Brazzaville’s, (la republique populaire du Congo) namesake is honoured with a marble statue. His relationship with the Congolese was unlike that of the empire builders who had carved up the African continent in the late 1800s, established concessionaires (similar to the Britain‘s HBC in Canada) plundering resources and manpower while enriching Europe.

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In Loango, R. P. Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) not far from the Catholic mission, where you could still buy fresh eggs in the 1980s, is a post which is a reminder of the millions of Africans who passed by this spot. This is where they were attached before being shipped as human cargo. From the post you can see the hills with rows of trees like endless lines of people remembering, not forgetting.

A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

1954 The last king of the Congo built his castle at Diosso, near Pointe-Noire, now in the R. P. Congo. King Mwe Pwati III died in 1975.

1956 Césaire wrote “La Lettre à Maurice Thorez” (Letter to the Secretary General of the Communist Party) in which he broke with the Communist Party. Césaire believed he could develop a distinctly African socialism.

relationship with the Congolese was unlike that of the empire builders who had carved up the African continent in the late 1800s, established concessionaires (similar to the Britain’s HBC in Canada) plundering resources and manpower while enriching Europe.

read more | digg story

In Loango, R. P. Congo (also known as Congo-Brazzaville) not far from the Catholic mission, where you could still buy fresh eggs in the 1980s, is a post which is a reminder of the millions of Africans who passed by this spot. This is where they were attached before being shipped as human cargo. From the post you can see the hills with rows of trees like endless lines of people remembering, not forgetting.
A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

First inhabited by pygmies, the Congo was later settled by Bantu groups who also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and the DRC. Several Bantu kingdoms, notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke, built trade links along 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 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. (ediplomat 2005)

A selected timeline of social history of Congo-Brazzaville

First inhabited by pygmies, the Congo was later settled by Bantu groups who also occupied parts of present-day Angola, Gabon, and the DRC. Several Bantu kingdoms, notably those of the Kongo, the Loango, and the Teke, built trade links along 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 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. (ediplomat 2005)

1880s The area now known as Congo-Brazzaville came under French sovereignty .

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an empire builder for France, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold’s International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin (ediplomat 2005).

1882 – 1891 France secured treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the Congo river’s right bank. This laid the path for France to control the natural and human resources of the Congo.

1898-1930 France allowed private companies (Grandes Companies Concessionaires) to extract natural resources from Congo-Brazzaville in this period of private companies similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. Due to public protests over the loss of tens of thousands of Congolese working for The Société de construction des Batignolles French artists including Andre Gide were influential in ending the monopoly of these private companies.

1908 France organized French Equatorial African (AEF), which comprised the colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the Federal capital.

1924–34 A private company under the protection of France, The Société de construction des Batignolles, built the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (CFCO) at a considerable human cost (over 20, 000 lives).

1927 Andre Gide published Voyage au Congo in which he criticised the French colonial administration for the loss of human lives during the construction of the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (1921-1934). Andre Gide described the CFCO as a “fearsome devourer of human lives.”

1928 French forces had to intervene to suppress a workers’ uprising. Up to 20,000 Africans died during the construction of the CFCO .

1940-3 French Equatorial African (AEF), (Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic) supported General Charles de Gaulle and provided a safe haven of him during the period when France was occupied by the Germans. Brazzaville was the capital of la France libre. The international process of decolonization traces its roots to de Gaulle’s debt to Brazzaville. Colonial empires saw their constituent nations demanding independence.

1944 The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies.

1950 postcolonial movement. See De Gaulle in Brazzaville, capital of the France libre.

1880s The area now known as Congo-Brazzaville came under French sovereignty .

Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, an empire builder for France, competed with agents of Belgian King Leopold’s International Congo Association (later Zaire) for control of the Congo River basin (ediplomat 2005).

1882 – 1891 France secured treaties were secured with all the main local rulers on the Congo river’s right bank. This laid the path for France to control the natural and human resources of the Congo.

1898-1930 France allowed private companies (Grandes Companies Concessionaires) to extract natural resources from Congo-Brazzaville in this period of private companies similar to the Hudson’s Bay Company in Canada. Due to public protests over the loss of tens of thousands of Congolese working for The Société de construction des Batignolles French artists including Andre Gide were influential in ending the monopoly of these private companies.

1908 France organized French Equatorial African (AEF), which comprised the colonies of Middle Congo (modern Congo), Gabon, Chad, and Oubangui-Chari (modern Central African Republic). Brazzaville was selected as the Federal capital.

1924–34 A private company under the protection of France, The Société de construction des Batignolles, built the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (CFCO) at a considerable human cost (over 20, 000 lives).

1927 Andre Gide published Voyage au Congo in which he criticised the French colonial administration for the loss of human lives during the construction of the Chemin de Fer Congo Ocean (1921-1934). Andre Gide described the CFCO as a “fearsome devourer of human lives.”

1928 French forces had to intervene to suppress a workers’ uprising. Up to 20,000 Africans died during the construction of the CFCO .

1940-3 French Equatorial African (AEF), (Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon, Chad, Central African Republic) supported General Charles de Gaulle and provided a safe haven of him during the period when France was occupied by the Germans. Brazzaville was the capital of la France libre. The international process of decolonization traces its roots to de Gaulle’s debt to Brazzaville. Colonial empires saw their constituent nations demanding independence.

1944 The Brazzaville Conference of 1944 heralded a period of major reform in French colonial policy, including the abolition of forced labor, granting of French citizenship to colonial subjects, decentralization of certain powers, and election of local advisory assemblies.

1950 postcolonial movement. See De Gaulle in Brazzaville, capital of the France libre.

1951 The Ecole de Peinture de Poto-Poto emerged in Brazzaville, Congo where artists began to produce paintings described by critics with the unflattering term the ‘Mickeys.’ The black figures they painted resembled the characters in Walt Disney movies.

1956 The Loi Cadre (Framework Law) of 1956 ended dual voting roles and provided for partial self-government for the individual overseas territories. Colonial administration expanded particularly in Congo-Brazzaville, the capital of the French Equatorial African (AEF). Administrative buildings were constructed and French colonial infrastructure grew.

1958 French President de Gaulle returned to Africa and declared, “L’independence, quiconque la voudra pourra la prendre aussitot.”

1960 Decolonisation of Africa began and the criticism of la Négritude began. Congo-Brazzaville was the first African country to gain independence. Political leaders of newly liberated African countries during the postcolonial period accepted modernist development policies that stressed economic growth.

1960 The first President of the newly independent Congo Republic was a former Catholic priest, Fulbert Youlou. The AEF was dissolved in 1958 and its four territories became autonomous members of the French community, and Middle Congo was renamed the Congo Republic. Formal independence was granted to the new country in August 1960. With the exception of Senegal, no country in Africa had a more developed educational system at the time of independence than the Congo.

1963 President Fulbert Youlou was overthrown in a 3-day popular uprising (Les Trois Glorieuses) led by labor elements and joined by rival political parties.

1967-1977 Marion Ngouabi was the President of the R. P. Congo the first African country to adhere to communism. He advocated a scientific socialism. He was assassinated in 1977 and is considered to be a martyr by many Congolese.

1968 Aimé Césaire began to focus on theatre in the 1960s in an effort to reach more people. His plays such as La Tragédie du Roi Christophe (1963), Une Saison au Congo and Une Tempête (1968 ) were more political than his earlier work. He argued that words used creatively could change the world Une Tempête was an original adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

1968 Major Ngouabi assumed the presidency on December 31, 1968 after he and other army officers toppled the government in a coup. One year later President Ngouabi proclaimed the Congo to be Africa’s first “people’s republic” and announced the decision of the National Revolutionary Movement to change its name to the Congolese Labor Party (PCT).

1967-1977 Marion Ngouabi, President of the R. P. Congo the first African country to adhere to communism, a scientific socialism. He was assassinated and is is considered to be a martyr by many Congolese.

1976 The number of refugees in the world was 2.7 million (Doctors Without Borders (MSF) .

1979 Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso first became interim President after the assassination of both President Ngouabi and Archbishop Biayenda. Both murders have never been solved. Denis Sassou-Nguesso continued as President until 1991.

1980s United States raised interest rates on national and foreign debt to protect its own economy. The US economy had supposedly suffered because of instabilities in the price of oil. Countries — like Congo-Brazzaville, one of the most heavily indebted countries per capita in the world, found themselves constrained by unmanageable payments of raised interest rates. With its economy paralyzed by the debt burden, Congo like Brazil and many other developing nations were forced to go to the International Monetary Fund for emergency funds. The government has negotiated an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF insisted on deep, drastic cuts into basic social services, such as health and education, as a condition of the emergency loans. Structural reform conditions also include civil service downsizing, customs and tax reforms, and measures to promote private sector development. Currently the Congo is working hard to meet its obligations to the IMF concerning transparency in the oil sector. Congo-Brazzaville still struggles to qualify for Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status. French oil company Elf Congo, the Italian oil company AGIP along with Americans made enormous profits during the petroleum boom years in the Congo.

1989 The fall of the Berlin Wall.

1991 Congo’s National Conference called for a multiparty democracy ending the one-party Marxist rule.

1992 Sassou-Nguesso conceded defeat to Professor Pascal Lissouba after multiparty presidential elections.

1993 Nearly a million acres of land in the north of the Republic of Congo became Nouabale-Ndoki National Park—one of the most significant tropical forest preserves in the world.

Structural reform efforts include civil service downsizing, customs and tax reforms, and measures to promote private sector development. The government has negotiated an Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Currently the Congo is working hard to meet its obligations to the IMF concerning transparency in the oil sector. It is also working to qualify for HIPC status.

1996 The number of refugees in the world was 2.7 million Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

1997 President Lissouba used private militia to attack the private militia of former President Sassou in a pre-emptive strike setting off a a highly destructive Civil War. With the support of the Angolan army Sassou was victorious.

1998 In Brazzaville, La republique populaire du Congo rebel fighting between rebel forces and the military-style government army has generated massive and blind atrocities against civilian populations. The resulting widespread violence perpetrated by the parties at war affects the entire civilian population. Arbitrary executions, mutilations, rapes, and disappearances illustrate the arbitrary character of the violence perpetrated against the civilians. In December 1998, more than 250,000 people fled to Brazzzaville because of the fighting, to seek refuge in the tropical forests of the “Pool,” a region south of the city. However, they found themselves caught up in the middle of the fighting, de facto hostages of the “Ninjas” ( the rebel militias). Victims of indiscriminate violence, they have had no access to food or medical care, and could not benefit from any exterior help. Furthermore, the ones who survived and managed to come back to Brazzaville are now the victims of indiscriminate attacks from the government army and militias (the “Cobras”). Doctors Without Borders (MSF), (1999), “Congo Brazzaville: Chronicle of a Forgotten War,” A Special Doctors Without Borders Report, October.

1999 Doctors Without Borders (MSF) witnessed tens of thousands of starving civilians returning to the Brazzaville, La republique populaire du Congo, exhausted after several months spent wandering in the forest. Refugees in Congo-Brazzaville were facing an unprecedented nutritional and medical crisis. No party in the conflict had taken significant steps to prevent the violence against civilians. This lack of action clearly shows their indifference to the fate of the civilian population. Given the gravity of the situation, the silence and indifference of the international community is unbearable. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) volunteers have been present in Brazzaville since April 1999, implementing medical and nutritional programs. Doctors Without Borders (MSF), (1999), “Congo Brazzaville: Chronicle of a Forgotten War” A Special Doctors Without Borders Report, October.

2001 Embassy operations were resumed in 2001, though American staff continue to be assigned officially to Kinshasa and travel to Brazzaville on temporary duty (TDY).

2003 A peace accord was signed with rebel armed forces, called the “Ninjas” based in the Pool region, just west of Brazzaville, and the situation was described by the diplomatic community as calm.

2004 David Morley of Médecins Sans Frontières, Canada wrote this disturbing description of the forgotten Congolese in his “Letters from the field”. Contrast this with the diplomatic report

2005 This report intended for US diplomats planning on work in Brazzaville, Congo was posted as an ediplomat Report.

2006 The World Bank Group posted this press release on August 22, 2006 Congo-Brazzaville: A sensitization campaign brings together parliamentarians and local communities

In the Republic of Congo, the first phase of the sensitization campaign for the upcoming National Program for Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (PNDDR) will soon be complete. Conducted through a series of conferences and debates, the campaign has aimed to increase the knowledge of the program among the government, civil society and the people of Congo. The PNDDR, once it starts, will aim to reintegrate an estimated 30,000 ex-combatants with the support of the Multi-Country Demobilization and Reintegration Program (MDRP).

Selected Bibliography

Brown, ‘Testing the Boundaries’ pp. 62-4 39

Coquerie-Vidrovitch, C., 1972. Le Congo au Temps des Grandes Companies Concessionaires 1898-1930, Mouton, Paris.

ediplomat. 2005 “Congo – Brazzaville The Host Country,” Post Reports ediplomat Report, http://www.ediplomat.com/np/post_reports/pr_cg.htm

Gide, Andre. 1927 Voyage au Congo

Gide, Andre. 1962. Travels in the Congo, University of California Press. Berkeley.

Hochschild, Adam. 1999. King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Houghton and Mifflin: Boston.

Morley, David. 2004. “Letters from the field,” International Herald Tribune, February 13, 2004.

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