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14 August 1960
Formerly known as the Belgian Congo, the Republic of Congo was established in 1960. The fight for independence was initially led by Patrice Lumumba of the National Congolose Movement (NCM). Independence Day was marked on 30 June 1960, with the election of Lumumba as prime minister, and Joseph Kasavubu as president. At the outset of independence, the Republic of Congo was plagued by conflict. In the days following the independence celebrations, the Congolese Army attacked Belgian officers and their families. Many Belgian nationals fled the country, and tension rose between Congolese ethnic groups. On 11 July, Katanga broke away from the Republic of Congo to form a separate state and by 14 August 1960, troops deployed by the United Nations arrived to replace the Belgian army, and by Lumumba’s request, to subdue Katanga by force. The presence of the UN was proved to be fruitless, as disagreements over what it could and could not do continue throughout its deployment. By September 1960, Lumumba had been dismissed as prime minister. Joseph Mobutu, Chief of Staff in the Congolese Army, placed Lumumba under house arrest and later ordered his assassination. The UN Secretary General, Dag HammarskjÁ¶ld, was blamed for Lumumba’s death, and calls for his resignation came from the Soviet Union, who Lumumba had sought military assistance from during the Katanga secession. In 1961, several conferences were held to resolve what became known as the Congo Crisis, but the process was further delayed by the death of Dag HammarskjÁ¶ld in a plane crash. U Thant replaced HammarskjÁ¶ld as UN Secretary General and was instrumental in bringing Katanga secession to an end. In 1965, Mobutu, supported by many Western powers, finally seized power. His leadership was to signify one of the most dictorial and corrupt regimes on the African continent. He was deposed by Laurent Kabila, the president of what became known as called the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congo Crisis in the 1960’s is comparable to the political turmoil experienced in South Africa at that time.