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".
From 4th of January to Independence
"In a civilized world, independence is a status which embraces and guarantees freedom, order, progress. This can only be conceived by means of solid and well-balanced institutions; experienced administrative officials; a social, economical, financial organization firmly placed in the hands of experienced technicians; an intellectual and moral training of the population without which a democratic regime could only mean derision, deception and tyranny".
The negotiations that KASA-VUBU conducted in Léopoldville and in Brussels, with the new minister of Congo, Mr DE SCHRYVER, were to no avail. On the other hand, KASA-VUBU grouped around him and around ABAKO the political parties sharing his ideas. Thus, in December 1959, he convened in Kisantu an important congress of the parties favoring the thesis of a Congolese federation. He was fast becoming not only the representative of his own party, but also of a real national coalition.
A few weeks later, DE SCHRYVER convened in Brussels the political Round Table. The main groups present were the Cartel, on the one hand, the National Party of Progress (PNP), on the other hand, and the group of customary chiefs. The PNP was created in Coquilhatville in November and was regrouping some "non-extremist" parties. Among the personalities of the movement appeared Paul BOLYA, Albert DELVAUX, Jean-Pierre DERICOYARD. On the other hand, the delegation of customary chiefs was extremely important, as the Belgian government had insisted on associating them in great number to the works of the Round Table in their capacity as representatives of the "loyal mass". Other parties were, at that moment, more important because of their program or the support they enjoyed in some Belgian circles than because of their number: the (MNC) of LUMUMBA and the CONAKAT.
From the onset, KASA-VUBU would defend very hard positions. "(…) We are here to conclude all palaver. We must go straight to the problem. The Congolese demand the formation of a Congolese government".
KASA-VUBU also demanded the immediate organization of legislative elections. He denied at the conference the right to discuss Congo’s structures. He thought the Round Table should be established as a constituent: therefore, he expressed his wish to see the Congo endowed with a constitution reflecting the work of the Congolese themselves. After the conference rejected this proposition, KASA-VUBU, for several days, refused to attend. The conference of the Round Table ended with the adoption of sixteen resolutions serving for the preparation, by Belgium, of a provisional "fundamental law".
A considerable decentralization was ensured by resolution n°1 which already announced a "fundamental law" of the federal type, though the words "Federated States" are not reflected in the text. Another important resolution is the one which said the Head of State must be appointed by the Congolese Chambers before 30 June. Finally, the idea of a provisional government is partly implemented by the creation of Executive Colleges, at the level of the
General Government and Provinces which must enable the Congolese to gain experience in the realities of power. After the Round Table in Léopoldville, a general executive College was established, sharing decision-making powers with the Governor. KASA-VUBU is entrusted more particularly with economic and financial matters. At the legislative elections in May 1960, ABAKO wins all seats of the Lower-Congo and three seats out of four in Léopoldville.
Two political regroupings were created, one around the Congolese National Movement of Patrice LUMUMBA, the other under the title of National Union Cartel, around KASA-VUBU. LUMUMBA, appointed as creator, gains the trust of the Chambers on 23 June by 74 votes against 131. The following day, Joseph KASA-VUBU is elected Head of State, by the convened Chambers. He obtains 159 against of 213.
On 21, before the convened Chambers, president KASA-VUBU declares under the following statement:
"I swear to abide by the laws of the Congolese nation, to maintain the national independence and the integrity of the territory".
The Days of Independence
30 June 1960. The very day of the proclamation of Independence, the ambiguity of the Belgian decolonization policy and the will of the Congolese government to no longer accept Belgian paternalism still remains in the eyes of the world in some way a profound disagreement between the two countries.
The solemn proclamation of Independence took place on 30 June at the palace of the Nation. The Belgian King declared that, despite the greatest hardship, his country was happy to have given the Congo the framework necessary for a country heading towards the path of development. Conclusion of this panegyric eulogy: "it is now up to you to show that we are right to entrust you (…). Do not compromise the future by hasty reforms(…). Do not fear to turn yourselves towards us".
Moreover, this speech was partial, not only in the sense that would be put forward by Prime Minister LUMUMBA, but also if one recalls what Belgium failed to accomplish in the Congo. The Belgian government was well aware that, besides Independence, none of the promises made by the King, in the name of Belgium, in his message on 13 January 1959, had been implemented in the Congo by 30 June 1960.
In his words, president KASA-VUBU called once again on the Congolese to unite in concerted efforts, pains and work. In July, the Congo faced a serious crisis accompanied by a threat of foreign intervention. Together with his prime minister, the president tried everywhere to calm minds, while granting his support to the measures taken by the government aimed at safeguarding national independence. On 5 September 1960, facing an escalating situation, the threat of a civil war and the massacre of innocent people, president KASA-VUBU decided to use his constitutional right to dismiss members of government. The fact that the chief of government, LUMUMBA, rebelled against this decision, created an especially painful conflict. During the dark period that followed, president KASA-VUBU used his untiring patience to restore in the Congo the union of spirits and hearts.
During the course of political conferences, which were held successively in Tananarive and in Coquilhaville, he managed to safeguard the integrity of the territory and to progressively re-establish the unity of the country.
The president’s efforts were crowned by the constitution, in August 1961, in Lovanium, of a government of national unity presided by Mr Cyrille ADOULA.
On the re-opening of parliament, president KASA-VUBU declared: "Parliament is an essential political institution for our country. We had to allow it, as soon as possible, to resume once again the legislative power and control the government appointed by the chief of State….
"It is with emotion, with a real sigh of relief, that I salute the resumption of Parliament. Messrs Senators, Messrs Deputies, I think that today is the most important date since our independence for, matured and fortified by the experience of sorrow, you are all gathered here together, determined to adequately forget what opposes you, and to seek first and foremost to save the country. It is mainly your will of understanding, it is your will to achieve, which enabled the re-opening of parliament".
Afterward, to ensure the harmonious running of the national institutions, the chief of State played a dominant role. The legislative chambers frequently invited him to inaugurate their sessions. In turn, the government requested his support.
Fully exercising his duties as arbitrator, the president, in his message to the nation on 4 November 1962, notably declared: "We know the wariness of the members of parliament following some rumors stating the forthcoming dissolution of the legislative chambers. Let them be fully reassured. We have no intention whatsoever to proceed under the present circumstances, by virtue of the power conferred to us by law, into putting the chambers in abeyance. However, we believe that deputies and senators may not and must not, ignore this opinion expressed nor minimize it. On the contrary, their whole action must tend to correct it. So, it is important to seek the source of trouble in order to bring about some efficient remedy".
Alas, this warning was not to be heeded. In fact, on a very important point, that of the convening of a constituent called upon to replace the fundamental law, worked out by the Belgian parliament, the Congolese chambers refused to fulfill their tasks. One last time, on 26 August 1963, convening an extraordinary session of parliament to elaborate the constitution, the president of the Republic scolded the body: "Today, we can envisage the future without much apprehension and strain ourselves to work towards the consolidation of the national structure. Now, the basis of this structure, the so-called foundation of the nation, is the constitution, i.e. the law which sets the political, economic and social status thereof and which guides it in its advancement towards the achievement of its great destiny. The formulation of the fundamental charter becomes a national must, because this charter must define the respective attributes of the state powers and the provincial bodies, influence their initiatives, harmonize their political and administrative action for the safeguard of public issues and the vital interests of the nation".
The Days after Independence
“Special circumstances have compelled us to live up until now a proper constitution. This situation entailed this dangerous crisis during which anarchy prevailed in our country, even greatly risking the sovereignty of our young Republic”.
“By one of these miracles of history which are not often repeated, the Congolese nation has survived. Now that the crisis is over, it is my duty as Head of State to do everything in my power to prevent the recurrence of similar circumstances, and to avoid perpetuating an unstable situation. And it will be perpetuated, believe me, if we neglect to endow our country with a constitution”.
“No legislative elections without constitution. The renewal of the chambers must take place soon, therefore it is extremely urgent that the date be set on which the people will be called upon to appoint its new representatives and the methods according to which these great offices must be held. Failing to formulate the constitution within the desired period of time, will run us the risk of finding ourselves in a void and replacing it during a problematic situation with unpredictable consequences”.
A few days later, faced with the chambers’ indifference, president KASA-VUBU decided to put them in abeyance and to convene a constitutional conference composed of Congolese from all regions of the Congo and all social classes.
On 10 January 1964, in Luluabourg, during the solemn opening of the constitutional commission works, the Head of State declared to the participants: “The task which the elite people were unable to fulfil is now, Sirs, incumbent upon you. Your mandate, you received from the Congolese people itself which dictated and approved my decision. Derived from all circles and from all classes of society, you represent here the most complete spectrum of the national opinion. Could we have found a better representation than that of today’s assembly? Who could rightfully contest what you undertake during the course of your work starting from today?”
Only the people’s verdict will settle the matter. This verdict will approve your work if, throwing aside your personal and particular concerns and forgetting your problems, you devote yourselves to scrupulously implementing the real desires and profound aspirations of the populace. The important issue is not what you desire, but what the people desire. I insist – and we have the proof – the opposite will inevitably lead to a divorce between mandators and mandated.
“However, this respect of the popular will does not exclude its control by those who legally withhold the mandate. For, it is also for them an imperious task to meticulously scrutinize the fully justified will and its consequences. It is a task which, besides, they may not avoid and the implementation of which is fully entrusted to them because they themselves are able to estimate in advance the effects of an action in its subsequent development.
“It is the task of the leaders to guide people towards the path which can ensure the happiness to which they aspire and towards which all efforts are converging”.
The constitutional commission did a good job and worded a text that was adopted by popular referendum and promulgated on 1st August 1964.
The Last Days
Like most of the Congolese people, President KASA-VUBU learned of his own removal from power over the national radio, by the same man who he had just promoted ten days earlier to the highest rank in the Army. On 24 November 1965, KASA-VUBU relinquished power after a putsch organized by general MOBUTU.
According to him, after this coup, the father of independence found himself under house arrest. Then he had to leave Kinshasa, hastily and under escort, to join Boma where he lived in destitution unable to meet his most elementary vital needs. It must be stressed here that the strongman of the new regime would proclaim, before the whole nation, that from then on the deposed President would be granted for the rest of his life the privileges conferred to him in his capacity as Senator for life. Unfortunately, this was only a false promise.
This voice which had untiringly clamored for the rights of the Congolese people single-handedly, had to pass away on 24 March 1969, in Boma, under house arrest. Fortified with the last rites of the Catholic Church, his last words were, among others, the collective forgiveness… "May God bless the Congo and enlighten its leaders…."
Funerals and a national mourning were decreed by general MOBUTU who was in Germany at that time, on a State visit. He disrupted all official activities, and at his request a solemn requiem mass was celebrated in the Church Saint Laurent in Munich for the rest of the soul of the illustrious deceased.
MOBUTU expressed the wish that his predecessor be buried in the Congolese capital and, at his express order, a provisional burial was arranged in Kalina’s graveyard under the supervision of Joseph N’SINGA, the then Minister of Interior in charge of organizing national funerals. But the family was opposed to it.
Seeking to reveal the truth about the trials and tribulations which President KASA-VUBU suffered since his ouster and up to this death, the KASA-VUBU family resolved to reveal a few peculiar and revolting scenes to inform both the national and international press of the facts.
On 24 March 1969, KASA-VUBU felt some discomfort at his property in Boma where he is confined. The family calls Dr. DUVALSAINT who arrives immediately. Unfortunately, the latter is not authorized to go by the patient’s bedside, the guards assigned to the surveillance of the former President of the Republic officially prohibiting him to enter the gate, for about three hours.
In the midst of all this, His Eminence NDUDI arrives. He was also called at Mr KASA-VUBU’s bedside to eventually administer his last rites.
On the insistence of the Catholic Prelate, the guards agree to let doctor DUVALSAINT enter who, soon after, sought to spare his patient the first emergency aid. But unfortunately the respiratory generator for oxygenation was defective.
Dr DUVALSAINT went to the hospital for another generator. Upon returning to the residence of Mr KASA-VUBU, he would again find the door locked. After persuasion, the guards, obviously out of respect for the Bishop, let him in. But it was too late. President KASA-VUBU had already expired.
This strange scene throws some new light on the actual context that motivated the messages of widow KASA-VUBU at the Sovereign National Conference on 27 May 1992. It is known that on 24 March 1969 at 3h00 a.m., before dying, Mr KASA-VUBU had confided to His Eminence NDUDI the following poignant message:
"Your Eminence, when next you see MOBUTU, tell him on my behalf: That he does not mortgage that national independence, because we suffered a lot for collateral. …" The cruelties and abuses will pursue the President even after his death. Here is some illustration:
The President’s death confirmed, the body had to be taken to the hospital morgue in Boma for the appropriate care and, oddly, there was no ambulance. The widow and the driver would find themselves compelled to carry the body in a motor car.
At the same time, the guards assigned to the surveillance of the residence proceed to the morgue. Towards 4h00 a.m., one of these guards would go as far as unscrewing the bulb that lighted the morgue, before throwing out of gear the whole electrical installation. But that will not prevent widow KASA-VUBU from supervising the care of her husband’s dead body.
That same day, two other events merit mention. In the evening, during the course of the burial vigil, an individual came to the residence to cut off the electrical supply, under the pretext of not having settled Regideso’s bill amounting to twelve Zaires, i.e. the equivalent of 24 US dollars.
Two decades later, following investigation, and according to the admission of the person concerned, it would be revealed that that power cut was ordered by some highly placed authorities of the region, to persecute and debase President KASA-VUBU. Each time everything was pre-arranged, so that Mr KASA-VUBU was always unable to settle his water and electricity bills.
Another cruel and scandalous event, that same night: towards 1h00 a.m., the developer of the municipality of Patu, called MABUMBI Sylver, alias Magosif, through excessive zeal, would publicly announce the order to withdraw the body and to immediately place it in a coffin.
That same night, the telephone line 212 (KASA-VUBU residence) rang. The widow answered. It is the Minister of the Interior, Joseph N’SINGA, who declared on the line that he received from President MOBUTU, who was in Germany at the time, express orders to take in charge all the problems linked to the funeral of the illustrious deceased. He announced that in this respect an aircraft would be sent to Boma to bring the body back to Kinshasa.
The widow was dumbstruck. She can hardly believe that the high authorities of the State could plan such measures when her husband was living under house arrest, lacking even the right to cross the gate of his residence without raising all sorts of fuss such as search of cars and visitors. The family will convince the widow of the futility of such a refusal. So, she resigns herself to the fact that the body will be sent to Kinshasa. The aircraft which arrived in Boma would have on board a governmental delegation including Messrs. Prosper MADRANDELE, Director of the M.P.R. Political Bureau (Popular Movement of the Revolution), Alphonse ILUNGA, Minister of Public Works, Ambassador KALIMASI etc.
The Last Days
This is how the body of President KASA-VUBU will be arriving in Kinshasa and, after the embalming instructed by Doctor BASTIN, it will be exposed at the Palace of the Nation for 48 hours. An ardent chapel was organized in honor of the deceased President where the people and the Constituted Bodies would stream past.
The burial procession would march towards the Palace of the Nation up to Notre Dame Cathedral of Congo where His Eminence Cardinal Joseph MALULA officiates the solemn requiem mass.
Transfer of the body to the city of Matadi will be carried out aboard the Air Force aircraft C 130.
Thousands of people cried for the former President of the Republic. Kinshasa paid a final and vibrant homage to the man who was the first to beat the drums for immediate and unconditional independence.
Burial took place on 28 March in his Singini village, in the presence of government delegates and diplomatic corps. His region would mourn him for a whole year.
For all the Congolese, KASA-VUBU remains first and foremost the Father of the Independence of Congo, the man who stirred, guided and led to the end the national movement of liberation. On his return to the country, president MOBUTU will pay tribute and bow before the grave of his illustrious predecessor.
As an epitaph, we could find no better words than the touching words of Mr J. KASA-VUBU, pronounced in front of Charles-André GILLIS, his biographer:
"The future will be brilliant. Congo has all the chances. Our quarrels will be temporary. Our difficulties are those of growth, they are due to circumstances. I see a very grand, very prosperous future for the Congo…. Then, suddenly, the tone changes:
"As for me, I have accomplished the mission entrusted to me.
I have been the promoter. God gave me an inspiration.
I must fulfil it. Then, it will be finished. I have only one ambition, to give the country a good start. Thereafter, the country will do what it will deem fit. The young will take over the running. If necessary, I shall retire. Maybe a revolution will give a better orientation… would it really be for the best for the Congo? …."
The face remained expressionless, but the voice slightly betrayed his emotion.
ANALYSIS OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN KASA-VUBU AND MOBUTU
Relationships between general MOBUTU and his predecessor had always been marked with paradoxes.
In reality, General MOBUTU had always shown KASA-VUBU a deep feeling of respect and regard. Unfortunately, lobbyists very close to MOBUTU had always poisoned a climate of entente, in order to preserve selfish interests.
For example, here are some acts of president MOBUTU which are symptomatic of these paradoxes. One notes that since his return from Singini in 1969, where he went to bow before the grave of his predecessor, President MOBUTU would later on take a series of astounding decisions:
1-In 1971, President MOBUTU renamed the Dendale Commune, Avenue King BAUDOUIN and Cabu Bridge, which will henceforth bear the name of KASA-VUBU.
2-In May 1971, General MOBUTU orders for account of the National Marine Company (CMZ) a high sea ship to Japan named "MV Joseph KASA-VUBU" which will be christened by widow Kasa-Vubu. The christening will take place on 10 May 1971 in the Japanese city of Innoshima.
3-In 1980 president MOBUTU, accompanied by his second wife Madame BOBI LADAWA, returned for the second time to the village of Singini, bowed again before the grave of President KASA-VUBU without previously informing the family.
Questioned about this surprise visit the latter will declare that, being at home everywhere in Zaire, he did not have to ask for special permission from anyone.
4-In 1984, president MOBUTU ordered, in North Korea, a statue of president KASA-VUBU who he, himself, had proclaimed a National Hero.
5-In 1981, KASA-VUBU’s widow was decorated Commander of the National Order of the Leopard. Then, for the second time, she became Grand Officer of the same Order in November 1986.
In the same context, president MOBUTU proposed transferring the remains of president KASA-VUBU for a final interment before the place of the Palace of the Nation instead of the King LEOPOLD II monument.
A monument had to be erected there bearing the statue of president KASA-VUBU.