Two women
with a independance pagne
Coll. Bikoko

Exhibition 'Indépendance'
11.06.2010 - 09.01.2011
Photo Raymond Dakoua

Best wishes to the new Congolese state!

Patrice Lumumba, victorious in the May elections, is appointed to form a coalition government on 21 June. On 24 June, he wins the confidence of the House and Senate and is appointed Prime Minister.
The same day Joseph Kasavubu is elected president. The new republic's political system is a copy of Belgium's: the president's role is mainly formal. On 17 June 1960, the Belgian Parliament adopts a law that offers to Belgian companies with colonial status in Congo the possibility of opting for either Belgian or Congolese nationality. Most companies opt for Belgian nationality. The law is the root of Belgo-Congolese contention: many Congolese feel that while Belgium is ceding political power, it is maintaining its hold on Congo's economic capital.

The independence act is a terse document: in only a few lines, it enacts the political transition but includes not a word on the transfer of economic resources. This elliptical piece of writing disappoints Congolese. Indeed, in the colonial era, the 'book' is an important symbol of power, and, in this case, the political transition has great symbolic impact. In popular depictions, power passes from King Baudouin, representing the colonial authority, to Patrice Lumumba, the prime minister elected by the majority of the Congolese people. But, in fact, signing the independence act involves the two prime ministers: Patrice Lumumba for Congo and Gaston Eyskens for Belgium. Over time in the Congolese imagination, the act becomes an imposing 'golden book': it remains the object of many myths in Congo.