Heroes’ Day in DR Congo Date in the current year: March 24, 2024

Heroes’ Day in DR Congo In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, there are three public holidays named Heroes’ Day. The first two are celebrated back-to-back on January 16 and 17; they honor Laurent Kabila and Patrice Lumumba, respectively. The date of the third one is March 24. This holiday is dedicated to Joseph Kasa-Vubu, the first president of the Republic of the Congo.

Joseph Kasa-Vubu, also spelled Kasavubu, was born circa 1915 in the Belgian Congo. Upon completing his primary studies, he enrolled at a seminary but was expelled by the bishop before he could become an ordained priest. Following his expulsion, Kasa-Vubu worked as a bookkeeper, school teacher, and finally as a clerk in the department of finance of the Belgian colonial administration.

Kasa-Vubu’s political career began while he was still working for colonial authorities. In March 1954, he became president of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) following the resignation of its former leader. His leadership helped the group win the 1957 municipal election in the Congo’s capital of Léopoldville.

Kasa-Vubu was one of the first political leaders in the Belgian Congo to openly call for independence. Although he initially advocated for the Congo gaining independence from Belgium within 30 years, the timeline was shortened as the ABAKO movement became stronger under Kasa-Vubu’s leadership.

On January 4, 1959, Kasa-Vubu organized a political gathering where he planned to speak on African nationalism. Colonial authorities banned the meeting, and the crowd that had gathered to listen to Kasa-Vubu’s speech erupted into violence. Kasa-Vubu and several other leaders were arrested and imprisoned for two months. The Léopoldville riots are regarded as a pivotal moment in Congolese independence struggle.

The following year, the Republic of the Congo finally gained independence from Belgium. Patrice Lumumba became the country’s first prime minister, and Kasa-Vubu won the presidential election. He was sworn in as the first president of the Congo on June 27, 1960.

From the very beginning, there was a conflict between the leftist Lumumba and conservative Kasa-Vubu. In September, Kasa-Vubu dissolved the government. In response, Lumumba announced Kasa-Vubu’s dismissal, creating a political stalemate.

The stalemate was ended by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, an army commander who seized power, arrested Lumumba, and supported Kasa-Vubu’s presidency. Kasa-Vubu held on to his post for five years before being deposed in another coup by Mobutu, who declared himself head of state.

Having seized power, Mobutu placed the ex-president under house arrest but eventually allowed him to retire to his farm. Kasa-Vubu died on March 24, 1965 in a hospital in Boma, and his family went into exile.

The role of Kasa-Vubu in the history of the Congo used to be overshadowed by Patrice Lumumba and Joseph-Désiré Mobutu. In wasn’t until 2020 that he was finally recognized as a National Hero of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his death anniversary is now celebrated as a public holiday named Heroes’ Day, alongside Heroes’ Days dedicated to Laurent Kabila and Patrice Lumumba.

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