Zaire Table of Contents
Congolese resistance to Belgian rule has a long history, traceable to the countless uprisings against the Congo Free State instigated by local chiefs--as among the Babua in 1903, 1904, and 1910, and the Budja in 1903 and 1905--and the mutinies of the Force Publique in 1895 and 1897. To these early "primary resistance" movements must be added the various independent African religious movements that flourished in the 1920s and 1930s. The Kimbanguist Church, founded by Simon Kimbangu in 1921, upheld a vision of spiritual salvation that attracted thousands of followers among the Bakongo and that the Belgians perceived as a threat (see The Kimbanguist Church , ch. 2). Much the same kind of messianic message was conveyed through other indigenous African religions, such as the Kitawala movement, which first appeared in the urban centers of Katanga in the 1920s. Although immediate measures were taken by Belgian officials to repress activities of these groups and to exile their members to distant areas, there can be little doubt that each of these early, proto-nationalist movements played an important role in forcing social protest into religious channels, and, in the case of Kimbanguism, into a powerful ethno-religious framework that helped structure and legitimize the nationalist aspirations of subsequent generations of Bakongo politicians.
Data as of December 1993