June 30th Marks 62 Years free of Colonial Rule
How do we best celebrate an event which took place over half a century ago?
The colonial era brought cruel atrocities by the Belgium Kingdom and King Leopold II. The Congolese people were tortured, killed, and humiliated. Millions died, with more traumatized, as Europeans exploited their resources.
On June 30, 1960, after a year of nationwide protests and a widespread boycott of Belgian-led elections, Congo gained independence. Its first prime minister Patrice Lumumba famously said, “no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood.”
“No Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood.”Patrice Lamumba
While this historic day marked the freedom of Congo from its colonial masters, its fight toward independence was far from the end. DR Congo faced war, famine, and instability. Well-intentioned NGOs rushed in, establishing food supply, opening free clinics, and building water wells. However, the short-term nature of this aid meant that the infrastructure lasted only months, maybe years, before inevitable abandonment. The Congolese people had to rely on fractured, unreliable assistance, dependent on the whim of the countries that were themselves historically, colonizers.
To assist DR Congo in its continued fight toward independence and prosperity, it’s time for a new, localized aid. ECI supports Congolese-led organizations and social enterprises. Local organizations are invested in the long-term well-being of their communities in a unique, powerful way. Organizations like MAMA Radio bring women’s and children’s welfare to the forefront of community conversations and action. Entrepreneurship center The Hub has assisted over 100 startups and is still growing. Our social enterprise, Asili, provides water and healthcare by and for the Congolese people, and is rapidly expanding. These are just three examples of initiatives that bring economic independence and propel a conversation about women’s empowerment. They break the cycles of abuse and poverty, and shape a new generation to become the agents of change – for a future where DRC is economically independent – where everyone, including women and children, can lead a life of health and happiness.
So how do we celebrate independence? In a recent all-staff meeting, Executive Director Abraham Leno shared that the joy of independence is a spirit that must be lived. Yes–dance, sing, celebrate–but also treat your fellow person with dignity. Because this day, and every day, is about embodying the future– a future where Congo is independent of foreign aid, where every Congolese has access to food and clean water, where every woman is free from gender-based violence or harassment, and where every child can grow up in a safe environment with ease. With this vision, we celebrate Congo, and look forward to the year ahead.