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Portuguese Influence on the Kongo Kingdom

It all began with King John II, Portugal’s thirteenth king. Eager to access to eastern markets, he encouraged Portuguese expeditions to the Congo. Consequently, the first European to enter the Kingdom of Kongo was of Portuguese nationality. It was Captain Diogo Cao who discovered the Congo River between 1482 and 1483. 

In 1484, the Portuguese decided to settle in the flourishing Kingdom of Kongo. They transformed the capital, Mbanza Kongo, into a Europeanized city of 40,000 inhabitants, which they named San Salvador. Moreover, they changed the name of the Nzaï River to become the famous river we know today: the Congo River.

The Kongo Kingdom was based on a highly spiritual system, for instance, special authorities were in charge of respecting tradition. However, the imposition of Christianity and the assassination of the kingdom’s sacred leaders by the Portuguese destroyed this system. As a result, the sovereignty of the Manikongos, the kings of Kongo, came to an end in the 17th century with the slave trade, which seized 350,000 slaves from the Kingdom of Kongo. Conflicts regularly broke out between the Portuguese and the indigenous people, who refused to cede their land rights.

Beginning of French Colonization in the Congo

Savorgnan de Brazza’s first expedition began in 1875. Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza’s explorations marked the beginning of the Congo’s contemporary History. Fascinated by Africa, this Italian explorer naturalized French lived between 1852 and 1905. Described as a pacifist, he was loved by the local population despite the fact that he contributed to the expansion of French colonialism.

Treaty of Friendship of September 10, 1880, and Signing of an Act on October 3, 1880

Brazza founded Franceville, now a town in Gabon, and he reached the Congo River via the Lefini River. Expeditions Ducret cruises offer a stopover there, as well as lectures on Brazza’s expeditions and the Kingdom of the Teke. With King Makoko, they signed a treaty that formalized the beginning of the colonial era.

December 17, 1882: the Founding of the Colony of French Congo

French law then approved the texts signed between Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza and King Makoko. The latter is the suzerain of the Teke, a people composed of Central African Bantus located in the following present-day countries: Congo, DRC, and Gabon. French influence is established, heralding the gradual founding of the colony of French Congo. Brazza was appointed government commissioner. The chosen capital was Libreville from 1882 to 1906, then became Brazzaville from 1906 to 1960.

March 12, 1883: the Treaty with the King of Loango

A government commissariat in West Africa is founded for Brazza.

Lieutenant Robert Cordier negotiated a treaty with the King of Loango named Manimacosso-Chicusso. This treaty stipulated French sovereignty over the Kingdom of Loango. This was a state on the coast of Central Africa that is now part of the Congo. The Loango monarchy lasted from 1550 to 1883, and its territory now equals to southwestern Congo and southern Gabon.

November 15, 1884 - February 26, 1885: the Berlin Conference

It was at this major diplomatic event that the division of Africa between the European powers was decided. The official rules of colonization were enacted, leading to the signing of a large number of treaties between European powers and local chiefs. There was now freedom of navigation on the Niger and Congo Rivers, freedom of trade in the Congo Basin and precise conditions for settling on the African coasts. The conference insisted on the prohibition of slavery and the slave trade. Finally, French authority was recognized over the right bank of the Congo and the Ubangi River.

Why are There Two Congo?

In 1884-1885, the French Republic and the International African Association, owned by the Belgian King Leopold II, divided the Congo region at the Berlin Conference. In the 20th century, both nations founded their own colonies. The Congo River separated the French Congo from the Belgian Congo.

December 29, 1903

The colony changed its name to Middle-Congo.

1906: Gabon Separated from Middle Congo

France cut Gabon off from Middle Congo. Gabon became a separate colony from Congo, with Libreville as its capital, while Middle Congo had a new capital named Brazzaville.

1909

The General Government of French Congo replaced the General Commissariat in Congo.

Decree of January 15, 1910

A General Government of French Equatorial Africa was created, replacing that of 1909. It was created in 1910 and dissolved in 1958.

This executive body brought together four colonies, including Gabon, Middle-Congo (Gabon + Republic of Congo), Chad and Ubangi-Shari (Central African Republic).

July 1, 1911, and November 4, 1911: the Franco-German Arm-Wrestling

The Agadir coup of July 1, 1911, was seen as a real diplomatic and military incident, with Germany sending a gunboat from its imperial navy into the Moroccan Agadir Bay against French influence in Morocco.

Therefore, on November 4, 1911, a treaty was signed between Germany and France: Berlin left the bay and allowed France to act freely in Morocco. In exchange, France had to cede territory to Germany so that the then German Cameroon could expand.

1944: France, Brazzaville, and the Bateke Kingdom

During the Second World War, a 14.5-meter monument was inaugurated in the capital Brazzaville on January 30, 1944, to celebrate the solemn opening of the Brazzaville Conference organized by Charles de Gaulle. Brazzaville was then the capital of Free France. This conference symbolized the first step towards the emancipation of the African peoples and represented a gradual approach to decolonization.

In the same year, Queen Ngalifourou Ngassie asked her people to fight for France during her meeting with General De Gaulle. During the Expeditions Ducret cruises, a meeting with the current queen is scheduled.

October 21, 1945: Election of the First Congolese Deputy

The first Congolese MP is elected: Jean Felix-Tchicaya. A year later, he founded the Congolese Progressive Party.

September 28, 1958: Referendum on the Constitution

Charles de Gaulle’s government wanted to bring France closer to its associated African peoples. The idea of a French community was put to the vote, asking African states, including the Congo, if they wished to become a member state of the community and gain autonomy.  The Congo voted 99% in favor of membership and became an autonomous republic.

1959-1960

French army intervened in Brazzaville in 1959 to calm political unrest caused by partisan struggles. The protagonists were the “Yulists” (called “Youlistes” in French as supporters of Fulbert Youlou) of the Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests and supporters of Jacques Opangault’s African Socialist Movement.

Following demonstrations by the African Socialist Movement, Jacques Opangault was arrested in February 1959. He was released in August 1959.

On August 15, 1960, the independence of the Republic of Congo was symbolically proclaimed in the presence of the French Minister for Cultural Affairs, Andre Malraux.

That same year, Jacques Opangault was appointed Minister of State in Fulbert Youlou’s government.

For further information, please consult the following websites with French content:

– Schirmer Henri, Les traités de partage de 1894 en Afrique centrale. Annales de Géographie, tome 4, n°17, 1895. p. 480-498, source : Persee

– Charles de Chavannes,(1853-1940), Exposé sommaire de voyage dans l’Ouest-Africain : mission de Brazza au Congo, présenté dans la séance tenue au palais Saint-Pierre, le 21 février 1886, sous les auspices de la Société de géographie de Lyon, 1886, source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France =  45 pages

– D.Neuville et Ch. Bréard, Les voyages de Savorgnan de Brazza : Ogôoué et Congo (1875-1882) , 1884, source gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France = PDF of 324 pages

– Recueil des traités de la France, Tome 14, 1880-1917, publié sous les auspices du Ministère des Affaires étrangères par M. Jules de Clerq, édité par Durand et Pedone-Lauriel (Paris), Bibliothèque Diplomatique Numérique = 585 pages (our selection below)

The pages on de Brazza are on pages 75-83 (about the law of November 30, 1882, authorising the ratification and implementation of the acts and treaties concluded on September 10, and October 3, 1880, with the King of the Bateke for the cession to France of a portion of territory) and on pages 109-112 (with the law of January 10, 1883, appropriating the necessary funds to meet the expenses of Mr Savorgnan de Brazza’s mission in West Africa and the French establishment formed in the Congo).

Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Sur l'eau
Safari Cruise into Congo Basin
A journey to the heart of equatorial Africa, in the last wild forests of the Sangha.
12 nights - From 6 100 €
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Forêt
Safari Cruise into Congo Basin
A journey to the heart of equatorial Africa, in the last wild forests of the Sangha.
12 nights - From 6 100 €
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Animaux
Safari Cruise into Congo Basin
A journey to the heart of equatorial Africa, in the last wild forests of the Sangha.
12 nights - From 6 100 €
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Gorille
Safari Cruise into Congo Basin
A journey to the heart of equatorial Africa, in the last wild forests of the Sangha.
12 nights - From 6 100 €
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Sur l'eau
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Forêt
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Animaux
Croisière safari fleuve Congo - Gorille

Safari Cruise into Congo Basin

A journey to the heart of equatorial Africa, in the last wild forests of the Sangha...

12 nights - From 6 100 €

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