Martyrs Day- Day of Independence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

January 17, 2017


As the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to endure the growing instability caused by President Kabila’s refusal to give up power after his second and final term in office, Martyrs Day of Independence has become even more significant for the Congolese people. On January 4, the people of the DRC celebrate the Martyrs Day of Independence; a national holiday which commemorates the lives of hundreds of people who died during a peaceful march against Belgian colonialism. The march, and subsequent killing of hundreds, took place in 1959, and later resulted in the King of Belgium and the Belgium government granting full independence to the DRC.

This historic decision led to the DRC instituting and executing provincial elections followed by national elections in 1960 and 1961. The Martyrs Day of Independence, which marks the historic departure of the DRC from the control of the colonial power of Belgium, was seen as one of the DRC’s first steps towards becoming a democratic state. In the wake of the news of the postponed democratic elections conducted for Kabila to continue as President, the Congolese people as well as the rest of the world will reflect on the impact Martyrs Day had on the DRC. Moving forward, one can hope that the significance of Martyrs Day will be considered as the current conflict persists within the DRC. Specifically, that the sacrifice given by the Congolese people on January 4th 1959 to achieve democracy is remembered. 

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