Author Joseph Conrad wrote of the callous indifference with which the Belgians regarded the natives of their Congo colony, and it was precisely that sort of disregard the various nationalist Congolese groups formed to replace. By the middle of the 20th century, Belgium, like the other European powers, began divesting itself of its African colonies, and in that power vacuum the various pro-independence groups turned on one another and the Belgians alike.
On this day, August 8, in 1960, the diamond-rich province of South Kasai joined its neighbor state of Katanga in seceding from the Congo. The cause of the conflict was Belgium’s insistence on keeping its own troops in the country, ostensibly for the protection of the Congolese themselves.
The amount of resentment felt by native Congolese at their treatment by Belgium was expressed most succinctly on the occasion of Congo’s first day as an independent country, when Belgium’s Baudouin I visited and gave an insensitive speed praising the work of his predecessor (who was widely seen as rapacious in the Congo). In response, newly-elected Congolese Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba gave a stirring oration praising the sacrifices of Congo’s revolutionaries, and addressed the King of Belgium “Nous ne sommes plus vos singes”. We are no longer your monkeys.