Archaeologists today note use of Ishango Bones, arguably the earliest mathematical artifact in the world, as calculator and lunar calendar. Used when conducting commercial transactions and for scientific purposes. Compared to the abacus which originated around 2400 BC and 300 BC, i.e. 17,600 – 19,700 years later.
Bantu migration into Central Africa
From the Northwest Africa to where modern-day Congo is located
1000 BC – 1500 AD
Height of Kongo Empire
- Establishment of local, regional and international trading networks.
- Crops and fish maintained Kongo as the breadbasket of a region the size of the US.
- Raw materials, e.g. iron and ivory, transported to the ports of Mombasa, Kilwa and Sofala from where they were shipped as far as China and India.
- Development and trade of iron and copper technologies and ores.
- Prosperous business, financial wealth, strong government and politico-economic expansion are hallmarks of the Kongo Empire.
Kongolese Empire’s First Recorded Contact with Europeans
- Portuguese explorers commissioned by the Crown to look for new trade routes travel into Central Africa.
- The West’s first introduction to Kongo’s vast human and natural resources. Europeans begin utilizing Kongolese trading routes for commerce in human and natural resources.
- Enslaved people added to the mix of goods transported along trading networks. King João III
- Mani Kongo writes King João III of Portugal, imploring him to cease the slave trade as it was destroying his society.
1500 – 1800
Decline of the Kongo Empire
So many people sold into slavery that the empire collapsed due to lack of human resources and the cost of war with the Portuguese.
1870 – 1920
Start of European Colonization
- Berlin Conference: Congo appropriated and given to King Leopold II of Belgium as his own personal property.
- The United States became the first country to recognize the Congo Free State under the rulership of King Leopold II.
1885 – 1908
King Leopold II’s Rule
- Leopold’s regime began undertaking various development projects, such as the railway system which took years to complete. The goal of almost all projects was to increase the financial capital of Leopold and his cohorts, e.g. rubber production for use in making tires.
- Exploitation and abuse of people and land in order to obtain maximum profits at minimum financial cost.
- Leopold’s profits used to build several buildings in Brussels and Ostend to honor himself and his country.
- 10 million – 15 million Congolese die within a 23-year period due to exploitation and diseases as a result of King Leopold’s natural resources profiteering ventures.
Belgium Colonial Rule
Belgium takes over rulership of Congo due to international outcry over the atrocities that King Leopold II committed during his reign.
World War II
- Congolese army wins several battles against the Italians in north Africa.
- Congo supplies uranium used to build atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
- Congo offered to Hitler as a bargaining chip for him to lift his occupation of Europe.
Mobutu Sese Sekou’s Rule
- Sese Seko begins dictatorship after a Western-backed coup (mainly U.S. & Belgium).
- By 1984, Mobutu said to have amassed 4 billion U.S. dollars, an amount close to the country’s national debt, stashed away in personal Swiss bank accounts. Money mostly obtained from Congolese state mining companies.
1997 – 2001
Laurent Desire Kabila’s Rule
Mobutu’s dictatorial rule ends with the takeover of power By Laurent Desire Kabila with the backing of Rwanda and Uganda.
1998 – 2002
The Congo War
- War breaks out after Rwanda tries to remove Kabila from power. Seven other African countries eventually become embroiled in what was dubbed Africa’s First World war.
- War officially ends with peace talks in South Africa.
2001 – Present
Joseph Kabila’s Rule
- In 2001, Laurent Kabila is assassinated and replaced by his son Joseph Kabila.
- By 2003, a transition government and parliament were established to lead the Congo to elections.
- In 2005, Congolese overwhelmingly vote yes in a referendum on a new Congolese constitution.
- Elections were held in 2006 which resulted in the election of Joseph Kabila as president.
- Kabila appointed long-time Lumumbist Antonie Gizenga of PALU to be prime minister. Gizenga served as deputy prime minister in Patrice Lumumba’s government of 1960. Gizenga resigned on September 25, 2008 and was subsequently replaced by former Finance Minister, Adolphe Muzito, on October 10, 2008.
- The last elections took place on November 28, 2011. Joseph Kabila won the 2011 elections due to massive fraud. As a result of the widespread cheating that took place during the elections, he lacks the legitimacy among the Congolese masses. Kabila appointed the former Finance Minister, Augustin Matata Ponyo as Prime Minister in April 2012.The next presidential elections were supposed to take place in 2016.
- However, President Joseph Kabila refused to organize elections in 2016 in an attempt to hold on to power. He negotiated with the opposition with the assistance of the Catholic Church in a December 31, 2016 Agreement (Commonly referred to as the Saint Sylvestre Agreement) to hold elections by the end of 2017. He broke the agreement by not organizing elections. Finally, after tremendous pressure from the Congolese masses, regional powers like Angola and South Africa and the international community, Kabila agreed to organize elections on December 23, 2018. He also named a successor to run in the December elections and said he would step down. According to Congo’s Constitution, Joseph Kabila as a former President can serve in the Congolese Senate for life.