LUALABA

Mr. Gérard Jacques was a civil servant of Belgium, having his first job as a colonial administrator in the northern parts of Katanga province in Belgian Congo. Later on he worked in the diplomatic service and he has been an ambassador in far flung place like Korea, South Africa and Israel.

In this book Jacques has woven two stories to one book. One is the short history of the Congo Free State, the Belgian governmental involvement (including the journeys made by the later King Albert) in its colony Congo and especially the eastern part of it (he was stationed in Kongolo). This history includes the war in Katanga (1960-1964, and especially what took place in Kongolo) where many Belgians sided with the Katangese people. I could not find anything on the background of the murder of Lumumba. The other story is his personal story about his background (his father worked in Lower-Congo from 1917-1919), his training, his daily work, his family, his contact with other Belgians (some special characters who blended with local people and customs) and with Congolese people. The intertwined story ends with the departure from Congo, in the very early days of independence. 

The title of the book refers to the river Lualaba, the beginning of the mighty river Zaïre or Congo-river. He describes the people who live there and their history. The influence of the slavetrade that came to these place from the East Coast (think of pivotal role of the island of Zanzibar).

On the whole Jacques has a positive view on the Belgian involvement. His book was published three years before the famous book by Adam Hochschild on the Congo Free State (1998). In this book the exploitation and the atrocities committed in this ‘private backyard’ of the Belgian King Leopold II are spelled out. This private enterprise ended in 1908. 

Jacques writes about the importance of the cooperation between the Belgian colonial administrators and the Belgian company administrators. The mines and the civil service supported one another in their grip on the population.

The book is a book with many details on the people and history of Lualaba and gives an insight in the workings of the Belgian colonial government in Congo.  

Gérard Jacques – Lualaba – Histoires de l’Afrique profonde – 1995

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