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Congo-Brazzaville - History

The country achieved full independence on August 15, 1960, after more than half a century as part of the French colonial empire. The history of the country as a territorial unit dates only from 1882, when the French Parliament designated an ill-defined region, includ¬ing the approximate areas of the present-day republics of Gabon and Congo, as the colony of French Congo. A decree issued in 1903 gave the Congo portion of the colony the name of Moyen-Congo (Middle Congo), by which it was known throughout the colonial period.

First inhabited by indigenous people, Congo was later settled by Bantu groups that also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), forming the basis for ethnic affinities and rivalries among those states. Several Bantu kingdoms--notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke -- built trade links leading into the Congo River basin.

The first European contacts came in the late 15th century, and commercial relationships were quickly established with the kingdoms -- trading for slaves captured in the interior. The discovery of the Congo is attributed to the navigator Diego Cao who approaches the mouth of the river in 1482. The Portuguese gradually come into contact with the chiefdoms and kingdom Kongo, whose foundation would go back to the XIIIth century and whose capital was in the North of the current Angola.

The kingdom of Loango (20 km from Pointe-Noire) became, in the 18th century, an important center of the slave trade, begun as early as the 16th century. This coastal area was a major source for the transatlantic slave trade, and when that commerce ended in the early 19th century, the power of the Bantu kingdoms eroded.

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, from 1875 to 1878, tried in vain to reach the Congo River by the Ogoue and the Alima. The signing of a first treaty on September 10, 1880 with the Makoko, King of the Batéké, concretizes the success of his second attempt. Charles de Chavannes, one of his lieutenants, established the French "station" of Ncouna, soon renamed Brazzaville, on October 3, 1880, in Mfoa, a village of 17 squares. Monsignor Augouard founded a mission in Linzolo (30 km, south-west of Brazzaville) in 1883, while Father Carrie created the Catholic mission of Loango. In the same year, the kingdom of Loango was placed under French protectorate.

On February 26, 1885, French Equatorial Africa was founded in 1910 and includes the territories of Middle Congo, Gabon, Oubangui-Chari and Chad, with Brazzaville as its capital. Pointe-Noire is then the capital of the Colony of the Middle Congo. The first decades of the colony were a period of intense economic activity, supported by two major projects: the construction of the Congo-Ocean Railway (CFCO) from 1921 to 1934, was inaugurated by Governor General Antonetti, In the same year, the first stone of the Port of Pointe-Noire, open to traffic in 1939. Politically, the 1930s were the birth of Congolese nationalism, led by Andre Matsoua, a veteran of the War years 1914-1918.

During World War II, the AEF administration sided with Charles DeGaulle, and Brazzaville became the symbolic capital of Free France during 1940-43. On 4 August 1958, by a new speech delivered in Brazzaville, General de Gaulle invited the African territories to form a "Franco-African Community" to which the Congo acceded on 28 November 1958.

Congolese literature also took off in the mid-1950s with the publication of a novel by Jean Malonga, Cœur d'Aryenne (1953) and a collection of poems by Tchikaya U Tam'si, The Bad Blood (1955). A member of the French Union under the Fourth Republic, the Middle Congo remained governed from Pointe-Noire, Brazzaville housing the services of the governor general of the AEF. The Congolese Republic was proclaimed in Pointe-Noire on 28 November 1958 and the Legislative Assembly, elected on 31 March 1957 under the framework law of 1956, was in favor of the transfer of the capital to Brazzaville.

The independence of the Congo was proclaimed on August 15, 1960. André Malraux represented the French authorities.

The new Franco-Congolese relations were intense, on the ground of cooperation and development aid: the Congo counted several dozen French technical assistants working in a wide field of intervention, education, health and transport Occupying the first places. The rise in oil production, in which the French companies, from discovery to exploitation, took the lead, offered the Congolese a certain prosperity during the 1980s. At the same time, many French entrepreneurs and merchants participated in the animation of the Congolese economic fabric.

The period of civil wars greatly contributed to the reduction of the French presence, even leading to the complete interruption of the cooperation between 1997 and 1998. Tthe French presence gradually resumed, especially after the signing of the agreements for the cessation of hostilities in Brazzaville. 29 December 1999, mainly to help the Congo restore basic services and the rule of law during the transition from 1997 to 2002.

The year 2002 saw the adoption of a new constitution by referendum (20 January 2002) followed by the presidential (March), legislative (May and June), the local (June) and the senatorial (July) elections. Standardization continued with the establishment of most of the institutions provided for in the Constitution.

On March 4, 2012, a series of munitions explosions occurred at in the Regiment Blindé munitions depot in Brazzaville, the capital city of the Republic of Congo (RoC), killing more than 200 people and injuring approximately 1,300 others. The blasts forced approximately 140,000 residents [equivalent to a quarter of the city's population] to seek refuge in spontaneous displacement sites throughout Brazzaville, according to the UN. The explosions and resulting shockwaves destroyed an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 houses, as well as public buildings, roads, and other infrastructure. In addition, the disaster launched unexploded ordnance up to 2 miles outward from the epicenter of the blasts, posing additional safety and security risks to local residents. [it might have been part of an attempted coup by Ntsourou and his men - a dissident military officer was blamed for the catastrophe]

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Page last modified: 15-06-2017 18:29:25 ZULU