Congolese Independence speech by King Baudouin on June 30, 1960

Congolese Independence speech by King Baudouin on June 30, 1960  (1960) 
by Baudouin of Belgium, translator not mentioned

given June 30, 1960

Mr president, Gentlemen,

The independence of Congo is the end result of the work started with the exceptional personality of King Leopold II, which he tackled with determined courage and which has been continued with persistence by Belgium.

It represents a defining moment in the destination, not only of Congo itself, but I have no hesitation in saying it, of all of Africa. For 80 years, Belgium has sent the best of its sons to your country, first to liberate the Congo Basin from the horrible slave trade that thinned out your populations, later to bring the different peoples — who used to be enemies — closer together and present themselves. prepare to form together the largest of the independent African states; finally to bring a happier life to the different regions of Congo that you represent here in the same parliament.

At this historic moment, our thoughts must turn to the pioneers of the emancipation of Africa, and those who, after them, made Congo what it is today. They deserve our admiration and your appreciation, for it was they who, by sacrificing their best strengths and even their lives to a great ideal, brought you peace and enriched your moral and material possessions. They must never be forgotten, neither by Belgium nor by the Congo.

When Leopold II embarked on the great work that is being crowned today, he did not come here as a conqueror but as a bringer of civilization. From the start, Congo has opened its borders to international trade, without Belgium ever exercising an exclusive right focused solely on its own interests. Congo has been given railways, all kinds of sea and air lines, which, by connecting your populations with each other, have promoted their unity and expanded the countries to the world. A medical service, which was set up several decades early, has been patiently organized and has delivered you from many devastating illnesses. Numerous and remarkably well-equipped hospitals have been built. Agriculture has been improved and modernized.

Major cities have been built, and throughout the country, living conditions and hygiene are showing remarkable progress. Industrial companies have done justice to the natural resources of the soil. The expansion of economic activity has been significant; it has increased the prosperity of your population and has given the country the technicians indispensable to its development. Thanks to the missionary schools, as well as those who established the public powers, basic education has expanded considerably; an intellectual elite is forming, and your universities will grow rapidly.

An increasing number of qualified workers in agriculture, industry, crafts, commerce, administration, are beginning to introduce into all walks of life the individual emancipation that is the real basis of every civilization. We are pleased that in this way we have given Congo — despite its greatest difficulties — the indispensable resources that lie at the foundation of a country on the road to development. The great independence movement that is dragging the whole of Africa with it has found the greatest understanding among the Belgian government officials. In the face of the united desire of your populations, we have not hesitated to grant you this independence from now on. It is up to you, gentlemen, to show now that we were right to trust you. From now on, Belgium and Congo are side by side, as sovereign states, but bound by friendship and decided to help each other. Today we therefore return to your hands the administrative, economic, technical and social services, as well as the judicial organization, without which a modern state is not viable. The Belgian representatives are ready to lend you a loyal and open cooperation. Your task is immense and you are the first to realize it. The greatest dangers that threaten you are: the inexperience of the populations to govern themselves, the tribal quarrels that have caused so much evil in the past and cannot start again at any cost, the attraction that foreign superpowers can exert in certain regions, ready to take advantage of the slightest sign of weakness.

Your leaders will know the difficult task of governing. Whatever party they belong to, they will have to put the general interest of the country first of their concerns. They will have to teach the Congolese people that independence is not achieved through immediate pleasure gratification, but through work, through respect for the freedom of others and the rights of the minority, through tolerance and through order without which no democratic regime can survive. I would like to pay a special tribute here to the armed forces who have accomplished their difficult task with courage and unwavering dedication. Independence will require effort and sacrifice from everyone. You will have to adapt the settings to your views and needs in a way that makes them stable and balanced. You will need to form experienced administrative frameworks, intensify the intellectual and moral education of the population, maintain currency stability, protect your economic, social and financial organizations. Do not jeopardize the future with hasty reforms, and do not replace the institutions that Belgium hands over to you, as long as you are not sure that you can make better ones.

Maintain with care the activities of the medical services, the interruption of which would have disastrous consequences and re-emerge those diseases in which we have succeeded in suppressing them. Caring for the scientific work that constitutes an invaluable intellectual heritage for you. Do not forget that a serene and independent justice system is an element of social peace; the guarantee of respect for the right of all provides a state with great moral authority in international public opinion.

Do not hesitate to contact us. We are ready to stand by your side to assist you with our counsel to train the technicians and officials you will need. Africa and Europe are mutually complementary and have been called together to the most brilliant development. Congo and Belgium can play a first-class role through constructive and fruitful cooperation, in mutual trust. Gentlemen, The eyes of the whole world are on you.

The moment Congo independently chooses its own way of life, I wish that the Congolese people may preserve and develop all of their spiritual, moral and religious values, values that are common and that transcend political changes, racial differences or borders. Remain one, and you will prove worthy to play the great role you have been called to play in the history of Africa. People of Congo, My country and I, we recognize with joy and emotion that Congo is granted access on this day, June 30, 1960, in complete harmony and friendship with Belgium, to independence and international sovereignty.

May God protect Congo!

This work is in the public domain worldwide because it has been so released by the copyright holder.