Joseph Kasavubu

Joseph Kasavubu

Joseph KASA-VUBU was born in 1917 in the village of Dizi, in Mayumbe: In 1925 he was enrolled with the catechumenate of Kizu mission, six kilometers from Tshela. This mission was founded in 1906 by the catholic and missionary order of Scheut: He was baptized on 31 January 1925; took his first communion on 1st February and was confirmed on 10 July the same year.

The following year he went back to his village; returning to Kizu only once a month where he was committed to receive communion: He lodged at the mission in 1927, during primary school, under the tutelage of the first black monitors formed by the Fathers.

The education he received from his family, particularly his eldest brother, Michel NSAMBU, turned out to be excellent and the Fathers enrolled him immediately in grade three. His reserve was noted, as was his intelligence and a hint of independence. The school principal had to choose, for the recruitment of vocations to priesthood, the best and most intelligent of his pupils. When the young boy completed grade four he was sent to carry on his studies at the small seminary of Mbata Kiela, fifty kilometers from Tshéla. He remained there for eight years, from 1929 to 1937.

These study years started with the seventh and eighth preparatory classes which were a continuation of primary studies, aimed at allowing the pupils to overcome their weaknesses in French.

Afterward came a program of Latin humanities, including the teaching of religion, Latin, French, Mathematics, History, Geography, and some Science.

One must agree that this syllabus was quite comprehensive and that it was by far the best in Congo. Joseph KASA-VUBU was a brilliant pupil, with a natural gift for religion and especially for mathematics. He excelled in the works of analysis and synthesis.

His classmates at the small seminary recall that he was a boy with great reserve, calm, tranquil, but with a mind that was never at rest, always posing questions, asking the why and the reasoning of things. Of extreme prudence, he was giving answers to his masters only when he was sure of himself. The teacher kept trying him and called him obstinate; he was obtaining from him only an exact reply or silence.

From 1936 to 1939, he studied philosophy at the grand seminary of Kabwe, in Kasaï. The syllabus of this seminary dedicated to Christ the King was spread out over eight years: three years of philosophy, after which a priesthood was considered likely, then five years of theology before being ordained.

In 1939, the young seminarist was among those of the group that completed their three-year philosophy program. Against all expectations, the religious authorities of the grand seminary, on the injunction of his Eminence Van Den Hoven, advised Joseph KASA-VUBU that it was advised that he go and work in the world. Keen to become a priest, KASA-VUBU found the consternation great.

What could anyone reproach the young KASA-VUBU? His intelligence was brilliant and his conduct blameless. Through an excess of scruples, they shattered a vocation, but they also gave the Congo the possibility to move more rapidly to independence. The adage “it was a blessing in disguise” is here a thousand times applied.

However, we must concede that some element was to his detriment: this was an inclination of his mind which consisted of refusing to bow in front of something that he could not fathom perfectly well. This led him naturally to always questioning, sometimes criticizing, and even proposing some reforms.

Of course, nothing was unruly in his attitude, even less disrespectful, no utterances against due forms. Nevertheless, there was a part of his mind that remained untouched by any teaching of the missionaries and still more, undoubtedly, to any attitude actually experienced by them, which they could not justify without resorting to the argument of authority.

As a result, a conflict became apparent during the course of an interview, which the young man had with father August SEVERYNS, his spiritual mentor.

Joseph KASA-VUBU had gone too far with his frankness, to the point of emphasizing his disagreement with the attitude of some missionaries and the evangelical teaching.

It appeared that the religious authorities decided that such a mind’s disposition, which could have been favorable under other circumstances, was actually one who would not be allowed in the priesthood.


© Marie-rose Kasavubu