Heroes’ Day in DR Congo Date in the current year: January 16, 2024

Heroes’ Day in DR Congo Heroes’ Day is an annual public holiday celebrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a two-day celebration that takes place on January 16 and 17. The first day is dedicated to Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the second day honors Patrice Lumumba.

Laurent-Désiré Kabila, also referred to as simply Laurent Kabila, was the third president of DR Congo, as well as one of the most prominent Congolese revolutionaries. He came to power by overthrowing Mobutu Sese Seko, his longtime opponent, during the First Congolese War of 1996–1997.

Kabila was born on November 27, 1939 in the Belgian Congo. It is claimed that he studied abroad, namely in Paris, Tashkent, Belgrade and Dar es Salaam, but there is no proof of that. Kabila’s political career began shortly after the independence of the Congo in 1960. His native province of Katanga proclaimed its independence from the Republic of the Congo, and Kabila led an anti-secessionist rebellion.

In 1962, the province of North Katanga was established within the Republic of the Congo. Kabila became a member of the provincial assembly and worked for the Minister of Information. However, a year later he and a few other young assembly members were forced to resign after being accused of sympathizing with communists.

Following his resignation, Kabila aligned himself with the Lumumbists (supporters of Patrice Lumumba who sought to avenge his death) and took part in organizing the Simba rebellion. After the rebellion was suppressed in 1965, Kabila became a smuggler and a bar owner in a small Tanzanian village.

In 1967, Kabila and his supporters founded the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP) that created a Marxist mini-state in the province of South Kivu. It collapsed in late 1988, and Kabila fled to Uganda, although many presumed he was dead. During his time in exile, he met the future president of Uganda Yoweri Museweni, former president of Tanzania Julius Nyerere, and the future president of Rwanda Paul Kagame.

During the First Congo War, Kabila formed the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (ADFL) with the help of Rwanda. By the mid-1997, Kabila’s forces had almost complete control of the country, then known as Zaire. On May 16, President Mobutu fled the country. The next day, Kabila installed himself as the new president, renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and suspended the constitution.

Kabila’s inauguration ceremony took place on May 31, 1997. Although he announced social democratic reforms, Kabila’s regime was criticized for being authoritarian and corrupt. A mere six months into his presidency, Kabila was already compared to Mobutu. His Ugandan and Rwandan allies had turned against him by 1998, which resulted in the Second Congo War.

On January 16, 2001, Kabila was shot in his office by one of his bodyguards and taken to a hospital in Zimbabwe. Although he reportedly died on the spot, the government announced his death only two days later. The anniversary of Kabila’s assassination was declared a public holiday in DR Congo to honor the memory of the country’s third president.

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Heroes' Day in DR Congo, public holidays, Laurent-Désiré Kabila, Patrice Lumumba, holidays in DR Congo