Heroes’ Day in DR Congo Date in the current year: January 17, 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.

Patrice Lumumba was the first prime minister of the Republic of the Congo who is credited with playing a significant role in transforming the Belgian Congo into an independent state. Lumumba was born on July 2, 1925 in the Belgian Congo. Having graduated from a Christian school, he completed a one-year training course at the government post office training school. After that he worked as a traveling beer salesman, as a post office clerk, and as a personal assistant to French sociologist Pierre Clément.

Lumumba’s political career began in 1955, when he joined the Liberal Party of Belgium and began to edit and distribute party literature. The next year, he was arrested for embezzling money from the post office. A year later, Lumumba was found guilty and sentenced to a year in prison.

Upon his release in 1958, Lumumba became a founding member of the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement national Congolais, MNC); its primary goal was to achieve Congolese independence “within a reasonable” time frame. Lumumba quickly became the leader of the organization. In July 1959, the party split, and the bigger of the two factions took the name MNC-L (MNC-Lumumba).

In 1960, the Republic of the Congo declared its independence from Belgium. Lumumba’s party won the most seats in the general election, and Lumumba became the country’s first prime minister. Although the MNC-L controlled the parliament, there was trouble forming the government because of Lumumba’s political differences and rivalry with president elect Joseph Kasa-Vubu. However, eventually a compromise was reached.

Lumumba’s main goals a prime minister were to improve the quality of life in the Republic of the Congo and to unify the country through the elimination of regionalism and tribalism. However, he was unable to implement his plans due to the outbreak of the Congo Crisis shortly after independence.

Lumumba asked the United Nations and the United States to assist in suppressing the secessionists that had proclaimed the State of Katanga, but both refused to help due to Lumumba’s allegedly pro-communist views. After their refusal, Lumumba indeed turned to Soviet Union for assistance, which increased tensions between him and President Kasa-Vubu.

In September 1960, chief-of-staff Joseph-Désiré Mobutu launched a bloodless coup. Lumumba tried to form a new government; however, he had to flee when the UN recognized Mobutu’s regime. Lumumba was captured and imprisoned by Mobutu’s men and eventually taken to the State of Katanga. He was executed by Katangan authorities on January 17, 1961.

Although Lumumba’s political career was relatively short and controversial, he is often portrayed as martyr, and his death anniversary is observed as one of Heroes’ Days in DR Congo. Interestingly, another Heroes’ Day celebrated on March 24 honors one of his biggest political rivals, Joseph Kasa-Vubu.

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