Independence and Political crisis (1960–1965)
In May 1960, a growing nationalist movement, the Mouvement National Congolais or MNC Party, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections. The party appointed Lumumba as Prime Minister. The parliament elected as President Joseph Kasavubu, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party. Other parties that emerged included the Parti Solidaire Africain (or PSA) led by Antoine Gizenga, and the Parti National du Peuple (or PNP) led by Albert Delvaux and Laurent Mbariko. (Congo 1960, dossiers du CRISP, Belgium) The Belgian Congo achieved independence on 30 June 1960 under the name “République du Congo” (“Republic of Congo” or “Republic of the Congo” in English). Shortly after independence, the provinces of Katanga (led by Moise Tshombe) and South Kasai, and the Jabiyans in North Kivu engaged in secessionist struggles against the new leadership. Most of the 100,000 Europeans who had remained behind after independence fled the country, opening the way for Congolese to replace the European military and administrative elite.
As the French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name “Republic of Congo” upon achieving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as “Congo-Léopoldville” and “Congo-Brazzaville”, after their capital cities. Another way they were often distinguished during the 1960s, such as in newspaper articles, was that “Congo-Léopoldville” was called “The Congo” and “Congo-Brazzaville” was called simply “Congo”.
On 5 September 1960, Kasavubu dismissed Lumumba from office. Lumumba declared Kasavubu’s action unconstitutional and a crisis between the two leaders developed. (cf. Sécession au Katanga – J.Gerald-Libois -Brussels- CRISP) Lumumba had previously appointed Joseph Mobutu chief of staff of the new Congo army, Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC). Taking advantage of the leadership crisis between Kasavubu and Lumumba, Mobutu garnered enough support within the army to create mutiny. With financial support from the United States and Belgium, Mobutu paid his soldiers privately. The aversion of Western powers to communism and leftist ideology influenced their decision to finance Mobutu’s quest to maintain “order” in the new state by neutralizing Kasavubu and Lumumba in a coup by proxy. A constitutional referendum after Mobutu’s coup of 1965 resulted in the country’s official name being changed to the “Democratic Republic of the Congo.” In 1971 it was changed again to “Republic of Zaïre.”
On 17 January 1961, Katangan forces and Belgian paratroops – supported by the United States and Belgium – kidnapped and executed Patrice Lumumba. Amidst widespread confusion and chaos, a temporary government was led by technicians (Collège des Commissaires) with Evariste Kimba. The Katanga secession was ended in January 1963 with the assistance of UN forces. Several short-lived governments, of Joseph Ileo, Cyrille Adoula, and Moise Tshombe, took over in quick succession.