History records that the first inhabitants of the area now known as Republic of the Congo were the Pygmy people however they had been largely displaced by the Bantu and other tribes who had founded, amongst others, the kingdoms of Kongo, Loango and Tekeby in the area by the time the Portuguese, led by Diogo Cao, first made contact in 1492. Mutually beneficial trade links were establish around the Congo River basin, however, after the discovery of Brazil and the ensuing start of the slave trade, previously amicable relationships between the Portuguese and the Kongolese Kings deteriorated rapidly as some 350,000 were taken into forced slavery from the area including minor members of the royal family by the eighteenth century.
Ongoing hostilities against Portuguese subjugation of the area led to the Kingdom of the Loango in the north gaining its independence from Kongo and the degradation of the Kongo Kingdom until it was little more than an enclave of the Kingdom of Angola by 1857 and subservient to Portugal although, in reality, Portugal was unable to enforce its hegemony in the area. By this time, the Atlantic slave trade had ended south of the equator in 1839 diminishing the area's importance however soon after, the slave trade was replaced by a demand for raw goods from Africa to bolster increasing industrialisation in Europe. In the resultant Scramble for Africa the area came under French control in the 1880s when Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza negotiated a French protectorate over the northern bank of the river Congo.
In 1886 it was named the Colony of Gabon and Congo then, five years later, renamed the Colony of French Congo and the area was later to become known as Middle Congo as part of French Equatorial Africa in 1910 along with Gabon, Chad, French Cameroon and parts of what is now known as the Central African Republic. As throughout Africa, the Second World War was to prove a catalyst for change with the Middle Congo granted overseas territory status, an assembly and representation in the French parliament in 1946. In 1958 a vote was held across French Equatorial Africa with Middle Congo voting for autonomy within the French Community however there were ongoing revolts against the French with France agreeing to its full independence in 1960 with it becoming the Republic of Congo with Fulbert Youlou, a former priest, mayor of Brazzaville and prime minister as leader of the Union Democratique pour la Defense d'Interets Africains party, as its first president.
His tenure was seen as too pro-France, economically incompetent and autocratic leading to his forced resignation in 1963 following days of rioting. His demise saw his followers in parliament swept from power and arrested by the military, who promptly installed a civilian provisional government headed by the Chairman of the National Council of the Revolution, Alphonse Massamba-Debat, with the National Council itself being declared the only legal political party. However, Debat was forced to resign in 1968 following a further military coup led by Captain Marien Ngouabi who was then to assume the presidency changing the country's name to the People's Republic of the Congo, to be governed as a Marxist-Leninist state.
On 18th March 1977 Ngouabi was assassinated and replaced by former army general, Jacques Joachim Yhombi Opango, until a further military coup in February 1979 saw the rise to power of Denis Sassou Nguesso (above) who continued to align the Republic of Congo firmly with the then USSR, the People's Republic of China and other communist states. The Republic of Congo was then ruled as a Marxist state for a few years before that ideology was abandoned in 1990 after the fall of the USSR and economic meltdown. Sassou lost the Republic of the Congo's first democratic presidential election in 1992 to Pascal Lissouba and remained as opposition leader. By 1997 civil war had broken out with pro-Sassou forces, supported by troops from Angola, capturing Brazzaville, forcing Lissouba to flee after allegations that the ousted president had fixed the 1997 election. The war ended in Sassou's favour, when he retook control of the country and was sworn in as president on 25th October 1997. he has continued in power since securing 88.57% in the most recent election in 2021 with his nearest challenger, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, finishing second with 7.84%.
Congo History: Volunteer in Congo Brazzaville
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