Congo, Belgian

Belgian Congo, French Congo Belge, former colony (coextensive with the present-day Democratic Republic of the Congo) in Africa, ruled by Belgium from 1908 until 1960. It was established by the Belgian parliament to replace the previous, privately owned Congo Free State, after international outrage over abuses there brought pressure for supervision and accountability. A rebellion broke out in several eastern districts in 1919 and was not suppressed until 1923. Private European and American corporations invested heavily in the Belgian Congo after World War I. Large plantations (growing cotton, oil palms, coffee, cacao, and rubber) and livestock farms were developed. In the interior, gold, diamonds, copper, tin, cobalt, and zinc were mined; the colony became an important source of uranium for the United States during World War II. In the late 1950s, France and the United Kingdom worked with their colonies to prepare for independence. The first nationwide Congolese political party, the Congo National Movement, was launched in 1958 by Patrice Lumumba and other Congolese leaders. Riots broke out in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) after a rally was held calling for the independence of the Congo in 1960. Suddenly Belgium capitulated and Congo became an independent republic on June 30, 1960.

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