

For a long time, colonialism was seen as a form of one-way traffic between metropolis and colony, from Europe to Africa. In recent years that view has begun to change, and researchers have started looking at the repercussions of the colonial adventure on Europe. In his interesting bookCongo: De impact van de kolonie op België (Tielt, Belgium, 2007), Guy Vanthemsche demonstrates convincingly that it was not only Belgium that formed Congo, but also vice versa. He focuses particularly on the Belgian economy and domestic and foreign policies. Along with Vincent Viaene and Bambi Ceuppens I helped to compile a reader that looks at the colonial impact on other parts of Belgian society, such as culture, religion and science, Congo in België: Koloniale cultuur in de metropool (Louvain, Belgium, 2009). In addition to this two-way traffic, attention is now being paid increasingly to the diversity of the colonial presence. Besides Belgians, after all, there were also Greeks, Portuguese, Scandinavians, and Italians active in the Belgian Congo. Works such as Pionniers méconnus du Congo Belge (Brussels, 2007) by Georges Antipas, about the Greek community in Congo, and Moïse Levy, un rabbin au Congo (1937–1991) (Brussels, 2000) by Milantia Bourla Errera, broaden the historical view.

Fascinating diachronic studies exist on various themes. Their cross-sectional perspective makes them worth noting here. Concerning education and science one has the work of Ruben Mantels, Geleerd in de tropen: Leuven, Congo, en de wetenschap, 1885–1960(Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2007), as well as that of Benoît Verhaegen, L’enseignement universitaire au Zaïre: De Lovanium à l’Unaza, 1958–1978 (Paris, 1978). Kuvuande Mbote has written about architecture, as has Bruno De Meulder in Een eeuw koloniale architectuur en stedenbouw in Kongo (Antwerp, Belgium, 2000) and Johan Lagae in Kongo zoals het is: Drie architectuurverhalen uit de Belgische kolonisatiegeschiedenis (1920–1960) (Ghent, Belgium, 2002). For Congolese pop music (which is always more than just music), see Gary Stewart: Rumba on the River (London, 2000). Silvia Riva has written about Congolese literature in Nouvelle histoire de la littérature du Congo-Kinshasa (Paris, 2000). For film and visual culture, see Guido Convents’s Images et démocratie: Les Congolais face au cinéma et à l’audiovisuel (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2006). And for the visual arts and some truly marvelous illustrations, see Roger Pierre Turine’s: Les arts du Congo, d’hier à nos jours (Brussels, 2007). Contemporary artists often provide the viewer with multiple layers of commentary on the history of their country. That certainly applies to the Congolese poets assembled in Antoine Tshitungu Kongolo’s lovely anthology Poète ton silence est crime (Paris, 2002).

A few other books amazed, surprised and baffled me with their images: Congo Belge en images (Tielt, Belgium, 2010) by Carl De Keyzer and Johan Lagae derails all the existing clichés concerning the Congo Free State by means of its sublime selection from the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren’s collection of photographic plates. Every bit as unsettling when it comes to present-day Congo is Congo (Belge) (Tielt, Belgium, 2009) by Carl De Keyzer, and Congo Eza (Roeselare, 2007) by Mirko Popovitch and Françoise De Moor, a collection of work by contemporary Congolese photographers. It is because I value photography highly as an autonomous form of discourse that the only illustrations found in my own book are maps.


The broad geographical sketch contained in this introductory chapter was gleaned from a wide variety of sources on the Internet and from my own bookshelves. A useful source, replete with maps, is Géopolitique du Congo (RDC) by Marie-France Cros and François Misser (Brussels, 2006).

My own first attempt to write a “bottom-up history,” based on interviews with those whose perspectives usually do not make it into the written sources, took place in a convalescent home in Brugge/Bruges, Belgium, in 2007. There I spoke to elderly people who had never themselves been to Congo concerning their memories of colonialism, about what they had thought at the time, and above all about what they had done (collecting silver paper, as it turned out, in addition to sewing and patching clothes for the missions, fishing for prizes at the mission-benefit carnival, and doing a great deal of praying for the “poor Congolese”). That study, and the methodological (im)possibilities presented by that combination of oral history and material culture studies, were expanded upon in the collection I edited with Vincent Viaene and Bambi Ceuppens: Congo in België: Koloniale cultuur in de metropool. But my analysis was in fact no more than the explicit formulation of the method I have been using for a long time in my earlier journalistic and literary work (e.g., the play Mission). And of my conviction that the most highly underestimated archives in Congo are the people themselves.

In addition to my background as archaeologist of pre-history, the importance I attach to the precolonial period is due to Eric Wolf’s classic Europe and the People without History (Berkeley, CA, 1982). The earliest human population of Congo is virtually unknown, as Graham Connah has shown in Forgotten Africa: An Introduction to Its Archaeology (London, 2004). Even the more recent surveys serve only in part to fill in the blanks; see, among others, African Archaeology: A Critical Introduction, edited by Ann Brower (Oxford, 2005), and above all Lawrence Barham and Peter Mitchell’s The First Africans: African Archaeology from the Earliest Toolmakers to the Most Recent Foragers (Cambridge, UK, 2008). I therefore based my snapshot of life some ninety thousand years ago on the excavations at Katanda performed by John E. Yellen: “Behavioral and Taphonomic Patterning at Katanda 9: A Middle Stone Age Site, Kivu Province, Zaïre,” Journal of Archaeological Science (1996). For a good survey of the rise of modern human behavior in Africa, see Sally McBrearty and Alison S. Brooks, “The Revolution that Wasn’t: A New Interpretation of the Origin of Modern Behavior,” Journal of Human Evolution 39 (2000). My snapshot of Pygmy life around 2500 BC makes grateful use of recent studies by Julio Mercader, “Foragers of the Congo: The Early Settlement of the Ituri Forest,” in Under the Canopy: The Archaeology of Tropical Rain Forests, edited by J. Mercader (New Brunswick, NJ, 2003).

The period around the year AD 500 and the phenomenon of the Bantu migration became more familiar to me through reading Jan Vansina’s impressive Paths in the Rainforest: Toward a History of Political Tradition in Equatorial Africa (Madison, WI, 1990), supplemented by the painstaking archaeological work of Hans-Peter Wotzka, Studien zur Archäologie des zentral-afrikanische Regenwaldes: Die Keramik des inneren Zaïre-Beckens und ihre Stellung im Kontext der Bantu-Expansion (Cologne, 1995). Concerning gongs and drum languages I turned to John Carrington, La voix des tambours (Kinshasa, 1974) and Olga Boone’s Les tambours du Congo-belge et du Ruanda-Urundi (Tervuren, Belgium, 1951).

A better understanding of the rise of the first states I gained after reading Jan Vansina’s unique ethno-historical work. My own far-too-summary sketch of the local kingdoms of the savanna was based on his classic Les anciens royaumes de la savane: Les états des savanes méridionales de l’Afrique centrale des origines à l’occupation coloniale (Léopoldville, 1965) and his How Societies Are Born: Governance in West Central Africa before 1600 (Charlottesville, VA, 2004). Concerning the Kongo Empire around the year AD 1560, I turned to Anne Hilton, The Kingdom of Kongo(Oxford, 1985), to David Northrup, Africa’s Discovery of Europe (New York, 2002) and to Paul Serufuri Hakiza, L’évangélisation de l’ancien royaume Kongo, 1491–1835 (Kinshasa, 2004).

For the section on 1780 and the impact of the Atlantic slave trade, I made extensive use of Robert W. Harms’s masterful River of Wealth, River of Sorrow: The Central Zaire Basin in the Era of the Slave and Ivory Trade, 1500–1891 (New Haven, CT, 1981).


This chapter relies in part on a booklet that is not available outside Africa: Makulo Akambu’s La vie de Disasi Makulo, ancien esclave de Tippo Tip et catéchiste de Grenfell, par son fils Makulo Akambu (Kinshasa, 1983). That book presents the life’s story of old Disasi Makulo, as dictated to his son. It fell into my hands through a stroke of sheer luck.

Although an enormous amount has been written about the African explorers (see, among others, Christopher Hibbert, Africa Explored: Europeans in the Dark Continent, 1769–1889 [London, 1982]), there is no truly integral overview of the period 1870–85. Tim Jeal’s wonderful Stanley: The Impossible Life of Africa’s Greatest Explorer (London, 2007), however, is more than an unusually richly documented and thoughtful biography: it paints the panorama of an entire age. Insight into the wild and wooly mid-nineteenth century I gained through Jan Vansina’s, “L’Afrique centrale vers 1875,” in La conférence de géographie de 1876 [Bijdragen over de Aardrijkskundige Conferentie van 1876] (Brussels, 1976), as well as through Jean-Luc Vellut’s, “Le bassin du Congo et l’Angola,” in Histoire générale de l’Afrique, vol. 6: L’Afrique au XIXe siècle jusque vers les années 1880 edited by J. F. Ade Ajayi (Paris, 1996) and David Northrup’s “Slavery and Forced Labour in the Eastern Congo, 1850–1910,” in Slavery in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa, edited by H. Médard and S. Doyle (Oxford, 2007). More about the Muslim slave trade can be found in Edward A. Alpers, Ivory and Slaves in East Central Africa (London, 1975), Abdul Sheriff’s Slaves, Spices, and Ivory in Zanzibar (London, 1987), and Ronald Segal’s Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora (New York, 2001). Regarding the life and work of the two most powerful Afro-Arab traders in Congo, see François Bontinck, L’autobiographie de Hamed ben Mohammed el-Murjebi: Tippo Tip (ca. 1840–1905) (Brussels, 1974) and Auguste Verbeken, Msiri, roi du Garenganze: “L’homme rouge” du Katanga (Brussels, 1956).

For the native reactions to the European explorers, see Frank McLynn, Hearts of Darkness: The European Exploration of Africa (London, 1992). Johannes Fabian turned the anthropological gaze 180 degrees with an impressive ethnography of the European explorers: Out of Our Minds: Reason and Madness in the Exploration of Central Africa (Berkeley, CA, 2000). I was able to document my findings on the first generation of missionaries with the help of E. M. Braekman’s Histoire du protestantisme au Congo(Brussels, 1961) and Ruth Slade’s English-Speaking Missions in the Congo Independent State, 1878–1908 (Brussels, 1959).

A very great deal has been written about the division of Africa. Thomas Pakenham wrote the hefty The Scramble for Africa, 1876–1912 (London, 1991), but H. L. Wesseling’s crystal-clear and entertaining Verdeel en heers: de deling van Afrika, 1880–1914(Amsterdam, 1991) helped me the most in understanding the international context within which Leopold II maneuvered. Wesseling in turn made great use of Jean Stengers’s still-indispensable Congo, mythes et réalités: 100 ans d’histoire (Paris, 1989). Stengers’s article “De uitbreiding van België: tussen droom en werkelijkheid” in Nieuw licht op Leopold I en Leopold II: Het archief Goffinet, edited by G. Janssens and J. Stengers (Brussels, 1997) provides an update based on unique archive materials. Belgium’s Royal Academy for Foreign Studies published two important collections dealing with the events between 1876 and 1885: Bijdragen over de Aardrijkskundige Conferentie van 1876 (Brussels, 1976) and Bijdragen over de honderdste verjaring van de Onafhankelijke Kongostaat (Brussels, 1988).


For more than a decade, the discussion concerning the Congo Free State has been dominated by Adam Hochschild’s De geest van koning Leopold II en de plundering van de Congo (Amsterdam, 1998). That book’s achievement was to inform a broad public about the abuses in Congo and to make academic knowledge accessible and exciting. Unfortunately, however, it depended more upon a talent for generating dismay than on any shades of subtlety; Hochschild’s perspective is often very black and white. In understanding the complexity of a person like Leopold, I profited more from studies by Jean Stengers cited earlier, but also from more recent studies placing him in the context of his day. In his thesis, Koningen van de wereld: De aardrijkskundige beweging en de ontwikkeling van de koloniale doctrine van Leopold II (Ghent, Belgium, 2008), Jan Vandersmissen has pointed out the impact of geographical science. Vincent Viaene has shed light on the “fever of empire” in Belgian high society and drew my attention to the king’s national and social agenda in “King Leopold’s Imperialism and the Origins of the Belgian Colonial Party, 1860–1905,”Journal of Modern History 80 (2008): 741–90. Recently, Jean-Luc Vellut examined the African context of Leopold’s colonialism in “Contextes africains du projet colonial de Léopold II” (unpublished lecture, Louvain-la-Neuve, March 2009). See also Viaene, Vellut, and Vandersmissen’s contributions in Leopold II: Schaamteloos genie? edited by Vincent Dujardin, Valérie Rosoux, and Tanguy de Wilde d’Estmael (Tielt, Belgium, 2009). The world, however, is still waiting for a definitive biography of Leopold II.

I found a nuanced view of officials, traders, and soldiers in the Free State in L. H. Gann and Peter Duignan, The Rulers of Belgian Congo, 1884–1914 (Princeton, NJ, 1979). The catalogue for the exhibition Het geheugen van Congo: De koloniale tijd (Tervuren, Belgium, 2005) does its best, in the able hands of its editor Jean-Luc Vellut, to avoid old and new clichés concerning the Free State. Two scholars have carried out true pioneering work in the extremely fragmentary archives dealing with the rubber policies: Daniel Vangroenweghe with his Du sang sur les lianes [Rood rubber] (Brussels, 1985) and Voor rubber en ivoor (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2005) and Jules Marchal with his E. D. Morel tegen Leopold II en de Kongostaat (Berchem, 1985) and De Kongostaat van Leopold II (Antwerp, Belgium, 1989, published under his nom de plume, A. M. Delathuy).

The story of the Free State, however, involves more than just the atrocities produced by the rubber policies. A good overview can be found in Jean Stengers and Jan Vansina, “King Leopold’s Congo, 1886–1908,” in The Cambridge History of Africa, vol. 6:From 1870 to 1905, edited by R. Oliver and G. N. Sanderson (Cambridge, UK, 1985), 315–58. It was from them that I adopted the dividing line of pre-1890 and post-1890. Analyses concerning international diplomacy and border issues are dealt with in the classic standard works (Cornevin, Stengers, and Ndaywel). Concerning the pacification of the region and the rise of local resistance, I consulted Allen Isaacman and Jan Vansina, “Initiatives et résistances africaines en Afrique centrale de 1880 et 1914,” in Histoire générale de l’Afrique, vol. 7: L’Afrique sous domination coloniale, edited by A. Adu Boahen (Paris, 1987), 191–216. Jean-Luc Vellut wrote a thoughtful analysis of the role of violence in the Free State, “La violence armée dans l’État Indépendant du Congo,” Cultures et développement (1984).

This chapter also depicts the Africans’ growing familiarity with Europeans and their lifestyle. For information about the Africans who went to Europe as part of the world exhibition, see Maarten Couttenier, Congo tentoongesteld: Een geschiedenis van de Belgische antropologie en het museum van Tervuren (1882–1925) (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2005), and Maurits Wynants, Van hertogen en Kongolezen: Tervuren en de koloniale tentoonstelling 1897 (Tervuren, Belgium, 1997). Concerning the development of the state administration at Boma, the CD-ROM by Johan Lagae, Thomas de Keyser and Jef Vervoort proved a real gold mine: Boma 1880–1920: Koloniale hoofdstad of kosmopolitische handelspost (Ghent, Belgium, 2006). For the passages concerning the encounter between colonials and Congolese women, I consulted the fascinating study by Amandine Lauro, Coloniaux, ménagères, et prostituées au Congo belge (1885–1930) (Loverval, Belgium, 2005).

A few key works dealing with the Protestant missionaries were already mentioned under Chapter 1 above. The distinctions between their working methods and those of the Catholic missions were taken from Ruth Slade, King Leopold’s Congo: Aspects of the Development of Race Relations in the Congo Independent State (London, 1962). A huge amount has been published concerning the person of Grenfell, most of it hagiographic in nature. The most important work is the two-volume biography by Harry Johnston,George Grenfell and the Congo (London, 1908). Concerning the role of native catechists, see the thesis by Paul Serufuri Hakiza, “Les auxiliaires autochtones des missions protestantes au Congo, 1878–1960: Étude de cinq Sociétés missionaires” (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1984). A critical approach to the relations between the Catholic Church and the state can be found in the works of A. M. Delathuy (a pseudonym of above-mentioned author Jules Marchal): Jezuïeten in Kongo met zwaard en kruis (Berchem, 1986) and his two-volume Missie en staat in Oud-Kongo (Berchem, Belgium, 1992 and 1994). Vincent Viaene unpublished paper, “Leopold II en de Heilige Stoel” (2009), taught me a great deal about the ties between the royal house and the Vatican.

The earliest days of the Force Publique are described with military precision and visible pride by Lieutenant-Commander F. Flament in La Force Publique de sa naissance à 1914: Participation des militaires à l’histoire des premières années du Congo(Brussels, 1952), which proved nonetheless useful despite its partisan nature considering its age and point of view. See Philippe Marechal’s ambitious study De “Arabische” campagne in het Maniema-gebied (1892–1894) (Tervuren, Belgium, 1992). Veterans like Oscar Michaux and Joseph Meyers have recounted their experiences with the mutiny in Au Congo: Carnet de campagne (Namur, Belgium, 1913) and Le prix d’un empire (Brussels, 1964), respectively. The soldiers’ uprising has been the subject of much documentation, including Marcel Storme, La mutinerie militaire au Kasai en 1895 (Brussels, 1970), Auguste Verbeken, La révolte des Batetela en 1895 (Brussels, 1958), and Pierre Salmon, La révolte des Batetela de l’expédition du Haut-Ituri (1897) (Brussels, 1977).

The building of the first railroad is discussed and illustrated extensively in Charles Blanchart et al., Le rail au Congo belge, 1890–1920 (Brussels, 1993). And despite the passage of time, René J. Cornet’s La bataille du rail: La construction du chemin de fer de Matadi au Stanley Pool (Brussels, 1947) remains highly readable. Concerning the financing of the railroad and the rest of the Free State, I consulted Combien le Congo a-t-il couté à la Belgique (Brussels, 1957) by Jean Stengers. As institutional and diplomatic historian, he also wrote the standard work on Leopold’s transfer of the Free State to Belgium, Belgique et Congo: L’élaboration de la Charte coloniale (Brussels, 1963). That crucial transaction was recently subjected to new review by Vincent Viaene, who examined its cultural impact in “Reprise-remise: De Congolese identiteitscrisis van België rond 1908,” inDe overname van België door Congo: Aspecten van de Congolese “aanwezigheid” in de Belgische samenleving, 1908–1958, edited by V. Viaene, D. Van Reybrouck, and B. Ceuppens (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2009), 43–62.


The period 1908–21 is, without a doubt, the most sparsely documented in all of Congolese history. The literature about the early years of Belgian colonialism is as scanty as the literature on the Free State is prolific. Fortunately for me, I had a few recent and excellent studies at my disposal. Concerning the social consequences of the fight against sleeping sickness, Maryinez Lyons wrote the classic The Colonial Disease: A Social History of Sleeping Sickness in Northern Zaire, 1900–1940 (Cambridge, UK, 1992). I took information about the pharmaceutical experiments from a paper by Myriam Mertens, “Chemical Compounds in the Congo: A Belgian Colony’s Role in the Chemotherapeutic Knowledge Production during the 1920s,” presented at the Third European Conference on African Studies, in Leipzig, Germany, on June 5, 2009.

For the development of colonial anthropology, I refer the reader to the above-mentioned work by Maarten Couttenier (see Chapter 2). With specific regard to the compilation of the Collection des Monographies ethnographiques, see the doctoral dissertation by Fien Danniau, “‘Il s’agit d’un peuple’: Het antropologisch onderzoek van het Bureau international d’ethnographie (1905–1913)” (University of Ghent, 2005). Concerning the broader context of colonial science, see Mark Poncolet L’invention des sciences coloniales belges (Paris, 2008).

This chapter takes a look at the rise of tribalism in early colonial Congo. The information about education at the Catholic missions and ideological representation of “tribes” in textbooks and school songs I drew from Marc Depaepe, Jan Briffaerts, Pierre Kita Kyankenge Masandi, and Honoré Vinck’s Manuels et chansons scolaires au Congo Belge (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2003). Honoré Vincks’s online publication Colonial Schoolbooks (Belgian Congo): Anthology proved a true gold mine ( A great deal has, of course, been written from a Catholic perspective about the first African priest, Stefano Kaoze. The most interesting study, however, is that by Allen F. Roberts, “History, Ethnicity, and Change in the ‘Christian Kingdom’ of Southeastern Zaire,” in The Creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa, edited by Leroy Vail (Berkeley, CA, 1989). In that article, Roberts links the history of missions to Kaoze’s own political ideals.

In the sections on industrialization, proto-urbanization, and proletarization, I was pleased to make use of the fascinating writings of André Yav. These sources can be consulted on line, including an integral English translation by Johannes Fabian: “Vocabulaire de la ville de Elisabethville,”Archives of Popular Swahili 4 (2001): 29,

There are a few excellent English-language studies of the social aspects of the earliest mining activities. Concerning the gold mines of Kilo-Moto, see David Northrup, Beyond the Bend in the River: African Labor in Eastern Zaire, 1865–1940 (Athens, OH, 1988). For mining in Katanga, see John Higginson, A Working Class in the Making: Belgian Colonial Labor Policy, Private Enterprise, and the African Mineworker, 1907–1951 (Madison, WI, 1989), and certainly also Charles Perrings, Black Mineworkers in Central Africa: Industrial Strategies and the Evolution of an African Proletariat in the Copperbelt 1911–41 (London, 1979). For social conditions in Équateur, not including mining, see Samuel H. Nelson, Colonialism in the Congo Basin, 1880–1940 (Athens, OH, 1994). With regard to the various forms taken by the recruitment of mineworkers, Aldwin Roes sent me his unpublished but extremely lucid lecture entitled “Thinking with and Beyond the State: The Sub- and Supranational Perspectives on the Exploitation of Congolese Natural Resources, 1885–1914,” presented at the conference entitled The Quest for Natural Resources in Central Africa: The Case of the Mining Sector in DRC held in Tervuren, Belgium, on December 8–9, 2008. Bruno De Meulder also wrote the particularly interesting De kampen van Kongo: Arbeid, kapitaal, en rasveredeling in de koloniale planning (Amsterdam, 1996), concerning the housing of Katangan mineworkers. Labor conditions at William Lever’s Huileries du Congo Belge have been described by the indefatigable Jules Marchal in L’histoire du Congo 1910–1945, vol. 3: Travail forcé pour l’huile de palme de Lord Leverhulme (Borgloon, Belgium 2001).

Concerning World War I, the reader may with pleasure consult Hew Strachan, The First World War in Africa (Oxford, 2004), and Edward Peace, Tip and Run: The Untold Tragedy of the Great War in Africa (London, 2007). For the administrative aspects of that period, see Guy Vanthemsche,Le Congo belge pendant la Première Guerre mondiale: Les rapports du ministre des Colonies Jules Renkin au roi Albert Ier, 1914–1918 (Brussels, 2009). Concerning the armed struggle for Lake Tanganyika, Giles Foden wrote the successful Mimi and Toutou Go Forth: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika (London, 2004). For more about the taking of Tabora, see Georges Delpierre, “Tabora 1916: De la symbolique d’une victoire,” Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Nieuwste Geschiedenis (2002). I learned a great deal about the human side of the German East Africa campaign from Jan De Waele, “Voor vorst en vaderland: zwarte soldaten en dragers tijdens de Eerste Wereldoorlog in Congo,” Militaria Belgica (2007–2008). The reader will learn more about the African presence on the European battlefields during World War I from the lovely exhibition catalogue assembled by Dominiek Dendooven and Piet Chielens, Wereldoorlog I: Vijf continenten in Vlaanderen (Tielt, Belgium, 2008), which includes an article about the ethnographic recordings made among prisoners of war in Berlin. Zana Aziza Etambala also deals with this subject in his In het land van de Banoko: De geschiedenis van de Kongolese/Zaïrese aanwezigheid in België van 1885 tot heden (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1993). The most recent study is that by Jeannick Vangansbeke, “Afrikaanse verdedigers van het Belgisch grondgebied, 1914–1918,” Belgische Bijdragen tot de Militaire Geschiedenis 4 (2006): 123–34. For more about Rwanda and Burundi under German and Belgian colonial rule, see Helmut Strizek, Geschenkte Kolonien: Ruanda und Burundi unter deutscher Herrschaft (Berlin, 2006), and Ingeborg Vijgen, Tussen mandaat en kolonie: Rwanda, Burundi en het Belgische bestuur in opdracht van de Volkenbond (1916–1932) (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2005).


That the period in Africa between the wars was anything but peaceful was recently illustrated in Jonathan Derrick’s impressive overview Africa’s “Agitators”: Militant Anti-Colonialism in Africa and the West, 1918–1939 (London, 2008), in which he, naturally, gives attention to the events in Congo. A great deal has been written about Simon Kimbangu, by historians, anthropologists, and also by his followers. In 1959 Jules Chomé rocked the colonial boat with his La passion de Simon Kimbangu, 1921–1951 (Brussels, 1959). The best historical study is that by Susan Asch, L’église du prophète Simon Kimbangu: De ses origines à son rôle actuel au Zaïre (Paris, 1982). Jean-Luc Vellut recently wrote a meaty but extremely worthwhile introduction to the first volume of his source book Simon Kimbangu, 1921: De la prédication à la déportation (Brussels, 2005). The writings of Kimbangu’s followers and sympathizers often include a historical perspective as well. The movement’s former spiritual leader, Joseph Diangienda Kuntima, wrote his own extensive overview, L’histoire du Kimbanguisme (Châtenay-Malabry, France, 2007). One would also do well to consult the seminal work by Marie-Louise Martin, Simon Kimbangu: Un prophète et son église (Lausanne, Switzerland, 1981), and the much more recent work by Aurélien Mokoko Grampiot, Kimbanguisme et identité noire (Paris, 2004). I also found a thoroughgoing study dealing with the deportations in Munayi Muntu-Monji, “La déportation et le séjour des Kimbanguistes dans le Kasaï-Lukenié (1921–1960),” Zaïre-Afrique (1977).

Information about other messianic movements can be found in Martial Sinda, Le messianisme congolais et ses incidences politiques: Kimbanguisme—Matsouanisme—Autres mouvements (Paris, 1972), in André Ryckmans’s Les mouvements prophétiques kongo en 1958 (Kinshasa, 1970), and in Jacques Gérard’s Les fondements syncrétiques du Kitawala (Brussels, 1969). In addition, I had the good fortune to read the unpublished but well-documented typescript by Rufin Kibari, headmaster at Kikwit, “Mouvements ‘anti-sorciers’ dans les Provinces de Leopolville [sic] et du Kasaï, à l’époque coloniale” (1985). There is a broad contextual account of native Christianity and colonialism in Paul Raymaekers and Henri Desroche, L’administration et le sacré (1921–1957) (Brussels, 1983). Also, see Wyatt MacGaffey’s classic Religion and Society in Central Africa (Chicago, 1986).

The most worthwhile study of capital punishment in the Belgian Congo is by Jean-Luc Vellut, “Une exécution publique à Elisabethville (20 septembre 1922): Notes sur la pratique de la peine capitale dans l’histoire coloniale du Congo,” in, Art pictural zaïrois, edited by B. Jewsiewicki (Paris, 1992). More recent is Bert Govaerts’s “De strop of de kogel? Over de toepassing van de doodstraf in Kongo en Ruanda-Urundi (1885–1962),” Brood en Rozen (2009).

Much ink has been dedicated to the revolt by the Pende (or Bapende), yet the extremely thorough study by Sikitele Gize remains unparalleled: “Les racines de la révolte Pende de 1931” Études d’histoire africaine, 1973. A more recent and detailed version of the facts was published by Louis-François Vanderstraeten, La répression de la révolte des Pende du Kwango en 1931 (Brussels, 2001). After scraping away the inevitable layers of propaganda, a Russian study of the 1930s provides an extremely solid base for understanding the deeper issues: A. T. Nzula, I. I. Potekhin, and A. Z. Zusmanovich, Forced Labour in Colonial Africa (London, 1979). Nowhere else have I found a clearer link between the raising of the tax on labor and the process of proletarization.

The financial-economic history of the interbellum is clearly described in G. Vandewalle, De conjuncturele evolutie in Kongo en Ruanda-Urundi van 1920 tot 1939 en van 1949 tot 1958 (Ghent, Belgium, 1966). For the social dimension, I once again turned to the works of Northrup, Nelson, Perrings, and Higginson mentioned in the previous chapter. The effects of industrialization on the natives’ material culture and mentality has been described in very lively fashion in a study written in the 1930s by John Merle Davis,Modern Industry and the African: An Inquiry into the Effect of the Copper Mines of Central Africa upon Native Society and the Work of the Christian Missions (London, 1933). The social policies of Union Minière are discussed in a well-documented but company-partisan publication by René Brion and Jean-Louis Moreau, De la mine à Mars: La genèse d’Umicore [Van mijnbouw tot Mars: De ontstaansgeschiedenis van Umicore] (Tielt, Belgium, 2006). I recommend that it be read alongside two works of Bruce Fetter,L’Union Minière du Haut-Katanga, 1920–1940: La naissance d’une sous-culture totalitaire (Brussels, 1973) and The Creation of Elisabethville (Stanford, CA, 1976). The opening chapters of Johannes Fabian’s Jamaa: A Charismatic Movement in Katanga(Evanston, IL, 1941) are also very lucid. An important source work on labor in the palm-oil sector is Jacques Vanderlinden, Main d’œuvre, Église, capital, et administration dans le Congo des années trente (Brussels, 2007).

To better understand the growth of urban culture, I turned to a collection edited by Jean-Luc Vellut, Itinéraires croisés de la modernité: Congo belge (1920–1950) (Tervuren, Belgium, 2000). In it I found fascinating chapters dealing with Scouting, soccer, media, the color bar, and daily life in the colonial city. Concerning the unique role of Tata Raphaël de la Kéthulle I read, in addition to the chapter contributed by Bénédicte Van Peel to Vellut’s collection, the article by Roland Renson and Christel Peeters, “Sport als missie: Raphaël de la Kéthulle de Ryhove (1890–1956),” in Voor lichaam en geest: katholieken, lichamelijke opvoeding en sport in de 19de en 20ste eeuw, edited by M. D’hoker, R. Renson, and J. Tolleneer (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1994). More information about the Catholic Church’s work among young people was found in publications including Karl Catteeuw, “Cardijn in Congo: De ontwikkeling en betekenis van de Katholieke Arbeidersjeugd in Belgisch-Congo,” Brood en Rozen (1999). Sara Boel wrote an interesting doctoral dissertation about the regime’s attempts to control the media and the arts: “Censuur in Belgisch Congo (1908–1960): Een onderzoek naar de controle op de pers, de film, en de muziek door de koloniale overheid” (Vrije Universiteit Brussels, 2005). Bruce Fetter has discussed local club life and the Catholic Church’s attempts at recuperation in his classic article “African Associations in Elisabethville, 1910–1935: Their Origins and Development,” Études d’Histoire africaine (1974). An older work by Georges Brausch, Belgian Administration in the Congo (London, 1961) remains worth reading due to its nuanced chapter dealing with the color bar. Benoît Verhaegen wrote an excellent article about the exaggerated fear of the Red Menace, “Communisme et anticommunisme au Congo (1920–1960),” Brood en Rozen (1999). Concerning body politics, the medicalization of Congolese society, and the local reactions to that in the Congolese interior, see the fascinating study by Nancy R. Hunt, A Colonial Lexicon: Of Birth Ritual, Medicalization, and Mobility in the Congo (Durham, NC, 1999).

In his above-mentioned In het land van de Banoko (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1993), Zana Aziza Etambla dedicates a very enlightening chapter to Paul Panda Farnana and his Union Congolaise. See also François Bontinck, “Mfumu Paul Panda Farnana, 1888–1930: Premier (?) nationaliste congolais,” in La dépendance de l’Afrique et les moyens d’y remédier, edited by V. Y. Mudimbe (Paris, 1980). In contemporary Congolese circles one notes renewed interest in this early champion of his countrymen’s interests. Didier Mumengi honored him with Panda Farnana, premier universitaire congolais, 1888–1930 (Paris, 2005). Antoine Tshitungu Kongolo examined his connections with the Belgian intellegentsia in: “Paul Panda Farnana (1888–1930), panafricaniste, nationaliste, intellectuel engagé: Une contribution à l’étude de sa pensée et de son action,” L’Africain(2003).


A clear overview of World War II in Africa and its impact on colonialism is found in Michael Crowder’s article “The Second World War: Prelude to Decolonization in Africa,” in The Cambridge History of Africa, vol. 8 (Cambridge, UK, 1984). A more recent survey of the situation in the Belgian Congo, unfortunately, remains lacking. The latest attempt at such a survey dates from the 1980s, from Belgium’s Koninklijke Academie voor Overzeese Wetenschappen, Bijdragen over Belgisch-Congo tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Brussels, 1983); of greatest use to me were the articles by Léon de Saint-Moulin, Jean-Luc Vellut, Benoît Verhaegen, Gustaaf Hulstaert, Jonathan Helmreich, and Antoine Rubbens. The collection does not deal with the military aspects, however, which are covered by Emile Janssens, Contribution à l’histoire militaire du Congo belge pendant la Seconde Guerre mondiale, 1940–45 (Brussels, 1982–1984). The Abyssinian campaign was documented by a few Belgian officers who took part in it, including R. Werbrouck, La campagne des troupes coloniales belges en Abyssinie (Léopoldville, 1945), and Philippe Brousmiche,Bortaï: Faradje, Asosa, Gambela, Saio: Journal de campagne (Doornik/Tournai, Belgium, 1987). Felix Denis placed online the diary and above all the fascinating photo album compiled by his father-in-law, Lieutenant Carlo Blomme at See also Christine Denuit-Somerhausen and Francis Balace, “Abyssinie 41: Du mirage à la victoire,” in Jours de lutte, edited by F. Balace (Brussels, 1992).

Concerning the role of Katangan uranium in the development of the atomic bomb, see Jacques Vanderlinden, À propos de l’uranium congolais (Brussels, 1991), and Jonathan E. Helmreich, “The Uranium Negotiations of 1944,” in Bijdragen over Belgisch-Congo tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Brussels, 1983). I also refer the reader to his Gathering Rare Ores: The Diplomacy of Uranium Acquisition, 1943–1954 (Princeton, NJ, 1986), and L’uranium, la Belgique, et les puissances by Pierre Buch and Jacques Vanderlinden (Brussels, 1995).

The social unrest in the mines has been lavishly documented in the above-mentioned book by Perrings, Black Mineworkers in Central Africa. I also consulted J.-L. Vellut, “Le Katanga industriel en 1944: Malaises et anxiétés dans la société coloniale,” inBijdragen over Belgisch-Congo tijdens de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Brussels, 1983). Especially useful was the study by Tshibangu Kabet Musas, “La situation sociale dans le ressort administratif de Likasi (ex-Territoire de Jadotville) pendant la Guerre 1940–1945,”Études d’Histoire Africaine (1974), and that by Bogumil Jewsiewicki, Kilola Lema, and Jean-Luc Vellut, “Documents pour servir à l’histoire sociale du Zaïre: Grèves dans le Bas-Congo (Bas-Zaïre) en 1945,” Études d’Histoire Africaine (1973). The clearest overview I found, however, was that by Bogumil Jewsiewicki, “La contestation sociale et la naissance du prolétariat au Zaïre au cours de la première moitié du XXe siècle,” Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines (1976).

Vladimir Drachoussoff’s fascinating wartime diary appeared in a modest print-run under his pseudonym Vladi Souchard, Jours de brousse: Congo 1940–1945 (Brussels, 1983). It was one of the most gripping documents that I had the pleasure to read while preparing this history. Governor General Pierre Ryckmans and Father Placide Tempels held nuanced views of colonial reality, see Ryckmans’s Dominer pour servir (Brussels, 1948), and Tempels’s Bantoe-filosofie (Antwerp, 1946). Also see Jacques Vanderlinden,Pierre Ryckmans, 1891–1959: Coloniser dans l’honneur(Brussels, 1994). Concerning this postwar period, see Nestor Delval’s highly readable essay, “Schuld in Kongo?” (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1966).

With regard to the postwar years, Anton Rubbens’s work, Dettes de guerre (Elisabethville, 1945), comes highly recommended. It comprises a number of critical articles that appeared in the newspaper L’Essor du Congo. In addition, the reports drawn up by the Commission Permanente pour la Protection des Indigènes are required reading; besides containing useful social information, they illustrate quite characteristically the colonial paradigm; see L. Guebels, Relation complète des travaux de la Commission Permanente pour la Protection des Indigènes, 1911–1951 (Brussels, 1952). An excellent introduction to the subject of the trade unions and social protest is found in the 1999 thematic issue of Brood en Rozen, “Sociale bewegingen in Belgisch-Congo.” I also consulted André Corneille, Le syndicalisme au Katanga (Elisabethville, 1945), Arthur Doucy and Pierre Feldheim, Problèmes du travail et politique sociale au Congo belge (Brussels, 1952), and R. Poupart, Première esquisse de l’évolution du syndicalisme au Congo (Brussels, 1960).

I gained a better understanding of life in the colonial city from the books of Filip De Boeck and Marie-Françoise Plissart, Kinshasa: Tales of the Invisible City (Ghent, Belgium, 2004), and Johan Lagae, Kongo zoals het is: Drie architectuurverhalen uit de Belgische kolonisatiegeschiedenis (1920–1960) (Ghent, Belgium, 2002). The work of Suzanne Comhaire-Sylvian, Femmes de Kinshasa: hier et aujourd’hui (Paris, 1968), Valdo Pons, Stanleyville: An African Urban Community under Belgian Administration(Oxford, 1969), and W. C. Klein, De Congolese elite (Amsterdam, 1957), provided me with a vivid picture of the new urban culture. The operations and impact of the radio broadcasts for a Congolese audience are discussed by Greta Pauwels-Boon, L’origine, l’évolution, et le fonctionnement de la radiodiffusion au Zaïre de 1937 à 1960 (Tervuren, Belgium, 1979), and Sara Boel, “Censuur in Belgisch Congo (1908–1960): Een onderzoek naar de controle op de pers, de film en de muziek door de koloniale overheid” (Vrije Universiteit Brussels, 2005). Concerning the association of Raphaël de la Kéthulle’s alumni, see Charles Tshimanga, “L’ADAPESet la formation d’une élite au Congo (1925–1945)” in Itinéraires croisés de la modernité: Congo belge (1920–1950), edited by J.-L. Vellut (Tervuren, Belgium, 2000).

The fate of the évolués has been discussed in many publications and by numerous authors such as Stengers, Young, and Ndaywel. The standard work is Jean-Marie Mutamba Makombo, Du Congo Belge au Congo indépendant 1940–1960 (Kinshasa, 1998). A highly interesting study is by Mukala Kadima-Nzuji, who establishes a tie between social ressentiment, the press, and literature in La littérature zaïroise de langue française (1945–1965) (Paris, 1984). Concerning the establishment of the first Congolese university, see Ruben Mantels’s interesting Geleerd in de tropen: Leuven, Congo en de wetenschap, 1885–1960 (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2007). King Baudouin’s visit is colorfully depicted by Erik Raspoet, Bwana Kitoko en de koning van de Bakuba: Een vorstelijke ontmoeting op de evenaar (Antwerp, Belgium, 2005).

The lines at the end of this chapter were taken from the collection Esanzo by Antoine-Roger Bolamba, one of the loveliest works of Congolese poetry.


The literature dealing with Congo’s decolonization is abundant, but often also of inconsistent quality, dated and exaggeratedly “white” in its views. The very best book about the period remains Politics in the Congo by Crawford Young (Princeton, 1965). Almost half a century after its first publication, the reader is still amazed to see how—so soon after the events themselves—the author was able to lucidly analyze and document the major processes. In doing so, Young was undoubtedly helped by the fabulous work already done by the Centre de Recherche et d’Information Socio-Politiques (CRISP) in Brussels, an inspiring and conscientious documentation center where researchers such as Jean Van Lierde, Benoît Verhaegen, and Jules Gérard-Libois have done pioneering work. CRISP’s yearbooks and studies of political movements remain to this day an indispensable source for historical research into the 1950s and 1960s in Congo. CRISP also published Young’s standard work in French.

Another older, but still highly valuable study is that by Paule Bouvier, L’accession du Congo belge à l’indépendance (Brussels, 1965). More recently, Zana Aziza Etambala has collected a sizeable amount of new archive material in two highly readable volumes,Congo 55/65: Van Koning Boudewijn tot president Mobutu (Tielt, Belgium, 1999), and De teloorgang van een modelkolonie: Belgisch Congo (1958–1960) (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2008). Of the many memoirs published concerning the turbulent decolonization, those by Jef Van Bilsen, a key figure in the process, are extremely worthwhile, Kongo 1945–1965: Het einde van een kolonie (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1993).

Concerning the international context of the Congolese struggle for independence, I profited greatly from Pierre Queuille, Histoire de l’afro-asiatisme jusqu’à Bandoung: la naissance du tiers-monde (Paris, 1965), and Colin Legum, Pan-Africanism: A Short Political Guide (New York, 1965).

Kinshasa’s youth cultures have been described by Didier Gondola in Villes miroirs: Migrations et identités urbaines à Kinshasa et Brazzaville, 1930–1970 (Paris, 1997). The above-mentioned work by Filip De Boeck also gives attention to the phenomenon of the “bills” and the “moziki.” The political dimension of Congolese soccer is the subject of an excellent documentary by Jan Antonissen and Joeri Weyn: F.C. Indépendance (2007). The violent rioting in the capital in 1959 has attracted a great deal of attention. Jacques Marras and Pierre De Vos wrote the accessible L’équinoxe de janvier: Les émeutes de Léopoldville (Brussels, 1959), but J’étais le général Janssens (Brussels, 1961) by General Émile Janssens, who commanded the Force Publique and was therefore far from impartial, is also worth reading.

The first generation of political figures has been dealt with widely. Concerning Kasavubu, see Benoît Verhaegen and Charles Tshimanga, L’Abako et l’indépendance du Congo belge: Dix ans de nationalisme kongo (1950–1960) (Tervuren, Belgium, 2003). On Lumumba, see Jean Omasombo Tshonda and Benoît Verhaegen, Patrice Lumumba: Jeunesse et apprentissage politique, 1925–1956 (Tervuren, Belgium, 1998), and their sequel, Patrice Lumumba: De la prison aux portes du pouvoir, juillet 1956–février 1960(Tervuren, Belgium, 2005). The best study of Lumumba was written by Jean-Claude Willame, Patrice Lumumba: La crise congolaise revisitée (Paris, 1990). Other works have come mostly from the outspokenly partisan, with all inherent advantages and disadvantages; what the reader gains in terms of histoire vécue (history as it was lived) is usually lost to a lack of nuance and perspective. Pierre De Vos wrote the very readable, but not always accurate Vie et mort de Lumumba (Paris, 1961); Francis Monheim seemed head-over-heels in love when he wrote Mobutu, l’homme seul (Brussels, 1962); and Jules Chomé avoided seeming enraged but was very much so when he published Moïse Tshombe et l’escroquerie katangaise (Brussels, 1966). In La pensée politique de Patrice Lumumba (Paris, 1963), Jean Van Lierde brought together Lumumba’s most important speeches, articles, and correspondance. The foreword by Jean-Paul Sartre is, aside from its predictability, still impressive.

Studies examining the partisan squabbling with greater distance are also rare. P. Caprasse, however, with his Leaders africains en milieu urbain (Elisabethville) (Brussels, 1959), provided a magnificent sociological approach that went far beyond the local focus of his Katangan fieldwork. He devoted special attention to the rhetoric with which tribal awareness was exploited. Luc Fierlafyn went further in the same vein and submitted the political texts of that day to an interesting rhetorical analysis, Le discours nationaliste au Congo belge durant la période 1955–1960 (Brussels, 1990).


The whirlwind of events that combined around the formation of the First Republic have been subjected to examinations numerous enough to fill a bookcase. A recent and broad historical survey is lacking, but solid studies have appeared concerning all individual aspects. Walter Geerts’s Binza 10: De eerste tien onafhankelijkheidsjaren van de Democratische Republiek Congo (Ghent, Belgium, 1970) still provides a clear introduction. Zana Aziza Etambala’s Congo 55/65: Van koning Boudewijn tot president Mobutu(Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1999), and Jef Van Bilsens highly important Kongo 1945–1965: Het einde van een kolonie (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1993) also provide accessible points of departure for the interested reader. The above-mentioned CRISP yearbooks are essential reading as well.

Concerning the mutiny within the national armed forces, Louis-François Vanderstraeten wrote the definitive study, Histoire d’une mutinerie, juillet 1960: De la Force Publique à l’Armée nationale congolaise (Paris, 1985). He gave a great deal of attention to the atmosphere of panic, the sudden exodus of the remaining Belgians, and the Belgian military intervention. For a vivid picture of those days, see two books by Peter Verlinden, Weg uit Congo: Het drama van de kolonialen (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2002), andAchterblijven in Congo: een drama voor de Congolezen?(Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2008). Marie-Bénédicte Dembour wrote an interesting anthropological study on the perspective of the former colonials, Recalling the Belgian Congo (New York, 2000).

How the Congo crisis drew Africa into the Cold War is the subject of a truly magnificent analysis in the epic documentary by Jihan El Tahri, Cuba, une odyssée africaine (Arte, 2007). The film not only includes interviews with Cuban veterans, but also with leading Congolese, Russian, and American figures of that day: it is a stunning portrait of the Cold War machinations within Africa. For the American perspective, see Stephen R. Weissman, American Foreign Policy in the Congo 1960–1964 (Ithaca, NY, 1974), and Romain Yakem-tchouk, Les relations entre les États-Unis et le Zaïre (Brussels, 1986). For the communist perspective, see Le monde communiste et la crise du Congo belge, edited by Arthur Wauters (Brussels, 1961), and Edouard Mendiaux, Moscou, Accra, et le Congo (Brussels, 1960). Former CIA boss Larry Devlin recently published his strikingly frank memoires, Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir of 1960–67 (New York, 2007). More recently, Frank R. Villafaña has drawn attention to the confrontation between left- and right-wing Cubans in Congo in Cold War in the Congo: The Confrontation of Cuban Military Forces, 1960–1967(New Brunswick, NJ, 2009).

The UN operations have been the subject of commentary from various authors. Georges Abi-Saab analyzed the implications for international law in The United Nations Operation in the Congo 1960–1964 (Oxford, 1978). Claude Leclercq granted a great deal of attention to the situation on the ground in L’ONU et l’affaire du Congo (Paris, 1964). Georges Martelli delivered a very negative verdict in Experiment in World Government: An Account of the United Nations Operation in the Congo 1960–1964 (London, 1966). The United Nations played such a striking role that other forms of multilateralism have tended to be somewhat neglected. Concerning the establishment of the Organization of African Unity and its contribution to the conflict, see Catherine Hoskyns, The Organization of African Unity and the Congo Crisis (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 1969).

Lumumba’s murder is know best of all from the oft-translated classic by Ludo De Witte, De moord op Lumumba (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1999). In Belgium the book prompted the establishment of a parliamentary investigative subcommittee consisting of four historians charged with combing the available archives with a view to establishing the extent of Belgian culpability in the killing. Their report was bone dry but scrupulous: Luc De Vos et al., Lumumba: De complotten? De moord (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2004). For the American involvement in the affair, see Madeleine Kalb, The Congo Cables: The Cold War in Africa, from Eisenhower to Kennedy (New York, 1982), and the recent article by Stephen R. Weissman, “An Extraordinary Rendition,” Intelligence and National Security (2010). For the perspective of two Congolese politicians who had once been Lumumba’s allies, see Cléophas Kamitatu, La grande mystification du Congo-Kinshasa: Les crimes de Mobutu (Paris, 1971), and Thomas Kanza, Conflict in the Congo: The Rise and Fall of Lumumba (Baltimore, 1972).

A thoroughgoing study of the Katangan succession was written surprisingly soon after the events themselves is by Jules Gérard-Libois, Sécession au Katanga (Brussels, 1963). For the historical roots of that secession, see Romain Yakemtchouk, Aux origines du séparatisme katangais (Brussels, 1988).

The uprisings in Kwilu and the east of the country have been dealt with exhaustively in the studies by Benoît Verhaegen, Rébellions au Congo (Brussels, 1966–1969), and the two-volume collection of abstracts, Rébellions-révolution au Zaïre 1963–1965, edited by Catherine Coquery-Vidrovitch et al. (Paris, 1987). See Les rébellions dans l’est du Zaïre (1964–1967), edited by Herbert Weiss and Benoît Verhaegen (1986), an important thematic issue of Les Cahiers du CEDAF, a periodical publication by the Centre d’Etude et de Documentation Africaines. Ludo Martens wrote two sympathetic biographies about Pierre Mulele and his wife Léonie Abo, Pierre Mulele ou la seconde vie de Patrice Lumumba (Berchem, 1985), and Une femme du Congo (Berchem, 1991). An excellent journalistic account of the Congolese rebellion is by Jean Kestergat, Congo Congo: de l’indépendance à la guerre civile (Paris, 1965).

The social and economic conditions during the First Republic have received much less attention than the political and military infighting, yet there is a highly accurate picture of life in the big city by J. S. Lafontaine, City Politics: A Study of Léopoldville, 1962–63 (Cambridge, UK, 1970). Concerning the complex question of the colonial stock portfolio and the negotiations dealing with its return to Congo, see Jean-Claude Willame, Eléments pour une lecture du contentieux belgo-zaïrois (Brussels, 1988).


An outstanding, even formidable, introduction to Mobutu’s life and work can be gleaned from the documentary by Thierry Michel, Mobutu, roi du Zaïre (Brussels, 1999). Readers wishing to dig more deeply into that period would do well to start with the highly illuminating chapter about the Second Republic by Jacques Vanderlinden in Du Congo au Zaïre, 1960–1980, edited by A. Huybrechts et al. (Brussels, 1980). To see how a political elite plundered the national economy, consult Fernard Bézy et al., Accumulation et sous-développement au Zaïre 1960–1980 (Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, 1981), and David J. Gould, Bureaucratic Corruption and Underdevelopment in the Third World: The Case of Zaire (New York, 1980). But no one out to make a serious study of the era should omit the bulky study by Crawford Young and Thomas Turner, The Rise and Decline of the Zairean State (Madison, WI, 1985). That book focuses on the first half of the Mobutu regime, the period 1965–80, and provides a very convincing picture of how the state first became omnipresent and omnipotent, then fell into total disarray. Its style is sober, yet it contains a wealth of documentation. By far the most important book about this era.

Original Zairian sources from that period are numerous, but consistently fettered by fear of the regime. There is propaganda in abundance, without a drop of critical analysis. It was only outside the borders of the national territory that one could curse out loud. In Paris, Cléophas Kamitatu, cofounder of the Parti Solidaire Africain, wrote two well-documented works that also provide virulent critique of the regime, La grande mystification du Congo-Kinshasa: Les crimes de Mobutu (Paris, 1971), and Zaïre: Le pouvoir à la portée du peuple (Paris, 1977).

Two recent American books have provided a backstage glimpse. Mobutu’s personal physician, the American William Close, father of actress Glenn Close, published his recollections of a turbulent period, Beyond the Storm (Marbleton, WY, 2007). Although his analysis is not always profound, the anecdotes are often highly revealing. For a better understanding of the ties of friendship between America and Zaïre, readers can best turn to Romain Yakemtchouk, Les relations entre les États-Unis et le Zaïre (Brussels, 1986), and the memoirs of CIA agent Larry Devlin, Chief of Station, mentioned above.

Kinshasa’s staggeringly explosive growth has been described well by Marc Pain, Kinshasa, la ville et la cité (Paris, 1984), and René de Maximy, Kinshasa, ville en suspens (Paris, 1984). Both books devote attention not only to urban and demographic processes, but also to their social and cultural consequences.

In this burgeoning and youthful city, music played a major role. The Congolese music scene was probably never so vital as in the early 1970s, thanks in part to Mobutu’s campaign of authenticité. Gary Stewart’s exhaustive Rumba on the River (London, 2000), deals with this in detail. Also highly worthwhile is the recent Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire (Durham, NC, 2008), with as main theme the closely knit ties between politics and popular music. For the descriptions of the match between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman I made use not only of clips on YouTube, but also of Norman Mailer’s classic The Fight (Boston, 1975), one of the best sports books ever written. In addition, I greatly enjoyed Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning documentary When We Were Kings (1996), which also deals with the musical aspects of “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Concerning the intertwining of the black emancipation struggle and boxing, I referred to several excellent essays in Gerard Early, Speech and Power (Hopewell, 1992).


Accessible and well-documented works dealing with the madness of the Mobutu regime from 1975 exist in a number of languages. Jean-Claude Willame wrote the serene but shrewd L’automne d’un despotisme (Paris, 1992) and Colette Braeckman, journalist for Le Soir, the readable and in Congo highly influential Le dinosaure (Paris, 1991). In Flanders two journalists from the public broadcasting company wrote down their experiences and analyses in Mobutu, de man van Kamanyola by Walter Geerts (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2005) and particularly Mobutu, van mirakel tot malaise by Walter Zinzen (Antwerp, 1995). The latter is extremely worthwhile, even if only for the chapter on the Shaba wars. The American historian Thomas Callaghy saw a parallel between the Mobutu regime and the ancien régime in France in The State-Society Struggle: Zaire in Comparative Perspective (New York, 1984). With her In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in the Congo (London, 2000), the British journalist Michela Wrong has written a wonderful page-turner with a wealth of information about the 1990s. And more than twenty years after publication, the oft-translated Terug naar Congo by Lieve Joris (Amsterdam, 1987) still provides a very tangible and gripping picture of life under the dictatorship.

Jean-Claude Willame deals with the “white elephants,” Mobutu’s senseless building projects, in Zaïre, l’épopée d’Inga: chronique d’une prédation industrielle (Paris, 1986). Contrary to what the title seems to suggest, the book deals with more than the notorious hydroelectric station. Information about the German rocket program, I assembled piece by piece from the documentary Mobutu, roi du Zaïre by Thierry Michel (1999), the above-mentioned book by Walter Geerts, but above all from Otrag Rakete, the website of Bernd Leitenberger,

The standard work on the Shaba wars was written by Romain Yakemtchouk, Les deux guerres du Shaba (Brussels, 1988). He devoted a great deal of attention to the ties maintained by Belgium, France, and the United States with Mobutu’s Zaïre. Before starting in on Sean Kelly’s Les relations entre les états-Unis et le Zaïre (Brussels, 1986), I read his less technical work with the title-as-synopsis, America’s Tyrant: The CIA and Mobutu of Zaire: How the United States Put Mobutu in Power, Protected Him from His Enemies, Helped Him Become One of the Richest Men in the World, and Lived to Regret It (Washington, DC, 1993).

Achieving an understanding of the economic and monetary policies of the period 1975–90 is no mean feat, especially in view of the absence of a good survey of the role of the IMF, the World Bank, and the Paris Club. Winsome J. Leslie focused on one of the key players in his The World Bank and Structural Adjustment in Developing Countries: The Case of Zaire (Boulder, CO, 1987). The work of Jean-Philippe Peemans, Zaïre onder het Mobutu-regime (Brussels, 1988), was lucid and interesting to read, not least of all because of his early warning for the undesired effects of the IMF measures. Kisangani Emizet further refined the arguments and provided important and convincing graph material in the first chapters of his Zaire after Mobutu (Helsinki, 1997). My verdict on the work of the IMF is greatly indebted to the bestseller Globalization and Its Discontents by Nobel-Prize laureate Joseph Stiglitz (London, 2002).

The dramatic consequences of the crisis and the rise of a “second,” informal economy were examined by Janet MacGaffey and her team: The Real Economy of Zaire (London, 1991). For the role of women in that new economy, see Benoît Verhaegen, Femmes zaïroises de Kisangani: Combats pour la survie (Paris, 1990). Striking accounts are also found in Manières de vivre: Économie de la “débrouille” dans les villes du Congo/Zaïre, edited by G. de Villers et al. (Tervuren, Belgium, 2002).

For an understanding of the repressive state apparatus, the reader may turn to the bleak reports from Amnesty International and to the Sovereign National Conference’s Rapport sur les assassinats, as reissued by Abdoulaye Yerodia (Kinshasa, 2004). A more academic approach is found in Michael Schatzberg’s The Dialectics of Oppression in Zaire (Bloomington, IN, 1988). Urban legend, rumors, and news from the radio-trottoir were compiled by Cornelis Nlandu-Tsasa in La rumeur au Zaïre de Mobutu: Radio-trottoir à Kinshasa (Paris, 1997). Regarding popular painting, seeArt pictural zaïrois, edited by Bogumil Jewsiewicki (Paris, 1992), and Johannes Fabian, Remembering the Present: Painting and Popular History in Zaire (Berkeley, CA, 1996).

The six thousand reports written after the 1990 “people’s meetings” have never been released, but the best work dealing with the start of the process of democratization is that by A. Gbabendu Engunduka and E. Efolo Ngobaasu, Volonté de changement au Zaïre: De la consultation populaire vers la conférence nationale (Paris, 1992).


A succinct but highly illuminating introduction to the turbulent period of transition between the Second and the Third Republics can be found in Flemish radio journalist Guy Poppe’s De tranen van de dictator: Van Mobutu tot Kabila (Antwerp, 1998). Many of those actively involved have written about their vision of the political struggle and had it published by L’Harmattan in Paris. For years, that publisher has served as the major display case for the intellectual Francophone African diaspora; its noncritical publishing policy, however, sometimes makes it seem more like a glorified copy shop than any systematic distributor of knowledge. One of the more balanced works is that by Dieudonné Ilunga Mpunga, Etienne Tshisekedi: Le sens d’un combat (Paris, 2007), which chiefly examines the role of the UDPS. Loka-ne-Kongo wrote a critical retrospective about that chaotic period of democratization, Lutte de libération et piège de l’illusion: Multipartisme intégral et dérive de l’opposition au Zaïre (1990–1997) (Kinshasa, 2001). Axel Buyse summed up the major events of the initial years in Democratie voor Zaïre: De bittere nasmaak van een troebel experiment (Groot-Bijgaarden, Belgium, 1994). The most detailed work is that by Gauthier de Villers, Zaïre: La transition manquée (1990–1997) (Paris, 1997), the first volume of a highly valuable trilogy about the democratic transition.

The most complete study of the suppression of the student protest in Lubumbashi comes from Muela Ngalamulume Nkongolo, Le campus martyr: Lubumbashi, 11–12 mai 1990 (Paris, 2000). Concerning the quashing of the big peace march in Kinshasa, seeMarche d’espoir, Kinshasa 16 février 1992: Non-violence pour la démocratie au Zaïre, edited by Philippe de Dorlodot (Paris, 1994). There is, to the best of my knowledge, no standard work dealing with the Sovereign National Conference, but I supplemented the information I gained from talks with Régine Mutijima with the historical survey by Georges Nzongola-Ntalaja, who was also a participant, The Congo from Leopold to Kabila (London, 2002).

It was my privilege on several occasions to talk with Baudouin Hamuli, the veritable godfather of Congo’s société civile. He was the first chairman of the national council for NGOs and recorded his analyses in two interesting studies, Donner sa chance au peuple congolais: Expériences de développement participatif (1985–2001) (Paris, 2002), and, with two coauthors, La société civile congolaise: État des lieux et perspectives (Brussels, 2003).

The extremely precarious situation in which the common people lived has been dealt with in the compilations by Manières de vivre: Économie de la “débrouille” dans les villes du Congo/Zaïre, edited by Gautier de Villers et al. (Tervuren, Belgium, 2002), andChasse au diamant au Congo/Zaïre, edited by L. Monnier et al. (Tervuren, Belgium, 2001). These books examine the rise of such phenomena as the cambistes in Kinshasa, the bicycle taxis in Kisangani, and diamond smuggling in Kasai. Concerning the opulence still enjoyed by Mobutu in the 1990s, one can learn a lot from the stories of his Belgian son-in-law, Pierre Janssen, Aan het hof van Mobutu (Paris, 1997). Concerning the rise of the new religiosity, see Isidore Ndaywel è Nziem, La transition politique au Zaïre et son prophète Dominique Sakombi Inongo (Québec, 1995). Anthropologist René Devisch wrote an important article about finding moral and social meaning in times of crisis, “Frenzy, Violence, and Renewal in Kinshasa,” Public Culture (1995). Lieve Joris’s Dans van de luipaard (Amsterdam, 2001) is definitely the best-known work of literary journalism dealing with the end of the Mobutu era.

Entire libraries have been written about the Rwandan genocide. The standard work was and remains Leave None to Tell the Story by Human Rights Watch researcher Alison Des Forges (New York, 1999), who died far too young. In addition, I would recommend to the reader the classic by Gérard Prunier, The Rwanda Crisis (London, 1995). Several hefty tomes have recently appeared, dealing with the conflict in the area around the Great Lakes: Thomas Turner, The Congo Wars: Conflict, Myth, and Reality (London, 2007), René Lemarchand, The Dynamics of Violence in Central-Africa (Philadelphia, 2008), Filip Reyntjens, De Grote Afrikaanse Oorlog: Congo in de regionale geopolitiek, 1996–2006 (Antwerp, Belgium, 2009), and Gérard Prunier, Africa’s World War: Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe (Oxford, 2009). While Turner is somewhat chaotic, Lemarchand tells a fascinating and well-organized story, Reyntjens provides an admirable overview, and Prunier a detailed analysis.

Dealing specifically with the advance of the AFDL is the excellent compilation by Colette Braeckman et al., Kabila prend le pouvoir (Brussels, 1998). Erik Kennes wrote a substantial biography of Kabila’s life before his move to seize power, Essai biographique sur Laurent Désiré Kabila(Tervuren, Belgium, 2003). Unparalleled in its evocative power is once again a documentary by Egyptian filmmaker Jihan El-Tahri, L’Afrique en morceaux: La tragédie des Grands Lacs (2000), which can be viewed in its entirely on the Internet.


The run-up to and course of the Second Congo War have been dealt with in detail in the above-mentioned surveys by Prunier and Reyntjens. An excellent introduction to the conflict has also been provided by Olivier Lanotte in his Guerres sans frontières en République Démocratique du Congo(Brussels, 2003). More analytical, but with a wealth of information, is the work by Gauthier de Villers, Guerre et politique: Les trente derniers mois de L. D. Kabila (Tervuren, Belgium, 2001). Concerning Kabila’s regime before and after the invasion, see the critique by Wamu Oyatambwe, De Mobutu à Kabila: Avatars d’une passation inopinée (Paris, 1999). A great deal more hagiographic, almost to the point of being burlesque at times, is the compilation edited by Eddie Tambwe and Jean-Marie Dikanga Kazadi, Laurent-Désiré Kabila: L’actualité d’un combat (Paris, 2008). With regard to the motives of the countries taking part in that war, The African Stakes of the Congo War by John F. Clark (New York, 2002) appeared quite soon after the facts themselves. The toilsome peace negotiations leading to the agreements at Lusaka (1999) and Pretoria (2002) are discussed by Jean-Claude Willame, Les “faiseurs de paix” au Congo (Brussels, 2007). The book also grants a good deal of attention to the motives of combatants both domestic and foreign, and the role of the international UN peacekeeping force MONUC. The definitive study of the MONUC remains to be written, but Xavier Zeebroek recently wrote a useful report, La Mission des Nations Unies au Congo: Le laboratoire de la paix introuvable (Brussels, 2008), and Julie Reynaert produced a clear and concise master’s thesis, “De balans na tien jaar Monuc in Congo” (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 2009).

The massive theft of raw materials has been proven irrefutably by consecutive reports from the United Nations panel of experts ( congo.htm). An overall, quantitative analysis is lacking, but Stefaan Marysse and Catherine André carried out pioneering calculations for the years 1999 and 2000 in “Guerre et pillage en République Démocratique du Congo,” L’Afrique des Grands Lacs (2001). The L’Afrique des Grands Lacs yearbooks, currently edited by Stefaan Marysse, Filip Reyntjens, and Stef Vandeginste, provide a wealth of information for all those wishing to study the more recent periods in Congolese (but also Rwandan and Burundian) history. Back issues can be downloaded in their entirety from the University of Antwerp website.

Marvelous work has also been done by a number of independent NGOs. Human Rights Watch documented the smuggling of gold by Uganda in two reports, Uganda in Eastern DRC (2001) and above all The Curse of Gold (2005). Global Witness investigated Rwanda’s role in the smuggling of tin, Under-Mining Peace: Tin, The Explosive Trade in Cassiterite in Eastern DRC (2005). In a two-part study, IPIS looked at the international markets for coltan: Supporting the War Economy in the DRC: European Companies and the Coltan Trade (2002). Pole Institute, a Congolese studies center in Goma, published The Coltan Phenomenon (2002), with extensive interviews with mineworkers. All these reports are also available online.

Two studies in particular showed me that it is not sufficient to look only to the regimes of Rwanda and Uganda when it comes to the raw-materials robbery in the eastern Congo; there are other players as well, both “downstream” and “upstream.” Network War: An Introduction to Congo’s Privatised War Economy by Tim Raeymaekers (IPIS, 2002) pointed out the crucial role of private, “nonstate actors” in today’s globalized world, while Koen Vlassenroot and Hans Romkema showed how normal Congolese citizens also profited: “The Emergence of a New Order? Resources and War in Eastern Congo,” Journal of Humanitarian Assistance (2002).

Concerning the consequences of the war at the local level, social and otherwise, Koen Vlassenroot and Tim Raeymaekers edited the noteworthy compilation, Conflict and Social Transformation in Eastern Congo (Ghent, Belgium, 2004). Among others, the anthropological chapter by Luca Jourdan, “Being at War, Being Young: Violence and Youth in North Kivu,” was one I read with great interest. As early as June 2002, Human Rights Watch published a report on sexual violence: The War within the War. For the ecological impact of the conflict, I consulted both the UNESCO report Promoting and Preserving Congolese Heritage: Linking Biological and Cultural Diversity (2005) and the ambitious survey Forests in Post-Conflict Democratic Republic of Congo, edited by L. Debroux et al. (2007).


The political and military aspects of the transitional period are described clearly in the above-mentioned works by Reyntjens and Prunier. The most detailed study once again comes from Gauthier de Villers, De la guerre aux élections (Tervuren, Belgium, 2009), with which he completed his trilogy on Zaïre/Congo during the long transition from the Second to the Third Republic (Villers, 1997, 2001, 2009). The thoroughgoing character of these studies makes them a reference work for the period 1990–2008, like the yearbooks published by the CRISP for the period 1959–1967.

This chapter deals in some detail with the interplay between multinational concerns, pop music, Pentecostalism, and the mass media in urban Congolese society. Because these are recent phenomena, no integral studies have yet been written. Theodore Trefon’s compilation, Reinventing Order in the Congo: How People Respond to State Failure in Kinshasa (London, 2004), contains a number of fine contributions. The standard work on life in the capital, however, is Filip De Boeck’s masterful anthropological study,Kinshasa, Tales of the Invisible City (Ghent, Belgium, 2004), illustrated with photos by Marie-Françoise Plissart. Two of his doctoral students, Kristien Geenen and Katrien Pype, have in recent years published admirable studies of Kinshasa’s street children, youth gangs, and religious soap operas. In 2010 De Boeck himself released the documentaryCemetery State, about youth and death in a city that eludes description.

Information about pop music I gleaned from the Internet and from countless conversations with Congolese people. In addition, my most important sources were Rumba on the River by Gary Stewart (London, 2000) and Rumba Rules by Bob White (Durham, NC, 2008). To the best of my knowledge, no systematic research has been carried out into Heineken’s activities in Africa. In 2008 the Dutch television broadcaster RTL made the rather superficial and patriotic documentary Een Hollands biertje in Afrika. The documentary dealt solely with Bralima in Kinshasa, with a main role reserved for Dolf van den Brink, and can be seen on that broadcaster’s website.

In addition to Katrien Pype’s work dealing with religious broadcasters, I received insights into the workings of the Congolese media from Marie-Soleil Frère’s Afrique centrale, médias et conflits: Vecteurs de guerre ou acteurs de paix (Brussels, 2005) and her more recent articles. For the impact of mobile telephony in Africa, see Mirjam de Bruijn et al., Mobile Africa: Changing Patterns of Movement in Africa and Beyond (Leiden, The Netherlands, 2001).

Concerning the rise of charismatic Christianity, I consulted, among other sources, Gerrie Ter Haar’s How God Became African: African Spirituality and Western Secular Thought (Philadelphia, 2009). The interaction with the recent history of migration is described in Emma Wild-Wood’sMigration and Christian Identity in Congo (Leiden, The Netherlands, 2008). For more about the rise of the Congolese diaspora in Europe, see Zana Etambala’s In het land van de Banoko (Leuven/Louvain, Belgium, 1993) for Belgium, and Marc Tardieu’s Les Africains en France (Monaco, 2006) for France. For the much more recent community in London, see the interviews collected by David Garbin and Wa Gamoka Pambu in Roots and Routes: Congolese Diaspora in Multicultural Britain (London, 2009).

A few articles in newspapers and magazines have described the interaction between popular culture and politics. In “La victoire en chantant” in Jeune Afrique (2006), Luc Olinga investigated the impact of Congolese pop music on the 2006 elections. Marie-Soleil Frère, in “Quand le pluralisme déraille” in Africultures (2007), looked at the influence of commercial and religious television on the electoral campaign.

In the field of cinematography, see Congo River by Thierry Michel (2005) for a lively impression of Congo during the transitional years, and Congo na biso by Chuck de Liedekerke and Yannick Muller (2006) for a lucid political approach. Lieve Joris’s Het uur van de rebellen (Amsterdam, 2006) is a courageous book about the uphill battle to reform the Congolese army.


Few books have yet appeared, of course, about the most recent phase of Congolese history. A highly readable account of the first free elections in decades was written by the Congolese Alphonse Muambi, who returned briefly to his former fatherland as an international observer, Democratie kun je niet eten (Amsterdam, 2009).

The early days of the Third Republic are described in two widely divergent works. In Vers la deuxième indépendance du Congo (Brussels, 2009), Le Soir journalist Colette Braeckman presents a cautiously optimistic view, while the compilation edited by Theodore Trefon, Réforme au Congo (RDC): Attentes et désillusions (Tervuren, 2009), strikes a much more somber note. In addition to the regular printed media, I sought and found further documentation in Mo magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique, and Jeune Afrique. The blogs by Colette Braeckman (at and Jason Stearns ( were a great help in placing the recent developments in their proper perspective. I also profited greatly from the razor-sharp analyses distributed by Kris Berwouts as director of EurAc, the umbrella organization of European NGOs active in Central Africa.

The websites of the International Crisis Group ( and Human Rights Watch ( are without equal when it comes to conflict analysis and fieldwork concerning human rights violations. The macroperspective provided by the former is equaled only by the detailed, on-the-ground observations of the latter. For years, both NGOs have been doing outstanding work that not only pleases historians, but above all aims to save human lives.

The websites of Le Potentiel and Radio Okapi, the best newspaper and the best radio broadcaster in Congo, respectively, allowed me to keep up to date on daily current events in the country even from a distance. Rapper Alesh, who I interviewed in Kisangani, can also be heard on the Radio Okapi website. A number of brave Congolese NGOs have recently started distributing reports on the Internet: special mention here goes to Asadho (Association Africaine de Défense de Droits de l’Homme), Rodhecic (Réseau d’Organisations des Droits Humains et d’Éducation Civique d’Inspiration Chrétienne), and Journaliste en Danger.

Concerning the intricacies of the tumult in Katangan mining, Thierry Michel made the interesting documentary Katanga Business (2009). I owe much to the reports from IPIS, RAID, Global Witness, and Resource Consulting Services.

In recent years a few good studies have appeared dealing with the growing Chinese presence in Africa. For an analytical approach, see Chris Alden, China in Africa (London, 2007), and Serge Michel and Michel Beuret’s La Chinafrique (Paris, 2009) for a most lively journalistic account. Outstanding by reason of its balanced approach is the study by Martine Dahle Huse and Stephen L. Muyakwa, “China in Africa: Lending, Policy Space, and Governance” (, 2008). I found a fine analysis of the Congolese-Chinese contract in Stefaan Marysse and Sara Geenen, “Les contrats chinois en RCD: l’impérialisme rouge en marche?” L’Afrique des Grands Lacs (2007–2008).


Little research has been carried out into Guangzhou’s African community. The first academic articles are now seeing the light of day, but are generally very descriptive in nature. See Brigitte Bertoncelo and Sylvie Bredeloup, “The Emergence of New African ‘Trading Posts’ in Hong Kong and Guangzhou,” China Perspectives (2007) and Li Zhang, “Ethnic Congregation in a Globalizing City: The Case of Guangzhou, China” (, 2008). See also Zhigang Li, Desheng Xue, Michael Lyons, Alison Brown “Ethnic Enclave of Transnational Migrants in Guangzhou” (, 2007), and Adams Bodomo, a Ghanian professor in Hong Kong, “The African Trading Community in Guangzhou,” China Quarterly (2010). I learned a great deal from my conversations with the Belgian consul Frank Felix, with the Flemish economic attaché and sinologist Koen De Ridder, and with the China-based Congolese journalist Jaffar Mulassa; as stated, however, I learned the most from talking to those directly involved.

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