How far would you agree that the Belgians should bear most of the responsibility for the outbreak of civil war in the Congo in 1960 and its continuation until 1965?

Published: March 21, 2017

Belgians were to be blamed to a great extent for the outbreak of civil war in Congo. Congo was earlier in Belgian colony. Belgians suddenly left Congo in 1960 allowing it to be independent. But they did not make any preparations to hand over governance. The complications that resulted in civil war were:

  • The Congolese were not educated for professional jobs, very few had received higher education and no local party could flourish during the colonial rule. This left the people with no idea at all as to what to do about their country.
  • Congo had 150 different tribes, with no unity amongst them. There is also no history of these tribes coming together for nationalist struggle. So the elections that took place were violent and chaotic and the Congolese National Movement led by a post office clerk Patrice Lumumba came to power. However, this was not accepted by all ethnic groups and agreement on any plan was very rare. Ignoring all this, the Belgians merely handed over power to Lumumba with another party to form a coalition government.
  • Even after independence a mutiny broke out in the Congolese army because all the officers were Belgians and the Africans were also expecting instant promotion. Lumumba was not allowed to maintain law and order and tribal violence also spread.
  • The Belgians however had control over the copper mining industry, the richest in Congo.

Even when the UN help was sought, Belgium along with USA continued to influence UN decisions and even helped remove Lumumba who was seen as a communist and sought the help of USSR. Although UN troops were sent and they were successful, they withdrew after few months. This again gave Belgium an opportunity to interfere in the politics of Congo and along with USA to bring General Mobutu to power.

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