From 4th of January Independence

The ABAKO section of the Kalamu municipality announced a meeting on the premises of the YMCA for Sunday 4 January 1959 at 14h00. This meeting follows the conference held a week previously, by delegates to the Pan African Conference in Accra for which KASA-VUBU could not obtain a visa. One must note the new concept appearing during these discussions, namely Pan Africanism. What would be KASA-VUBU’s attitude?

One week prior to the governmental declaration announced by the minister VAN HEMELRYCK for 13 January, it was a sure bet that the president of ABAKO would seize the opportunity to publicly express his views. The colonial administration, fearing the consequences of such an obvious political opportunity, prohibited the meeting. KASA-VUBU – some time before 15h00, went to the YMCA premises, gave a small speech to calm down the population who gathered despite the ban. The over-excited crowd could hardly fathom what he said.

"Today’s section meeting is postponed to 18 January 1959. You are all waiting anxiously to hear about the development of your destiny. You claimed your independence. The Belgian government will issue its declaration on 13 of this month. Have faith. The representatives will study the reply of the Belgian government. Depart and have faith in your request". Soon after the president of ABAKO arrived at home, blood flowed as skirmishes between policemen and protesters erupted and widespread rioting broke out. After the Police Force intervened, tens of people were left dead and injured.

For the Europeans, there was no doubt that the person responsible for the rioting could only be KASA-VUBU, the man who hates the Whites, the xenophobe, the man who incites the people against the authority, the ambitious and pretentious man. The legal authorities capitulated to the weight of public opinion. As for the administration, it finally had found the opportunity to avenge itself.

From 5 January, under the pretext of "KASA-VUBU’s abstention before the disorders occurring in his municipality", he is dismissed from his functions as Mayor and the Public Prosecutor’s department decrees his warrant of arrest. But KASA-VUBU is not at home, he cannot be found. Meanwhile, the main leaders of ABAKO are arrested, while others took refuge in Brazzaville to constitute a "committee of defense". A few days later, KASA-VUBU presented himself to the authorities. He, in turn, is arrested and imprisoned. It has since been proved that these arrests were an error, not only on the political level but also on the legal level. Minister VAN HEMELRYCK realized it, and falling out of the good graces of the colonial administration, he himself arrived in Léopoldville to free KASA-VUBU.

In Belgium, the events of 4 January 1959 provoked some kind of collapse. Suddenly, the whole "Congo dream", the great Belgian dream of a model and harmonious colony has suddenly fallen apart. Belgian public opinion is disturbed. Since perfect colonisation is no longer possible, is a perfect decolonisation not the best solution? In any event, no more riots, no more repression, no more blood, the Belgian people reckon. Finally, the Belgian

Parliament sent to the Congo a parliamentary commission of enquiry which landed in Léopoldville on 14 January.

On 13 January a great event took place: the governmental declaration. The Minister of Congo decided to adopt all the conclusions made by the workshop except one point of substantial psychological extent: Belgium’s explicit promise to lead the Congo towards Independence. The report does not contain the word independent, while at the same time clearly posing the issue. Faced with the insistence of the Congolese academics wanting the word "independence" mentioned in the report, the governmental declaration is finally preceded by a royal message. The key article can be summarized as follows:

"Our resolution today is to lead, without disastrous prevarication, but also without inconsiderate haste, the Congolese populations towards independence, in prosperity and in peace".

© Marie-rose Kasavubu