Today, June 30th, marks the Independence Day public holiday in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On June 30th, 1960, DR Congo declared independence from its former colonial ruler Belgium. Patrice Lumumba was named the first Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, though he served for only three brief months. His goal of a unified Congo has led to the creation of a separate Heroes’ Day public holiday on January 17th, the anniversary of his assassination in 1961.
Though many African countries gained their independence during the 1960s and 1970s, 1960 itself is a year that many countries declared independence from their colonial rulers. These countries include: Madagascar (June 26th), Cote d’Ivoire (August 7th) and Chad (August 11th) from the French, among with many others; and Nigeria (October 1st) from Britain.
Many DRC citizens struggle to believe that independence truly exists, as the country is still indulged in armed conflicts in the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu and widespread social and economic underdevelopment. For these reasons, the Independence Day holiday has been celebrated by fewer people.
Since its declaration of Independence from Belgium in 1960, the DRC has experienced consecutive undemocratic governments. It has adopted three different constitutions, with its most recent 2006 Constitution having been amended in 2011, the year of the country’s most recent presidential election.
2016 was shaping up to be a step forward in light of a peaceful and stable democratic government in the DRC, as presidential elections were planned. However, a deal was signed between President Joseph Kabila (who has been in office since 2001) and the opposition to delay the elections until 2017. This was extremely controversial and has led to continued discord in the DRC, as President Kabila added another year making it two additional years to his second term (the maximum allowed under the constitution). Elections are currently set to take place in December 2018.
By Brandon Beck