This map is part of a series of 14 animated maps showing .

View series: Decolonization after 1945

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Independence for Belgium’s African colonies

This map is part of a series of 14 animated maps showing the history of Decolonization after 1945.

The immense Belgian Congo was one of the richest colonies in Africa: its plentiful mineral resources were in the hands of the mining companies, while Catholic missionaries were very influential in social affairs.

In 1959, after several British colonies in Africa had obtained their independence, local nationalist movements began a series of bloody riots in the two main cities of Leopoldville, now Kinshasa, and Stanleyville, renamed Kisangani.

The Belgian government, for whom the top priority was to maintain control of the Congo’s natural resources, invited leaders of the nationalist movement to negotiate and quickly granted independence on 30 June 1960.

But ethnic and political antagonisms were to plunge the country into a terrible civil war. This war continued until November 1965 when General Mobutu launched a coup d’état and created a republic under his dictatorship. In 1967, the former Belgian Congo was renamed Zaire.

The former German colonies of Rwanda and Burundi were placed under Belgian mandate at the end of the First World War. They were granted independence in 1962.

Although the United Nations wanted to merge these two countries into a single state, they remained separate but suffered from long periods of political instability and violent conflicts between its tribal communities, in particular between the Hutus and the Tutsis.