Joseph Kasa-Vubu : biography
Joseph Kasa-Vubu (alternatively Joseph Kasavubu, 1910 [other sources have 1913, 1915 and 1917] – March 24, 1969) was the first President (1960–1965) of the Republic of the Congo, today called Democratic Republic of the Congo.
He was educated by Catholic missionaries at a student seminary from 1928-1936 at Mbata Kiela. He studied theology and philosophy at the Kabwe seminary until 1939, before becoming a teacher.
Kasa-Vubu was a leader of the ABAKO (Alliance des Bakongo) Movement of his own lower Congo River Bakongo people.
Upon Congo’s independence from Belgium, he was elected president by the Congo’s new national assembly, taking office on June 30, 1960.
The new republic was immediately disrupted by political and military strife and regional secessionist movements, while the central government was paralyzed by conflict between the conservative Kasa-Vubu and his nationalistic prime minister Patrice Lumumba.
On September 5, Kasa-Vubu dismissed Lumumba but the prime minister refused to accept this and in turn announced Kasa-Vubu’s dismissal, creating a stalemate that was only ended on September 14 with army commander Joseph Mobutu’s seizure of power and arrest of Lumumba. Lumumba was later handed to Moise Tshombe’s secessionist forces in the southern province of Katanga and murdered.
Over the next five years, Kasa-Vubu presided over a succession of weak governments. In July 1964 he appointed former Katangan secessionist leader Moise Tshombe as prime minister with a mandate to end the Simba Rebellion. Tshombe recalled the exiled Katangese gendarmerie and recruited white mercenaries, integrating them with the Armée Nationale Congolaise. Many of these mercenaries had fought for Katanga when Tshombe was leader of the breakaway province. Despite the successes against the Simba rebels, Tshombe’s prestige was damaged by the use of white mercenaries and western forces. He lost the support of Kasa-Vubu and was dismissed from the post of prime minister in October 1965.
Mobutu’s coup d’état
Mobutu seized power for a second time on November 25, 1965, this time deposing Kasa-Vubu and subsequently declaring himself head of state. Kasa-Vubu was placed under house arrest and died at his home in Boma, Kongo Central in 1969.