The Congo has known many freedom fighters both inside and outside of the country. We have included some below from whom Friends of the Congo has drawn inspiration and direction.
Kimpa Vita (Dona Beatriz), 1684 – 1706
Kimpa Vita was a Kongolese prophet who lived from 1684 to 1706. She is sometimes credited with sparking a spiritual awakening in the Kongo. She incorporated Christianity with traditional beliefs to articulate a message of redemption for the people of the Kongo. Her movement was known as Antonianism. The movement sought to resist foreign domination and restore the greatness of the Kongo empire.
Kimpa Vita saw the Kongo as a place on biblical importance and saw Jesus and his disciples as authentically African. She was said to have possessed supernatural powers and performed miracles “kindoki.”
Her message was so powerful that it struck fear the hearts of Catholic church leaders who responded out of fear of her influence among the Kongolese people by doling out daily beatings and imprisoning her followers. Kimpa Vita was eventually charged with heresy and burned at the stake. Read more >>
George Washington Williams, 1849 – 1891
George Washington Williams was born on October 16, 1849 in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania. He is regarded as the first African American historian of note. In addition to being a scholar, he was a soldier and a politician. He served in the Civil War and later in the Ohio state legislature.
Williams was one of the key figures who exposed the atrocities being committed by King Leopold II of Belgium. He called for an international commission to investigate the crimes being committed in the Congo by King Leopold. Read more >>
William Sheppard, 1865 – 1927
William Sheppard was born in Waynesboro, Virginia in 1865. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. In the 1880s, her petitioned the church for a mission in the Congo. The Presbyterian Church did not permit a mission to be headed by Blacks at the time. In 1890, he found a white partner in William Lapsley, which allowed him to go on a mission to Africa. He and Lapsley was stationed in Kasai.
Sheppard worked among the Kuba people learning their language and gaining their trust and respect. He rose to the world’s attention when he painstakingly documented the atrocities that were being committed by King Leopold in the Congo. His account of the massacre at Pianga clearly exposed to the world the depth of the brutality of King Leopold’s reign. Read more >>
Roger Casement (1864 – 1916)
Sir Roger Casement was a British poet known for his fight against African colonialism. He was born in Dublin, Ireland. He was co-founder of the Congo Reform Association of 1903 with Edmund Morel.
As a teenager he worked in Congo for King Leopold II where he met Henry Morton Stanley and Joseph Conrad. He left Congo to work in other parts of Africa returning order phentermine in 1900 as a British diplomat. It was during this time through dispatches to the British Foreign Ministry that he revealed the mistreatment and forced labor imposed on the Congolese population by King Leopold’s reign. Casement’s dispatches culminated in the Congo Report, published in 1904. The report documented the killings, mutilation, kidnapping and cruel beatings of the native population by soldiers of the Congo Administration of King Leopold. Read more >>
Edmund Morel (1873 – 1924)
Morel was the co-founder of the Congo Reform Association. He was a British journalist, author and political activist. Morel became suspicious of King Leopold II’s activities in the Congo when he observed that ships leaving Belgium for the Congo were filled with guns, explosives and bullets while the same ships returning from the Congo were filled with valuable ivory and rubber.
Morel advocated for change in the Congo through the Congo Reform Association and his publication, Affairs of West Africa. He secured the support of renowned figures such as Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, Booker T. Washington, Anatole France and many others. Due to the global pressure put on King Leopold II, led by Morel, Leopold II had to give up his possession of the Congo to the Belgium government in 1908. Read more >>
Simon Kimbangu (1887 – 1951)
Official Website – Kimbanguisme.net
Simon Kimbangu was born in 1887 in Nkamba, of Bas-Congo, DRC. The first 32 years of his life was non-descript. He married and had three children. He wanted to become a teacher and evangelist but due to reading limitations he was not able to do so.
In 1918, Simon began receiving visions encouraging him to become a healer. In 1921, he began his ministry of healing. He drew large support from the Congolese population, which frightened the Belgian government because such support could very well be transformed to nationalist, anti-colonial action, therefore the Belgian colonialists charged Kimbangu with sedition and sentenced him to death. The death sentence was commuted and Kimbangu was imprisoned for 30 years from 1921 – 1951, where he died. Kimbangu is the only African leader to spend more time in prison than Nelson Mandela resisting oppression.
While Simon was in jail, the Belgian government attempted to break up the group by deporting them to different parts of the country. The tactic backfired by serving only to spread the popularity of the church and broadened its appeal beyond the Kongo ethnic group. Read more >>
Maurice Mpolo (1928 – 1961)
Maurice Mpolo was 32 years old when he was assassinated along with Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Okito on January 17, 1961. Mpolo was born on March 4, 1928 in Leopoldville (Kinshasa). He was married to Catherine Wale and they had four children together, two boys and two girls. He was the sports and youth minister in Lumumba’s government. He served briefly as army’s chief of staff. He was a leader in Lumumba’s political party the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC). Read more (francais)>>
Joseph Okito (1910 – 1961)
Joseph Okito was 50 years old when he was assassinated along with Maurice Mpolo and Patrice Lumumba on January 17, 1961. He was vice-president of the Senate. He was a leader in Lumumba’s political party the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC). Read more (francais)>>
Pierre Mulele (1929 – 1968)
Pierre Mulele was born in a small village in the Gungu territory. Mulele benefited from a good education. As a youth he was know for his resistance to injustices visited upon Congolese. He was an adept organizer, forming institutions to fight for equal rights of Congolese. Mulele was inspired by the resistance to colonialism in Egypt and Algeria. He was particularly taken by the Pan Africanism of Kwame Nkrumah.
Mulele served as Minister of Education in Lumumba’s administration. After the assassination of Lumumba, he was the first prominent Lumumbist to return to the Congo in 1963 to launch a revolutionary struggle to recapture the state through 1968. In 1968, recovering from illness in Congo, Brazzaville, he was lured to Kinshasa with an offer of amnesty and national reconciliation by Joseph Desire Mobutu. Of course it was a false promise, in October of 1968, Mulele was publicly tortured and executed: his eyes were pulled from their sockets, his genitals were ripped off, and his limbs were amputated one by one, all while he was alive. What was left was dumped in the river.
Floribert Chebeya Bahizire (1963 – 2010)
Floribert Chebeya Bahizire was born on September 13, 1963 in Bukavu, South Kivu, Congo. He was assassinated on Jun 2, 2010 in Kinshasa, DRC.
Floribert fought tirelessly for human rights and dignity of the Congolese people. Whether it was against the arch dictator backed by the US and the West, Joseph Desire Mobutu or against the two Kabila’s (Laurent Desire Kabila and Joseph Kabila) who took power after Mobutu.
He worked from the early 1990s to his death in 2010 in spite of the harassment, imprisonment and threats on his life. He was the leader of the human rights group Voix des Sans Voix (Voice of the Voiceless).
Floribert is among the pantheon of figures like Kimpa Vita, Simon Kimbangu, Lupungu, Patrice Lumumba and Pierre Mulele who fought for democracy and freedom for the Congolese people.