History of Kinshasa

Published on 4th July 2006

Kinshasa is the capital and largest city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With a population of about 7.5 million, Kinshasa is the second largest city in sub-Saharan Africa and third largest in the whole continent, after Lagos and Cairo.

 It is located along the southern bank of the Congo River, directly opposite the city of Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of the Congo. Kinshasa is located at 4°16′S 15°17′E and is a city of sharp contrasts, with posh residential and commercial areas, two universities, and sprawling slums coexisting side by side.

 It is the Congo's largest city and it is an administrative, communication, and commercial center. Major industries in the city are food and beverage processing, tanning, construction, ship repairing, and the manufacture of chemicals, mineral oils, textiles, and cement.

 The city was founded as a trading post by Henry Morton Stanley in 1881 and named Léopoldville in honor of King Léopold II of Belgium, who ruled the vast territory that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The post flourished as the first navigable port along the Congo River above Livingstone Falls. Initially, all goods arriving at Léopoldville from the interior would have to be carried by a porter to the port of Matadi along the coast. The completion of a railroad in 1898 provided a viable means of transportation along the river's lower reaches and sparked the rapid development of Léopoldville. By 1920, the city was elevated to capital of the Belgian Congo, replacing the seaside town of Boma.

 In 1965 Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in the Congo in his second coup and initiated a policy of "Africanizing" the names of people and places in the country. In 1966 Léopoldville was renamed Kinshasa for a village named Kinchassa that once stood near the site. The city grew rapidly under Mobutu, drawing people from across the country who came in search of their fortunes or to escape ethnic strife elsewhere. This inevitably brought about a change to the city's ethnic and linguistic composition as well. Although it is situated in territory that traditionally belongs to the Bakongo people, the lingua franca in Kinshasa today is not Kikongo but Lingala.

 In 1974, Kinshasha hosted the "Rumble in the Jungle" fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, in which Ali defeated Foreman to regain the World Heavyweight Title.

The city's economic life collapsed in the 1990s as a result of the political turmoil in the country. April 2003 Kinshasa suffered greatly due to Mobutu's excesses, mass corruption, nepotism and the civil war that led to his downfall.

 Nevertheless, it is still a major cultural and intellectual center for Central Africa, with a flourishing community of musicians and artists. It is also the country's major industrial center, processing many of the natural products brought from the interior. The city has recently had to fend off rioting soldiers who were protesting the government's inability to pay them.


www.africatravelling.net/ zaire/kinshasa/kinshasa_history.htm,
www.greatestcities.com/.../ Kinshasa_city_state_capital/history.html,

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