Dona Béatrice

The history of the pre-colonial Congo summarizes the history of the peoples of the present Democratic Republic of Congo, since the appearance of the first human traces on the territory until the period of colonization Stone tools of 1.8 million years were found north of Edward Lake.

From 2000 BC At 500 AD BC, waves of Bantu migrations arrived in the Congo of the region of present-day Nigeria, in these territories hitherto inhabited only by Pygmy populations. The Bantu first settled on the shores and plateaus of the south and east and avoided the dense forest. Other migrations of populations from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of Sudan occurred in northern Congo, as well as in eastern Africa, adding a nilotic component to the mix of ethnic groups.

The Bantu brought agriculture and iron-working techniques from West Africa to this region. The Bantu set up states (Kongo, Kuba, Lunda). They built trails, and gigantic fortresses ... They used the tam-tam as a means of communication. They made clothes with a textile material made from the bamboo leaf.

The territory now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo has been inhabited for at least about 200,000 BC. There were large states centralized on this territory like the Kongo, Songye, Kuba, Garengaze, Lunda and the Luba empire ... The Europeans do not recognize the region until 1482-1483 with the discovery of the mouth of the river Congo by Portuguese sailor Diogo Cão.

The Kongo kingdom is then at its peak. From 1879, explorer Henry Morton Stanley explored the interior of the future country on behalf of the King of Belgium Leopold II. During the Berlin Conference (1884-1885), the latter succeeded in having the other European powers recognize his taking possession of the Congo. This is the beginning of colonization. The controlled sector takes the name of independent state of Congo although it is in fact the personal property of Leopold. In 1908, the Belgian Parliament took over, by legacy of King Leopold II, the tutelage on the territory, newly named Belgian Congo.

The area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been inhabited for at least the past 200 000 years based on stone finds on the Mulundwa (Katanga), Katanda and Senga (Kivu) sites1. Archaeological remains of homo sapiens (bones, harpoon spikes, quartz tools) have been discovered at Ishango in Virunga National Park and dated between 25,000 and 20,000 years ago. Bantu peoples from an area between eastern Nigeria and the Grassfields of Cameroon come to settle as early as 2600 BC.

The great kingdoms (luba, lunda, kongo) are formed between the first centuries after Christ and before the fifteenth century, the time of the arrival of the first Portuguese on the Atlantic coast. But many people then lived in chiefdoms, that is to say, small principalities more or less self-sufficient. From this period, we see these kingdoms explode under the impetus of trafficking and the emergence of new power relations that lead to colonization. Portuguese Jesuits Christianize kings and peoples of Kongo. Maize and cassava crops, imported from America, are spreading. The first European map of the region is due to the Venetian explorer Alvise Cadamosto in the service of Portugal (16th century).

Between 1874 and 1877, Henry Morton Stanley, British explorer, penetrated Equatorial Africa, until then terra incognita for the Europeans. On his steamboat, he descends the Congo River, main route of penetration, and maps the area. Between 1879 and 1884, the explorer made a second trip across the Congo, but this time up the river. Its mission is to create positions for the International African Association (AIA), which is presided over by the King of Belgium Leopold II. The Association officially has a scientific and philanthropic objective: it is to continue to map the region and fight against slavery, notably by buying slaves from Afro-Arab merchants. It is mostly a means of expansion for the King of Belgium. Stanley and his companions negotiate with local chiefs to take over the land and exploit the country's wealth. Protestant missionaries disembark.

In 1884-1885, during the Berlin Conference, the great European powers recognized the International Association of Congo (AIC succeeding the AIA). Behind it, in fact operates Leopold II who sees himself in fact recognize his authority over a gigantic territory in Central Africa. This territory, cut by Stanley, and still largely unexplored, is named the Independent State of Congo (1885).