Country Listing

Zaire Table of Contents


Table A. Chronology of Important Events



ca. 10,000 B.C.                    Late Stone Age cultures start
                                   to flourish in southern

first millennium B.C.              In long series of migrations,
                                   lasting well into first
                                   millennium A.D., Bantu-speaking
                                   peoples from West Africa
                                   disperse throughout Zaire,
                                   bringing an economy based on
                                   yam and palm farming.

ca. late first millennium B.C.     Non-Bantu speakers arrive in
                                   northern grasslands, then
                                   penetrate forest area,
                                   intermingling with Bantu
                                   speakers who preceded them;
                                   Central Sudanic speakers
                                   introduce cattle herding and
                                   cultivation of cereals into
                                   northeastern Zaire.

ca. A.D. 100                       Related food complex based on
                                   cereals and hunting separately
                                   introduced into southeastern
                                   Zaire from East Africa.

first millennium A.D.              Bananas introduced from East
                                   Africa; iron and copper
                                   implements come into use;
                                   smelting introduced.


late 1300s                         Kongo Kingdom established,
                                   beginning expansion that
                                   continues until mid-seventeenth

                                   Luba Empire "founded" in late
                                   fifteenth century by legendary
                                   figures, Nkongolo and Ilunga
                                   Kalala; other Luba chiefs
                                   settle among neighboring
                                   peoples, including Lunda, and
                                   introduce Luba concepts of
                                   state organization; Luba state
                                   based on patrilineal farming
                                   villages governed by divine
                                   king whose authority derived
                                   from bulopwe--an
                                   inherited, supernatural power
                                   conferring the right to kingly
                                   office and title. Luba noted
                                   for artistic achievements in
                                   sculpture, praise poetry, and
                                   polyphonic music. Lunda
                                   chiefdoms unite to form Lunda

1483                               Portuguese discover Congo
                                   River, beginning long-term
                                   relationship between Portugal
                                   and Kongo Kingdom that lasts
                                   until destruction of Kongo in
                                   early eighteenth century.

                                   Lunda kingdom comes under Luba
                                   influence; legendary founders
                                   of Lunda include Kinguri,
                                   Chinyama, and Mwaant Yaav;
                                   Kinguri and Chinyama migrate
                                   west and found Lunda-like
                                   states in Angola; Mwaant Yaav's
                                   name becomes perpetual title in
                                   and royal name for central
                                   Lunda kingdom; beginning in
                                   sixteenth century, and
                                   continuing to eighteenth
                                   century, Lunda expand west,
                                   east, and south, creating
                                   series of related kingdoms
                                   governed jointly by kings and
                                   councils of titled officials;
                                   Lunda expansion facilitated by
                                   devices of positional
                                   succession and perpetual
                                   kinship, which made it possible
                                   to incorporate non-Lunda into
                                   the Lunda administrative
                                   system; hunting important among
                                   the matrilineal Lunda; despite
                                   their political genius, their
                                   culture in general was less
                                   developed than that of Luba.

ca. 1500                           Zande appear in northern Zaire
                                   and found a number of
                                   agriculturally based kingdoms.

early 1500s                        Kongo king Affonso requests
                                   technical help from Portugal,
                                   agreeing to make payment in
                                   copper, ivory, and slaves;
                                   Affonso declares Catholicism
                                   Kongo state religion.

mid-1500s                          Corn introduced to Kongo by
                                   Portuguese, followed by cassava
                                   shortly after 1600 and tobacco
                                   by late seventeenth century.


ca. 1630                           Kuba Kingdom founded by King
                                   Shyaam aMbul aNgoong; a highly
                                   centralized agricultural and
                                   trading state, it reached its
                                   zenith in mid-eighteenth
                                   century and remained stable
                                   into nineteenth century.

                                   Europeans in west and Arabs in
                                   east become heavily involved in
                                   slave trade.

ca. 1750                           Kazembe Kingdom founded in
                                   Luapula Valley as Lunda
                                   offshoot following Lunda
                                   expansion to control salt pans
                                   and copper mines in Shaba;
                                   loosely part of Lunda Empire
                                   but autonomous in practice.


1840-72                            David Livingstone explores
                                   Congo River basin.

1871                               Livingstone and Henry Morton
                                   Stanley, journalist
                                   commissioned to search for him,
                                   meet on eastern shore of Lake

1874-77                            Stanley commissioned by New
                                   York and London newspapers to
                                   continue Livingstone's
                                   explorations; Stanley completes
                                   descent of Congo River in 1877.

1878                               King Léopold II forms
                                   consortium of bankers to
                                   finance exploration and
                                   colonization of Congo.

1878-87                            Under auspices of consortium,
                                   Stanley sets out to establish
                                   trading posts and make treaties
                                   with local chiefs, eventually
                                   returning with 450 treaties in

1884-85                            At Conference of Berlin,
                                   November 1884-February 1885,
                                   major European powers
                                   acknowledge claim of Léopold
                                   II's International Association
                                   of the Congo; colony named
                                   Congo Free State.

1890s                              Construction of transportation
                                   network and exploitation of
                                   mineral resources begin; forced
                                   labor used extensively to
                                   harvest rubber, ivory, and
                                   other commodities; mutinies
                                   within Force Publique in 1895
                                   and 1897.

1890-94                            Belgian military campaign
                                   expels Afro-Arab traders from
                                   Zaire and ends slave trade.


1908                               In response to growing
                                   criticism of treatment of
                                   African population, Belgian
                                   parliament annexes Congo Free
                                   State and renames it Belgian

1914-17                            Units of Belgian colonial
                                   forces see action alongside
                                   British forces in German East

1921                               Simon Kimbangu founds
                                   Kimbanguist Church.

1920s-30s                          Early nationalistic aspirations
                                   expressed by Kimbanguist Church
                                   and Kitawala religious

1940-45                            Production of goods and
                                   minerals greatly increased to
                                   finance Belgian effort in World
                                   War II; large-scale social and
                                   economic changes occur as many
                                   rural Africans relocate to
                                   urban areas; demands for
                                   political reforms grow.

1952-58                            Legal reforms enacted
                                   permitting Africans to own
                                   land, granting them free access
                                   to public establishments, and
                                   the right to trial in all
                                   courts of law as well as some
                                   political participation.

1956                               Alliance of the Kongo People
                                   (Alliance des Bakongo--Abako)
                                   issues manifesto calling for
                                   immediate independence.

late 1950s                         Calls for independence of
                                   Katanga grow, and separatist
                                   party, the Confederation of
                                   Katanga Associations
                                   (Confédération des Associations
                                   du Katanga--Conakat) headed by
                                   Moïse Tshombe organized.

1957 March                         Statue passed allowing urban
                                   Africans to elect local
                                   communal councils; Abako wins
                                   majority of seats in urban

May                                Appointed rural councils

1959 January                       Belgian authorities disperse
                                   crowd of Abako members at
                                   political meeting; widespread
                                   rioting follows; Belgium
                                   recognizes total independence
                                   as goal for Belgian Congo.

July                               The Congolese National Movement
                                   (Mouvement National Congolais--
                                   MNC), which had emerged as
                                   standard-bearer of independence
                                   movement in 1958-59, splits
                                   into two camps, radicals headed
                                   by Patrice Lumumba and moderate
                                   wing led by Joseph Ileo,
                                   Cyrille Adoula, and Albert

1960 January                       Round Table Conference held in
                                   Brussels to discuss

May                                In national legislative
                                   elections, MNC-Lumumba wins
                                   largest number of votes;
                                   Belgian authorities name MNC's
                                   Patrice Lumumba prime minister;
                                   colonial government promulgates
                                   Loi Fondamentale (Fundamental
                                   Law) to guide nation to
                                   independence and to serve as
                                   first constitution.

June                               Abako leader Joseph Kasavubu
                                   elected president; Congo
                                   becomes independent and First
                                   Republic established June 30.

July                               Army mutinies against its
                                   European officers, July 4-5;
                                   officer corps Africanized and
                                   Joseph-Désiré Mobutu (later
                                   Mobutu Sese Seko) named chief
                                   of staff, July 6-9; mutiny
                                   spreads to Équateur and
                                   Katanga, and Belgium sends in
                                   paratroopers; Moïse Tshombe
                                   declares Katanga an independent
                                   state and Belgian naval forces
                                   bombard Matadi on July 11;
                                   Lumumba and Kasavubu request
                                   United Nations military
                                   assistance in face of Belgian
                                   aggression and Katangan
                                   secession, July 12; United
                                   Nations Security Council
                                   resolution calls for Belgian
                                   withdrawal and authorizes
                                   United Nations intervention,
                                   July 14; first United Nations
                                   troops arrive in Zaire, July
                                   15, begin military intervention
                                   against Katanga in support of
                                   the central government.

August                             South Kasai headed by Albert
                                   Kalonji secedes August 8.

September                          President Kasavubu and Prime
                                   Minister Lumumba formally break
                                   and fire each other from their
                                   posts; Kasavubu names Joseph
                                   Ileo as new prime minister on
                                   September 5; on September 14,
                                   Mobutu steps in and assumes
                                   power while keeping Kasavubu as
                                   nominal president; government
                                   to be run by the so-called
                                   College of Commissioners;
                                   United Nations and most Western
                                   nations recognize Kasavubu

November                           Antoine Gizenga leaves for
                                   Stanleyville to establish rival
                                   national regime. Lumumba, under
                                   house arrest since dismissal by
                                   Kasavubu, leaves to join
                                   Gizenga, but is arrested and
                                   transferred to Katanga.

1961 January                       Lumumba killed on January 17,
                                   but his death not announced
                                   until February.

February                           College of Commissioners
                                   dissolved, and provisional
                                   government formed headed by
                                   Joseph Ileo.

July                               Continuing deliberations
                                   undertaken at three conferences
                                   earlier in 1961, parliament
                                   meets close to Léopoldville to
                                   work out framework for a
                                   reunified Congo; deputies from
                                   all provinces attend; secession
                                   of South Kasai ends.

August                             Cyrille Adoula named prime
                                   minister, August 2.

1963 January                       After two and a half years of
                                   conflict, Tshombe concedes
                                   defeat, and Katanga secession
                                   ends, January 14; Tshombe
                                   arrested and sent into exile.

1964 January                       Led by Pierre Mulele, rebellion
                                   breaks out in Kwilu area around

May                                Second rebellion, headed by
                                   Gaston Soumialot, begins in
                                   east and rapidly spreads.

July                               Tshombe recalled from exile and
                                   replaces Adoula as prime

August                             First postindependence
                                   constitution adopted.

December                           Eastern rebellion put down and
                                   Soumialot sent into exile.

1965 November                      Rivalry between Prime Minister
                                   Tshombe and President Kasavubu
                                   leads to government paralysis;
                                   Mobutu leads successful coup,
                                   November 24, dismisses Kasavubu
                                   and Tshombe, names himself as
                                   president, and appoints
                                   figurehead prime minister,
                                   Colonel Leonard Mulamba; these
                                   actions mark end of First

December                           Kwilu uprising ends, and Mulele
                                   goes into exile in Brazzaville;
                                   he later (1968) returns to
                                   Congo under amnesty but is

1966                               July Former Katangan gendarmes
                                   mutiny in Kisangani.

December                           Cities with European names
                                   gradually given African names.

1967 January                       Upper Katanga Mining Union
                                   (Union Minière du Haut-Katanga-
                                   -UMHK) nationalized.

April                              Popular Revolutionary Movement
                                   (Mouvement Populaire de la
                                   Révolution--MPR) created, April

May                                In Manifesto of N'Sele, Mobutu
                                   proclaims official ideologies.

June                               Second postindependence
                                   constitution proclaimed,
                                   removing virtually all
                                   political power from provinces
                                   and allowing president to rule
                                   by decree.

July                               Former Katangan gendarmes again
                                   mutiny in Kisangani.

1969                               June About thirty Lovanium
                                   University students
                                   killed in clashes with
                                   security forces.

1970 November                      Mobutu elected president in
                                   first presidential election,
                                   having already held office for
                                   five years.

1971-72                            Country's name changed to
                                   Zaire, October 1971; under
                                   policy of authenticity, all
                                   colonial or Christian names
                                   changed to Zairian ones, 1972;
                                   provinces now called regions
                                   and given non-European names.

1973 November                      Policy of Zairianization
                                   proclaimed; foreign-owned
                                   businesses and property
                                   expropriated and distributed to
                                   Zairian government officials,
                                   resulting in increasing
                                   economic chaos.

1974 August                        Revised version of 1967
                                   constitution promulgated,
                                   making MPR synonymous with

1975 November                      Policy of retrocession
                                   announced, returning much
                                   expropriated property to
                                   foreign owners.

1977 March                         Shaba I: Zairian insurgency
                                   group invades Shaba Region from
                                   Angola and is defeated, only
                                   with help from France and
                                   Morocco, by May.

October                            Legislative elections held.

December                           Mobutu reelected president,
                                   running unopposed.

1978 February                      Constitution revised; military
                                   establishment purged following
                                   discovery of coup plot.

May                                Shaba II: Same insurgent group
                                   launches another invasion of
                                   Shaba from Zambia and is again
                                   defeated only with help of
                                   French and Belgians.

June                               Pan-African peacekeeping force
                                   installed in Shaba and stays
                                   for over a year.

1982                               September Legislative
                                   elections held;
                                   multiple candidates
                                   allowed for first
                                   time; more than
                                   three-quarters of
                                   incumbents voted
                                   out; thirteen
                                   attempt to form
                                   second party and are

1984 July                          Mobutu reelected without

November                           Rebel forces occupy Moba in
                                   Shaba Region for two days
                                   before town recaptured by
                                   Zairian forces.

1985                               June Zaire celebrates twenty-
                                   five years of
                                   independence; on eve of
                                   celebration, guerrillas
                                   briefly occupy Moba

1987 September                     Legislative elections held.

1989 February                      Student disturbances break out
                                   in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi and
                                   result in violent clashes with
                                   armed police.

1990 April                         Third Republic declared on
                                   April 24; Mobutu promises
                                   national multiparty elections
                                   the following year.

May                                Protesting students at
                                   University of Lubumbashi
                                   massacred by government forces;
                                   as a result, Belgium, European
                                   Community, Canada, and United
                                   States ultimately cut off all
                                   but humanitarian aid to Zaire.

December                           Legislation permitting
                                   political parties to register
                                   finally passed.

1991 April-May                     Security forces intervene
                                   violently against

August                             National conference on
                                   political reform convened with
                                   ostensible mandate to draft new
                                   constitution as prelude to new
                                   elections; conference
                                   suspended, August 15.

September                          Unpaid paratroopers mutiny in
                                   Kinshasa and go on rampage,
                                   looting and violence spread;
                                   France and Belgium send troops
                                   to restore order and evacuate
                                   foreign nationals.

October                            Opposition leader Étienne
                                   Tshisekedi named prime minister
                                   in early October but fired by
                                   Mobutu a week later, spurring
                                   violent demonstrations; France
                                   joins other Western nations in
                                   cutting off economic aid to
                                   Zaire; Mobutu appoints Mungul-
                                   Diaka to succeed Tshisekedi.

November                           Mobutu names another opposition
                                   leader, Nguza Karl-i-Bond,
                                   prime minister.

December                           National conference reconvenes.

1992                               National conference activities
                                   periodically suspended by
                                   Mobutu; economy continues to
                                   deteriorate; Western nations
                                   call for Mobutu to step down,
                                   but he clings to power.

February                           Peaceful demonstrations by
                                   Christian groups violently
                                   broken up by security forces;
                                   up to forty-five killed and 100

April                              National conference meets,
                                   declares itself to have
                                   sovereign powers not only to
                                   draw up a new constitution but
                                   also to legislate a multiparty
                                   system; Transitional Act passed
                                   establishing new, transitional
                                   government; these actions
                                   constitute a direct challenge
                                   to Mobutu, who does not accept
                                   conference's authority.

August                             Newly named Sovereign National
                                   Conference elects Tshisekedi
                                   prime minister, precipitating
                                   violent confrontations in Shaba
                                   Region between supporters of
                                   Tshisekedi and Nguza; conflict
                                   between Tshisekedi and Mobutu
                                   over who runs government

1993 January                       Soldiers riot and loot
                                   following refusal by merchants
                                   to accept new Z5 million notes
                                   with which military personnel
                                   were paid; in ensuing violence
                                   dozens of soldiers killed by
                                   elite army unit loyal to
                                   Mobutu; French ambassador
                                   killed while watching violence
                                   from his office window.

March                              Mobutu dismisses Tshisekedi and
                                   names Faustin Birindwa prime
                                   minister of so-called
                                   government of national
                                   salvation; Birindwa names
                                   cabinet in April; Zaire now has
                                   two rival, parallel

October                            More rioting and looting occur
                                   when opposition parties promote
                                   boycott of new currency issue
                                   used to pay troops.

Data as of December 1993

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