The area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. by Bantus from present-dayNigeria. During its history the area has also been known as Congo, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo and Zaire. The Kingdom of Kongo was a powerful kingdom that existed from the 14th to the 18th century. It was the dominant force in the region until the arrival of the Portuguese. Second in importance was the Anziku Kingdom.
Congo Free State (1885–1908)
The Congo Free State was a corporate state privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians through the Association Internationale Africaine, a non-governmental organization. Leopold was the sole shareholder and chairman. The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo. Under Leopold II’s administration, the Congo Free State became the site of one of the most infamous international scandals of the turn of the twentieth century. The report of the British ConsulRoger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for cold-blooded killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903, including one Belgian national for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives. Estimates of the total death toll vary considerably. In the absence of a census, the first was made in 1924, it is even more difficult to quantify the population loss of the period. Roger Casement’s famous 1904 report estimated ten million people. According to Casement’s report, indiscriminate “war”, starvation, reduction of births and tropical diseasescaused the country’s depopulation.
The European and U.S. press agencies exposed the conditions in the Congo Free State to the public in 1900. By 1908 public and diplomatic pressure led Leopold II to the annex the Congo as the Belgian Congocolony.
Belgian Congo (1908–1960)
On November 15, 1908 King Léopold II of Belgium formally relinquished personal control of the Congo Free State. The renamed Belgian Congo came under the administration of the Belgian parliament, which lasted until independence was granted in 1960.
The Belgian administration might be most charitably characterized as paternalistic colonialism. Roman Catholic and Protestant churches dominated the education system and the curricula reflected Christian and Western values. In 1948 Christian missions controlled 99.6% of educational facilities. They had little regard for native culture and beliefs. Native schools provided a mainly religious and vocational education.
The Congo Crisis (1960–1965)
Following a series of riots and unrest, the Belgians realised they could not maintain control of such a vast country. The Belgians announced on January 27, 1960 that they would relinquish control in six months. The Congo was granted its independence on June 30, 1960, adopting the name “Republic of the Congo” (République du Congo). As the French colony of Middle Congo (Moyen Congo) also chose the name Republic of Congo upon receiving its independence, the two countries were more commonly known as Congo-Léopoldville and Congo-Brazzaville, after their capital cities. President Mobutu changed the country’s official name to Zaire in 1966.
In 1960, the country was in a very unstable state—regional tribal leaders held far more power than the central government—and with the departure of the Belgian administrators, there were almost no skilled bureaucrats left in the country. The first Congolese university graduate was only in 1956, and virtually no one in the new nation had any idea of how to manage a country of such size.
Parliamentary elections in 1960 produced the nationalist Patrice Lumumba as prime minister and pro-Western Joseph Kasavubu as president of the renamed Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Even from this fleeting moment of independence democracy began to unravel. A military coup broke out in the capital and rampant looting began. On July 11 the richest province of the country, Katanga, seceded under Moise Tshombe. The United Nations sent 20,000 peacekeepers to protect Europeans in the country and try to restore order. Western paramilitaries and mercenaries, often hired by mining companies to protect their interests, also began to pour into the country. In this same period Congo’s second richest province, Kasai, also announced its independence.
Prime Minister Lumumba turned to the USSR for assistance. Nikita Khrushchev agreed to help, offering advanced weaponry and technical advisors. The United States viewed the Soviet presence as an attempt to take advantage of the situation and gain a proxy state in sub-Saharan Africa. UN forces were ordered to block any shipments of arms into the country. The United States also looked for a way to replace Lumumba as leader. President Kasavubu had clashed with Prime Minister Lumumba and advocated an alliance with the West rather than the Soviets. The U.S. sent weapons and CIA personnel to aid forces allied with Kasavubu and combat the Soviet presence. In December 1960, with U.S. and CIA support, Kasavubu and his loyal Colonel Joseph Mobutu overthrew the government. Lumumba was assassinated by Mobutu cronies with support of the Belgian government soon after; some have alleged that U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower gave the CIA direct orders to assassinate Lumumba, but this has never been confirmed. According the same sources, the American government was also in support of such an action. After some reverses, UN and Congolese government forces succeeded in recapturing the breakaway provinces of Katanga and South Kasai. In Stanleyville, those loyal to the deposed Lumumba set up a rival government under Antoine Gizenga. Belgian, British, and U.S. troops helped end the rebellion.
Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until 1965, when Lieutenant General Mobutu, by then commander in chief of the national army, seized control of the country and declared himself president for five years. Mobutu quickly consolidated his power and was elected unopposed as president in 1970. Embarking on a campaign of cultural awareness, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire and required citizens to adopt African names. Relative peace and stability prevailed until 1977 and 1978 when Katangan rebels, based in Angola, launched a series of invasions (Shaba I and II) into the Shaba (Katanga) region. The rebels were driven out with the aid of Belgian paratroopers.
Zaire remained a one-party state in the 1980s. Although Mobutu successfully maintained control during this period, opposition parties, most notably the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Social (UDPS), were active. Mobutu’s attempts to quell these groups drew significant international criticism.
As the Cold War came to a close, internal and external pressures on Mobutu increased. In late 1989 and early 1990, Mobutu was weakened by a series of domestic protests, by heightened international criticism of his regime’s human rights practices, by a faltering economy, and by government corruption, most notably his massive embezzlement of government funds for personal use.
In April 1990, Mobutu declared the Third Republic, agreeing to a limited multi-party system with elections and a constitution. As details of a reform package were delayed, soldiers in September 1991 began lootingKinshasa to protest their unpaid wages. Two thousand French and Belgian troops, some of whom were flown in on U.S. Air Force planes, arrived to evacuate the 20,000 endangered foreign nationals in Kinshasa.
In 1992, after previous similar attempts, the long-promised Sovereign National Conference was staged, encompassing over 2,000 representatives from various political parties. The conference gave itself a legislative mandate and elected Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo as its chairman, along with Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, leader of the UDPS, as prime minister. By the end of the year Mobutu had created a rival government with its own prime minister. The ensuing stalemate produced a compromise merger of the two governments into the High Council of Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in 1994, with Mobutu as head of state and Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister. Although presidential and legislative elections were scheduled repeatedly over the next two years, they never took place.
First and Second Congo Wars (1996–2003)
By 1996, tensions from the neighboring Rwanda war and genocide had spilled over to Zaire: see History of Rwanda. Rwandan Hutu militia forces (Interahamwe), who had fled Rwanda following the ascension of a Tutsi-led government, had been using Hutu refugees camps in eastern Zaire as a basis for incursion against Rwanda. These Hutu militia forces soon allied with the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire. In turn, these Tutsis formed a militia to defend themselves against attacks. When the Zairian government began to escalate its massacres in November 1996, the Tutsi militias erupted in rebellion against Mobutu.
The Tutsi militia was soon joined by various opposition groups and supported by several countries, including Rwanda and Uganda. This coalition, led by Laurent-Desire Kabila, became known as the Alliance des Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Congo-Zaïre (AFDL). The AFDL, now seeking the broader goal of ousting Mobutu, made significant military gains in early 1997. Following failed peace talks between Mobutu and Kabila in May 1997, Mobutu left the country, and Kabila marched unopposed to Kinshasa on May 20. Kabila named himself president, consolidated power around himself and the AFDL, and reverted the name of the country to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kabila demonstrated little ability to manage the problems of his country, and lost his allies. Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), led by the warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba, attacked in August 1998, backed by Rwandan and Ugandan troops. Soon afterwards, Angola, Namibia, and Zimbabwe became involved militarily in the Congo, with Angola and Zimbabwe supporting the government. While the six African governments involved in the war signed a ceasefire accord in Lusaka in July 1999, the Congolese rebels did not and the ceasefire broke down within months. Kabila was assassinated in January 2001 by one of his bodyguards, and was succeeded by his son Joseph. Upon taking office, Kabila called for multilateral peace talks to end the war. He partly succeeded in February 2001 when a further peace deal was brokered between Kabila, Rwanda and Uganda leading to the apparent withdrawal of foreign troops. UN peacekeepers, MONUC, arrived in April 2001.
Currently the Ugandans and the MLC still hold a 200-mile (320 km) wide section of the north of the country; Rwandan forces and its front, the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) control a large section of the east; and government forces or their allies hold the west and south of the country. There were reports that the conflict is being prolonged as a cover for extensive looting of the substantial natural resources in the country, including diamonds, copper, zinc, and coltan. The conflict was reignited in January 2002 by ethnic clashes in the northeast and both Uganda and Rwanda then halted their withdrawal and sent in more troops. Talks between Kabila and the rebel leaders, held in Sun City, lasted a full six weeks, beginning in April 2002. In June, they signed a peace accord in which Kabila would share power with former rebels. By June 2003, all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo.
Transitional government (2003–2006)
DR Congo had a transitional government in July 2003 until the election was over. A constitution was approved by voters and on July 30, 2006 the Congo held its first multi-party elections since independence in 1960. After this Joseph Kabila took 45% of the votes and his opponent Jean-Pierre Bemba took 20%. That was the origin of a fight between the two parts from August 20-22, 2006 in the streets of the capital, Kinshasa. Sixteen people died before policemen and UN mission MONUC took control of the city. A new election was held on October 29, 2006, which Kabila won with 70% of the vote. Bemba has publicly commented on election “irregularities,” despite the fact that every neutral observer has praised the elections. On December 6, 2006 the Transitional Government came to an end as Joseph Kabila was sworn in as President.
The fragility of the state has allowed continued violence and human rights abuses in the east. There are three significant centers of conflict:
North and South Kivu, where Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) continues to threaten the Rwandan border and the Banyamulenge, and where Rwanda supports RCD-Goma rebels against Kinshasa (see Kivu war).
Ituri, where MONUC has proved unable to contain the numerous militia and groups driving the Ituri conflict
Northern Katanga, where Mai-Mai created by Laurent Kabila slipped out of the control of Kinshasa.
In October 2009 a new conflict started in Dongo, Sud-Ubangi District where clashes had broken out over access to fishing ponds.
The history of Jamaica is a rich and vibrant one, which inspires us to move forward as a nation. Our history speaks to experiences of hardships and prosperity; and the growth and determination of a people. Jamaica’s history has been poetically composed by Howard Pyle, who states:
Jamaica, like many another of the West Indian Islands, is like a woman with a history. She has had her experiences and has lived her life rapidly. She has enjoyed a fever of prosperity founded upon those incalculable treasures poured into her lap by the old time buccaneer pirates. She has suffered earthquake, famine, pestilence, fire and death: and she has been the home of cruel merciless slavery, hardly second to that practised by the Spaniards themselves. Other countries have taken centuries to grow from their primitive life through the flower and fruit of prosperity into the seed time of picturesque decrepitude. Jamaica has lived through it all in a few years.
- Howard Pyle, “Jamaica New and Old” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, January 1890
The original inhabitants of Jamaica are believed to be the Arawaks, also called Tainos. They came from South America 2,500 years ago and named the island Xaymaca, which meant ““land of wood and water”. The Arawaks were a mild and simple people by nature. Physically, they were light brown in colour, short and well-shaped with coarse, black hair. Their faces were broad and their noses flat.
They grew cassava, sweet potatoes, maize (corn), fruits, vegetables, cotton and tobacco. Tobacco was grown on a large scale as smoking was their most popular pastime.
They built their villages all over the island but most of them settled on the coasts and near rivers as they fished to get food. Fish was also a major part of their diet.
The Arawaks led quiet and peaceful lives until they were destroyed by the Spaniards some years after Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1494.
The Discovery of Jamaica
On May 5, 1494 Christopher Columbus, the European explorer, who sailed west to get to the East Indies and came upon the region now called the West Indies, landed in Jamaica. This occurred on his second voyage to the West Indies. Columbus had heard about Jamaica, then called Xaymaca, from the Cubans who described it as “the land of blessed gold”. Columbus was soon to find out that there was no gold in Jamaica.
On arrival at St Ann’s Bay, Columbus found the Arawak Indians inhabiting the island. Initially, Columbus thought these Indians were hostile, as they attacked his men when they tried to land on the island. As he was determined to annex the island in the name of the king and queen of Spain, he was not deterred. Columbus also needed wood and water and a chance to repair his vessels. He sailed down the coast and docked at Discovery Bay. The Arawaks there were also hostile to the Spaniards. Their attitudes changed however, when they were attacked by a dog from one of the Spanish ships and Columbus’ cross-bow men. Some of the Arawaks were killed and wounded in this attack. Columbus was then able to land and claim the island.
The Spaniards, when they came, tortured and killed the Arawaks to get their land. They were so overworked and ill-treated that within a short time they had all died. The process was aided by the introduction of European diseases to which the Arawaks had little or no resistance.
The island remained poor under Spanish rule as few Spaniards settled here. Jamaica served mainly as a supply base: food, men, arms and horse were shipped here to help in conquering the American mainland.
Fifteen years later in 1509, after their first visit to the island, the first Spanish colonists came here under the Spanish governor Juan de Esquivel. They first settled in the St. Ann’s Bay area. The first town was called New Seville or Sevilla la Nueva.
Towns were little more than settlements. The only town that was developed was Spanish Town, the old capital of Jamaica, then called St. Jago de la Vega. It was the centre of government and trade and had many churches and convents.
The little attention the colony received from Spain soon led to a major reason for internal strife. This contributed to the weakening of the colony in the last years of Spanish occupation. The governors were not getting proper support from home and quarrels with church authorities undermined their control. Frequent attacks by pirates also contributed to the colony’s woes.
The English Attack
On May 10, 1655, Admiral William Penn and General Robert Venables led a successful attack on Jamaica. The Spaniards surrendered to the English, freed their slaves and then fled to Cuba. It was this set of freed slaves and their descendants who became known as the Maroons.
The early period of English settlement in Jamaica, drew much attention to the buccaneers based at Port Royal. Buccaneering had begun on the islands of Tortuga and Hispaniola. They were a wild, rough and ruthless set of sea rovers. They took their loot of gold, silver and jewels to Port Royal.
Port Royal prior to this time was an insignificant town in Jamaica. Under the buccaneers’ leadership the town, within a decade and a half, grew to become known as one of the “wealthiest and wickedest city in the world”.
The greatest buccaneer captain of all was Henry Morgan. He started out as a pirate and later became a privateer. Morgan mercilessly raided Spanish fleet and colonies. He kept the Spaniards busy defending their coasts that they had little time to attack Jamaica. Morgan was knighted by king Charles II of England and was appointed Lieutenant governor of Jamaica in 1673. Morgan died in 1688.
A violent earthquake destroyed Port Royal on June 7, 1692. The survivors of the earthquake who re-settled in Kingston abandoned the Port. Port Royal became an important naval base in the eighteenth century.
The Slave Trade
The English settlers concerned themselves with growing crops that could easily be sold in England. Tobacco, indigo and cocoa soon gave way to sugar which became the main crop for the island.
The sugar industry grew so rapidly that the 57 sugar estates in the island in 1673 grew to nearly 430 by 1739.
Enslaved Africans filled the large labour force required for the industry. The colonists were impressed with the performance and endurance of the Africans, as well as the fact that African labour was cheaper and more promising. They continued to ship Africans to the West Indies to be sold to planters who forced them to work on sugar plantations.
The slave trade became a popular and profitable venture for the colonists. In fact the transportation of slaves became such a regular affair that the journey from Africa to the West Indies became known as the ‘Middle Passage’. The voyage was so named because the journey of a British slaver was 3-sided, starting from England with trade goods, to Africa where these were exchanged for slaves. Afterwards, the journey continued to the West Indies where the slaves were landed and sugar, rum and molasses taken aboard for the final leg of the journey back to England.
The slaves, however, were unhappy with their status, so they rebelled whenever they could. Many of them were successful in running away from the plantations and joining the Maroons in the almost inaccessible mountains.
Several slave rebellions stand out in Jamaica’s history for example, the Easter Rebellion of 1760 led by Tacky; and the Christmas Rebellion of 1831 which began on the Kensington Estate in St. James, led by Sam Sharpe. He has since been named a National Hero.
The Maroons also had several wars against the English. In 1739 and 1740 after two major Maroon Wars, treaties were signed with the British. In the treaty of 1740, they were given land and rights as free men. In return they were to stop fighting and help to recapture run-away slaves. This treaty resulted in a rift among the Maroons as they did not all agree that they should return run-away slaves to the plantations.
The frequent slave rebellions in the Caribbean was one factor that led to the abolition of the slave trade and slavery. Other factors included the work of humanitarians who were concerned about the slaves’ well-being. Humanitarian groups such as the Quakers publicly protested against slavery and the slave trade. They formed an anti slavery committee which was joined by supporters such as Granville Sharp, James Ramsay, Thomas Clarkson and later on, William Wilberforce.
On January 1, 1808 the Abolition Bill was passed. Trading in African slaves was declared to be “utterly abolished, prohibited and declared to be unlawful”. Emancipation and apprenticeship came into effect in 1834 and full freedom was granted in 1838.
The immediate post slavery days were very difficult for the poorer classes. Though most of the English planters had left the islands and new owners were running the plantations, the old oligarchic system still remained. The will of the masses was not deemed important and hence ignored. To add fuel to the already burning flame, the American Civil War resulted in supplies being cut off from the island. A severe drought was also in progress and most crops were ruined.
In October 1865, an uprising in St. Thomas, called the Morant Bay Rebellion, was led by Paul Bogle. Bogle and his men stormed the Morant Bay Courthouse while it was in session. A number of white people was killed including the custos of the parish. The rebellion was put down by the Governor, Edward John Eyre. More than 430 people were executed or shot, hundreds more flogged and 1,000 dwellings destroyed.
Paul Bogle and George William Gordon, now National Heroes, were hanged. George Gordon was a prominent coloured legislator who was sympathetic to the problems of the poor people and was blamed for the trouble caused by the masses.
Eyre was subsequently recalled to England but not before exchanging the ancient Constitution for the Crown Colony system. The succeeding years saw the island’s recovery and development – social, constitutional and economic, and its evolution into a sovereign state.
Education, health, and social services were greatly improved. A proper island-wide savings back system was organised. Roads, bridges and railways (railways became government owned in 1845) were built and cable communication with Europe established (1859). The island’s capital was moved from Spanish Town to Kingston (1872).
The 1930s saw Jamaica heading towards another crisis. The contributing factors were discontent at the slow pace of political advance. For example, the distress caused by a world-wide economic depression, the ruin of the banana industry by the Panama industry Disease, falling sugar prices, growing unemployment aggravated by the curtailment of migration opportunities and a steeply rising population growth rate. In 1938 things came to a head with widespread violence and rioting.
Out of these disturbances came the formation of the first labour unions and the formation of the two major political parties.
These were the Bustamante industrial Trade Union (BITU) named after the founder, Sir Alexander Bustamante. He was also the founder and leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the political party affiliated with the BITU. Norman Manley was the founder of the National Workers’ union and the political party the People’s National Party (PNP).
Both Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Manley were instrumental in Jamaica’s move towards self-government. The first general elections under Universal Adult Suffrage was held in December 1944.
In 1958, Jamaica and ten (10) other Caribbean countries formed the Federation of the West Indies. The concept of Caribbean unity was soon abandoned in 1961 when Jamaicans voted against the Federation of the West Indies.
On August 6, 1962, Jamaica was granted its independence from England. Jamaica now has its own constitution which sets out the laws by which the people are governed. The constitution provides for the freedom, equality and justice for all who dwell in the country.
THE REPUBLIC OF SOMALILAND
The Republic of Somaliland is a sovereign state in the Horn of Africa sharing its borders with Republic of Djibouti, Federal Republic of Ethiopia and Somalia to the east. The country is known of its mountain ranges rising up to seven thousand feet and the Laas Geel Cave Paintings which are the earliest human artifacts, dating from before 3000 BC.
Somaliland is located north of the Equator, thus the sun passes vertically overhead twice a year and it has a coastal line to the north extending 460 miles along the Red Sea. The former British Somaliland Protectorate achieved its full independence from the United Kingdom in 1960, it has a population of about 3.5 million people and it is about the size of England and Wales. The main language spoken is Somali, English and Arabic are also prominent.
The country has one of the most thriving economies in Africa, agriculture being the back borne especially livestock, the production of cereals and horticulture. It also has a hugely diverse quantities of mineral deposits across the country. The main currency used is the Somaliland shilling (SlSh) which is regulated by the Bank of Somaliland.