Independence often does not go smoothly and the colonial power will be dammed for what it does and what it leaves undone. So slip on your smoking jacket, fill your pipe, take your first sip of your adult beverage, and sit back in your most comfortable chair. Welcome to todays offering from The Philatelist.
Todays stamp promotes a recovery plan in a new country that was devastated by unrest following independence. The stamp issue shows much needed sewer and road construction, paid for by the European Economic Community. In theory this is a good stamp, promising a better future shared by all Congolese. The mistake is only in admitting that it was being paid for by Europe. It would have been better if the Congo government had made at least a small contribution to the project. That way there would be some credibility in taking credit.
The stamp today is issue A104, a 30 centimes stamp issued by the Republic of the Congo on July 1st, 1963. It showed an earthmover and blueprints and was part of a seven stamp issue in various denominations. According to the Scott catalog, the stamp is worth 25 cents cancelled.
Congo got it’s independence from Belgium in 1960. There was an older more conservative President Joseph Kasa-Vubu and a younger left wing prime minister Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba only lasted a few months in office. He increased government pay for all except the army while trying to retain Belgian officers. The army then mutinied and started looting especially targeting the many whites that remained to work the mining industry. The province that contained the mines Katanga then declared independence and hired white mainly South African mercenaries to chase off the Congo army. Belgium recognized Katanga independence and sent troops. Prime Minister Lumumba then traveled to Washington to ask for a military force to retake Katanga. While staying at Blair House across from the White House he asked that a blond prostitute be brought to him. Request denied, all requests denied. Upon return to Congo, he asked for military help from the Soviet Union. He was not authorized to do this by President Kasa-Vubu, who then ordered him removed from office. Prime Minister Lumumba then got on Radio Congo and declared the President removed. The standoff ended when the army arrested Lumumba and turned him over to Katanga, who promptly shot him, killed him and dissolved his body in acid.
President Kasa-Vubu remained in office and was able to reintegrate Katanga by making its leader the new Prime Minister. Things settled down for a while and Belgian troops were withdrawn. Congo retained some of the South African mercenaries in the Congo army. It was this quiet period that is depicted on the stamp.
It was not to last. Lumumba followers recast themselves as Simbas, (lions) and rebelled. Rebels wore animal skins and were initiated with a black magic ceremony that they thought made them immune to bullets. Much land was taken and the whites found were rounded up and confined in a hotel. The Soviets sent help to the Simbas including Cuban troops and Che Guevera. The Belgians again sent troops but this time only took the hotel and evacuated the whites and left. It was up to the Congo government to round up the Simbas, mostly using the mercenaries. This discredited the government and it then fell to a military coup in 1965. Recovery was a while off, plan or no plan.
Well my drink is empty and so I will pour another in honor the bravery of those that go far way and try to make a living in one of the worlds heck holes. Come again tomorrow for another story that can be learned from stamp collecting.