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6— History, Ethnicity and Change in the 'Christian Kingdom' of Southeastern Zaire
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History, Ethnicity and Change in the 'Christian Kingdom' of Southeastern Zaire

Allen F. Roberts

Identity, Conflict and History

A first and lasting impression when one consults ethnographic maps of southeastern Zaire is one of confusion. Different authors delimiting the 'tribes' at more or less the same time invariably report different findings.[1] Some of these names refer to regions, hence to the people inhabiting those regions. The 'Bena Marungu' are people living in the Marungu Massif, so named for its grassy moors. Conversely, the 'Gua', 'Rua' or 'Luba' are called that by neighbours they have intimidated ('Luba' may mean 'the ferocious ones'[2] ), and so the land the 'Gua' occupy is 'Ugua', using the Bantu nominal prefix for place. 'Bemba' are those speaking the Bemba language regardless of culture or history; 'Kalanga' means those who preceded current populations, and were hence prior in time or culture, regardless of any more particular identity. Sobriquets (or less affectionate names), perhaps told to explorers, seem to be the most common source of these 'tribal' terms. 'Hemba' are the 'ones to the east' of someone to the west;[3] Tabwa' are 'the ones easily tied up' by those wanting to take slaves without undue resistance;[4] 'Kunda' similarly are 'slaves', and they do not appreciate being called that;[5] 'Holoholo' (who have had a linguistic monograph written about their 'language') are people whose greeting, deemed to sound something like that to outsiders, was found comical.[6] Tumbwe' is the name of an hereditary chief of the Sanga clan (who appear on some maps as 'Bena Tanga', named after an early ancestor); his followers are 'Tumbwe' too. 'Kunda' are also called 'Kamanya', after an early primal ancestress; 'Lumbu' are also 'Ngoy', from an early chief, or 'Zimba' after an emblem or 'totem'.[7] Both of these latter identities are considered mikoa (clans) by local Africans. Lest we think that we have figured this out, Boone tells us that 'Lumbu' may be considered 'Kunda' or 'Luba', yet they appear on her map as distinct from these.[8]

Ethnic identity in southeastern Zaire is a matter of situational reckoning. Clyde Mitchell, writing of the greater region, has called for 'a phenomenological approach—from the actors' point [s] of view' when describing the 'different referents in different social situations', which Western observers have called 'tribes'.[9] These might be considered 'fuzzy sets', rather than the bounded, discrete entities often sought or imposed when considering inhabitants of a region such as this.[10] Clifford Geertz's description of the 'contextualized persons' of Morocco could apply here, where people have coped with diversity by 'distinguishing, with


elaborate precision, the contexts . . . within which men are separated by their dissimilitudes, and those . . . where, however warily and however conditionally, they are connected by them'. Importantly, such an identification system—for it is that, despite the apparent contradictions—provides only 'the most sketchy, outline implications concerning what men so named as a rule are like' and is a means of categorization which 'leads, paradoxically, to a hyperindividualism in public relationships, because by providing only a vacant sketch, and that shifting, of who the actors are . . . it leaves the rest, that is, almost everything, to be filled in by the process of interaction itself.'[11]

If these are the ways identity is determined, such people must have a different sense of history from that of Westerners. In the 1950s, Ian Cunnison wrote a book and several papers on the 'Luapula people', describing how they have come from lands and tribes around the southern end of Lake Mweru to settle in the Luapula River valley.[12] His use of the term 'people' is meant to reflect a common lifestyle and purpose of immigrants from a range of diverse backgrounds. Indeed, a new 'tribe' called 'Shila'—also a group drawn from many ethnic origins who settled along the shores of Lake Mweru to engage in fishing—has come into being in recent years, as export of fish to Copperbelt markets has become a lucrative pursuit. Among these 'Luapula people', or 'Shila', are many from northeast of Lake Mweru, who may call themselves 'Tabwa', as do those I have studied. Cunnison's ilyashi, which 'implies the affairs and cases of the past which make the present affairs what they are', will be detailed as the background for 'mulandu, which is a present affair or case'.[13] For these people, then, 'histories . . . are particular' and 'known well only to the groups which partook in the events enumerated. More accurately, a history is always and only the history of a group. . . . There is no coherent wider history.' As Cunnison notes, 'the facts for a universal history are there, but they are concentrated in the histories of the various groups, and only a few of these facts will have become diffused into current circulation; and of these, some people will pick up some, others will learn a different set'[14] —or, perhaps more appropriately, factions will compose and use a different set, according to goals of the moment.

At Lubanda on Lake Tanganyika, the site of my research, these same terms, liasi and mulandu, are used slightly differently from what Cunnison reports. Liasi is a conversational explanation, an extemporaneous exegesis without a coherent story form (a plot leading from a beginning to a climax and end). Mulandu (pl. milandu ) is an account given during litigation over land and other important rights. As Tabwa aphorism has it, a chief 'is his people' and is identified with particular lands as mwine kyalo .[15] A chief personifies a number of qualities and organizes contact with spirits of his ancestors and of the earth; through him, people 'are' the land they inhabit, and vice versa. As Cunnison found, so for Tabwa at Lubanda: 'the primary reason for histories is the justification of a claim for a piece of land'.[16]Milandu may also be presentations accompanying accusations of sorcery or some other grave affront, since to accuse implies a readiness to explain one's grievance from its origins. For Tabwa at Lubanda, like Luapula people, the basic elements of milandu are known to both sides of a dispute, but are arranged differently to reinforce the legitimacy of particular claims.

Conflict which surfaces as a dispute was often begun long before, and will just as often continue long after resolution of current difficulty. Milandu, too, are open-ended, although there may be discrete stories in a longer account; further incidents are added as they happen or become necessary in a given situation. In this they are like syntagmatic chains, with paradigms of stories within which there


are further paradigmatic sets allowing for the change of characters or other secondary elements to suit the needs of particular narrators in particular situations. Metaphors are important to this last process, since references to, say, animals or celestial phenomena in turn bring to mind a cosmology in which corresponding values, hence attitudes, are implied. Each character fitted into these slots may be more or less elaborated depending upon the point to be made in the particular narration.

Once such a basic structure is recognized, then, when the researcher obtains a given version, told on a particular occasion by a particular narrator to a particular audience, that has characters different from those of another version of the same basic story, one must determine why each version was told in order to understand the change in dramatis personae . In other words, such differences are a product of history, as an outside observer would see it, even as they are history to the narrator and his audience.[17]

Tabwa history, then, like that Cunnison found among the Luapula peoples, is particular, 'always and only the history of a group'.[18] It is worth noting that in other contexts Tabwa culture provides other opportunities for debate, and that ambiguity is part and parcel of Tabwa existence. Divination, for instance, is a principal process by which misfortune—the breach of expectation, a threat to order and existence—is assigned cause. Tabwa have a number of different sorts of divination, but the principle of each of them is the same: the diviner provides a parable (a dream, often elaborated while using an oracular device) and the supplicants must then imagine what content can and must fill such a 'pronominal structure', as Christopher Davis-Roberts calls it. 'To the family would fall the task of determining . . . how this pronominal structure, when inserted into their past might so alter it (or their sense of it) that present action could, in its turn, transform their future into what they would wish'. As she adds,

the possibility of finding truth in divination . . . makes us aware of the extent to which personal identity . . . and lineage group history are both things which do not exist as such. Instead, they are objects of knowledge which are 'worked on' (or, like painting, created) in a process of historization which recuperates in life as lived the features of social knowledge.[19]

History is active, then, changing and changed as vicissitudes compel men to decide which few paths among the many taken, and the more not taken, matter. Yet even as one constructs a reasonable explanation of the present from snatches of the past, and this history allows action to rectify social disharmony or imbalance of health for a happier future, when that future comes, further or different conflict or affliction may necessitate a restructuring of the same elements. There is nothing absolute about such a history, then, of an individual or the group within which he finds himself.

Despite this fluid situation, an overarching Tabwa ethnicity has arisen. Indeed, a universal history of the Tabwa was written by one of the very first individuals from the area to gain the skills and perspective of literacy. This, in turn, reflects an ontological shift, caused by and contributing to change in the local political economy.

Stefano Kaoze (c. 1885–1951) of the Marungu Massif was, in 1917, the first Congolese ordained a Catholic priest. He was also an ardent proponent of black consciousness and a patriot of his Sanga clan and a 'Tabwa' tribe; his ministry, writings and participation in a number of colonial councils made Kaoze, more than any other individual, 'father' of a growing Tabwa ethnic awareness. A recent hagiography, Stefano Kaoze: prêtre d'hier et d'aujourd'hui, has been prepared by


a team supervised by Monsignor Kimpinde, Bishop of Kilwa-Kasenga, Zaire.[20] Meant for a growing Catholic audience in Zaire, the book includes many passages from Kaoze's writings and interviews with the abbé's contemporaries and kinsmen organized to demonstrate Kaoze's 'message to our generation'. This goal is ably accomplished; in the process, history has been revised in some significant ways. Here follows something of Kaoze's life and times, the manner by which his own ethnic awareness began, and how he attempted, and in part failed, to convey this to his fellows. Tabwa people may have no universal history, and the concept of one may be alien to Tabwa perceptions of existence, but Kaoze sought to create one nonetheless. In so doing, he became a key actor in a drama pitting Catholic missionaries against colonial administrators, with the emergence of Tabwa ethnicity as one of its results.

Enclave of Order/ Seat of Dissent: a Christian Kingdom in Central Africa

Kaoze was born during the turbulent 1880s when the disruption from slaving southwest of Lake Tanganyika by Nyamwezi settlers, Zanzibari and other coastal people and their recruits from the Tanzanian interior, and ambitious Tabwa chiefs anxious to share in the plunder, was at its greatest. Nature seemed in revolt: people were beset by smallpox epidemics, epizoötics, plagues of locusts, famine; brilliant Sungrazer comets appeared 'importing change of Times and States'; and the landscape changed radically as the level of Lake Tanganyika suddenly plunged several metres when the Lukuga River burst through barriers to empty into the Congo/Zaire watershed.[21] Not the least of these great changes was occasioned by the arrival of Emile Storms of the International African Association (IAA) at Mpala in 1883.

While the stated aims of the IAA were to gain scientific knowledge of the Central African interior, to assist missionary and commercial travellers, and to join in the suppression of slavery, Storms had a second, secret directive from the IAA's patron, Leopold II, King of the Belgians. He was to establish a strong presence in the area and thus lend legitimacy to the king's eventual claim to the Congo Basin.[22] 'A clever diplomatist', Storms made blood pacts and signed treaties with local chiefs.[23] While he considered such accords 'the height of ridiculousness' unless tribute were paid to demonstrate that the chief had become his 'vassal',[24] the treaties were thereafter defined as 'concessions' used to divest local leaders of their sovereignty upon the creation of the Congo Free State in 1885.[25] Furthermore, Storms, feeling that 'all authority which is not based upon force is null and illusory',[26] pursued a 'game of wars and allegiances' which included the armed conquest of several important chiefs around Lubanda.[27]

As a compromise during the Conference of Berlin of 1884–5, Leopold ceded an IAA outpost on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika to the Germans, and recalled Storms from Mpala. Both stations were to be ceded to the Missionaries of Africa, the 'White Fathers'.[28] Storms was enraged, and his pique was noticed in Belgium: the gazette Mouvement Géographique reported, tongue in cheek, that he had 'proclaimed his dictatorship over the country . . . under the title of "Emile the First, Emperor of Tanganyika" '. This caused official consternation and the editors hastily retracted their joke.[29] Nonetheless, Storms, self-proclaimed 'chief of chiefs', had begun an empire on the southwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika, the autonomy of which


would be contested for many years to come.[30]

Father Isaac Moinet by 1885 had already founded and overseen three Catholic mission stations along the western shore of Lake Tanganyika. His 'taste for authority' and knowledge of how and when to impose himself were capacities necessary to the task of occupying the void left by the 'chief of chiefs', Emile Storms. Moinet twitted the lieutenant, asking what name he should assume as successor to the 'throne' of 'His Majesty Emile the First, King of Tanganyika', and signing a letter to Storms, 'I. Moinet, Acting King of Mpala'.[31] Joking aside, however, Moinet and his associate, Father Auguste Moncet, had adopted with fervour the dream of Cardinal Lavigerie, founder of the White Fathers, to create a Christian Kingdom in the heart of Africa;[32] and they saw Storms's 'territory' as 'the nucleus of a power, of a Christian Kingdom' so desired.[33]

Catholics in Europe at that time were humiliated by their losses in the Papal Wars in Italy, pressed by aggressive Freemasonry and Liberal politics, and in France, reduced to 'émigrés de I'intérieur' of their own homeland. Lavigerie rallied their enthusiasm. 'Was it not possible that ground lost in Europe might be made good in Africa?'[34] In planning the evangelization of lands along Lake Tanganyika, the Cardinal posited three goals which reflected the 'very grave perils' menacing, indeed besieging, his world: to introduce Catholicism and thus block Protestant expansion into the Congo basin from outposts such as that of the London Missionary Society, on Lake Tanganyika since 1879;[35] to defy the 'Liberal Materialism' of the Freemasons, Socialists and Protestants 'conniving' within the ranks of the IAA; and to prevent the spread of Islam in the wake of slaving by Muslims from the East Coast or those in their employ.[36] The prelate developed these ideas in the late 1870s as he advocated the founding of new—and independent—Apostolic Vicariates with 'their own special resources', men, and 'especially their chiefs, whose presence alone will suffice to contain within appropriate limits the representatives' of the IAA.[37]

Lavigerie felt that proselytism was most effective when a strong central authority—a 'king' or 'paramount chief—could be converted to Christianity. Given the anarchy the Cardinal believed to reign in Central Africa, such a person, if trained and aided by European Christians in 'means of action, attack and defence unknown to other Blacks', could then 'rapidly dominate a considerable part of the African interior, and that day, Christianity will be established.'[38] For some time, Mutesa, Kabaka of Buganda, was considered a likely candidate, and Lavigerie's man, Leopold-Louis Joubert, prepared himself to become 'Minister of War to His Black Majesty, Mutesa'.[39] The Lunda Empire of the Mwata Yamvo was considered for a Third African Vicariate, but both projects were scrapped because of shifts in local politics.[40] Lavigerie had foreseen the difficulty of finding an apt choice among existing African leaders: 'it would not be impossible . . . for a brave and Christian European to fill this [responsibility].'[41] Two years after Storms's 'empire' was ceded to Lavigerie's White Fathers, the cardinal announced, with reference to the feisty ex-Papal Zouave he had proposed as Mutesa's 'war minister', that 'if Joubert wishes the title of King, we shall give it to him', and that Joubert's would be 'the crown of Marungu'.[42] 'Le saint Joubert', as Lavigerie also called him, soon became a hero of mythical proportions along the southwestern shore of Lake Tanganyika, and a fit successor to 'Emile the First, Emperor of Tanganyika'.[43]

Cession of Storms's outpost to the White Fathers was precipitated by recognition of the Congo Free State; there would never be formal, international recognition of the Christian Kingdom at Mpala. Catholic writers have explained the Kingdom as 'a competitive means for evangelization, rather than the end


result of political ambitions'.[44] Yet elsewhere in Central Africa, the missionary occasionally became 'temporal governor',[45] 'king without crown',[46] or even 'prophet, priest and king rolled into one—really a very big duck he, in his own private pond',[47] with powers 'absolute and unchecked';[48] and it can be argued that a de facto state existed at Mpala, well into the 1890s. The bounds of this state became synonymous with those of Tabwa ethnicity as it came to be recognized in the context of Belgian colonialism.

The criteria of sovereignty for a modern state vary,[49] but usually include defined borders which will be defended, often with a standing army; a monopoly on the use of force, a penal code and a system of courts for those seeking redress; a monetary system, markets and organized export/import; a system for indoctrination through an avowed ideology and state religion. 'Mpala Territory' had all these 'official' attributes, their underlying political structures, and more. Most importantly, the 'government' could and did intervene in every sphere of local activity, thus continually reaffirming the identity of the Territory as opposed to the rest of the Free State surrounding it. In terms of 'state cosmology', the confines of the Territory were inhabited by 'our people', while those outside dwelt in 'the Empire of the Demon'.[50] Entry to the closed system of the Fathers was only by a long and difficult process. 'Finding themselves excluded from . . . the most sacred of our mysteries, the catechumens better feel their state of inferiority vis-à-vis the Christians, and their desire to receive baptism becomes more vivid for this.'[51]

The limit of Joubert's direct authority appears to have been a radius of about three days' hiking from the mission at the mouth of the Lufuko. Beyond this, many others gave him their allegiance, from the Lake Mweru region in the southwest to beyond the Lukuga River in the north. To these he sent armed support in time of need, and to some even farther afield, powder and an invitation to move closer to him.[52] The Christian Kingdom could exist as a de facto colony or state because the missionaries constituted the only effective European presence along the western shores of the lake.[53] Whereas Joubert's powers were unrivalled by the Congo Free State for some time, they were severely tested on a number of occasions by slavers, local insurgents, and later, by mutinous Congolese soldiers. The Captain raised a force of loyalists and threatened counter-attack if tribute were not brought manifesting subservience to him. Some deferred, others resisted. Those most loyal to Joubert (like Storms before him) were typically of one clan, those rebellious, of another. Allies were rewarded, and tended to continue in the good graces of the various administrators through the following decades.[54] The Sanga, or 'Bushpig' clan of Stefano Kaoze was the one most often rebellious in the early years; this disallowed the favour of government recognition later on.

By the mid-1890s, Congo Free State agents were instructed to assert an effective presence in lands west of Lake Tanganyika. As they moved to incorporate the Christian Kingdom into the colony, they reduced 'King' Joubert to 'an ordinary member of the public' attached to the mission, who might see to 'petite police', but to nothing of greater consequence.[55] Terrorists and insurrectionists among Tabwa anxious to regain old powers or new in the nascent colonial structure, and sensing the confusion as to who truly reigned—missionaries or administrators—inspired great fear as they attacked and murdered scores in the Marungu. Many of those who had earlier been loyal tried to 'desert' the Fathers to seek security and advantage through new politicoeconomic opportunities near Free State outposts.[56] They soon discovered that the general lack of discipline among Free State troops and authorities, increased by the frenzy of the rubber boom, meant their treatment by soldiers or others outside


the missionary sphere could be excessively brutal. The White Fathers took full advantage of this as they retrenched, proving to loyalists that the Christian Kingdom was yet a vital haven.

Brief examples of the tenacity of those defining the Christian Kingdom through the first decades of this century are apposite here. Late in 1902, the Congo Free State Enclave of Moliro was founded, one of three military divisions in northeastern Katanga which would have its own fort and detachment of soldiers. The Chef de Poste requested a list of chiefs bringing supplies to or otherwise working for the mission at Baudouinville, that they not be subject to requisitions for the Moliro garrison. The Father Superior submitted a list, but Tabwa chief Kitendwe, deemed a 'mauvaise tête', or troublemaker, was denounced. The Free State officer thereupon sent soldiers to Kitendwe's to conscript one and all for a month's labour building the Moliro fort. Other chiefs of the Marungu Massif, who till then had resisted the priests' efforts at proselytism, were summoned to the mission and told by the Father Superior that, for all he cared, they could hie themselves to Moliro. The chiefs begged for protection from the soldiers, and the missionary set the following conditions: that all strife cease in the area; that the chiefs agree to build a chapelle-école— a chapel and school—in their villages; that they receive there the catechists trained and sent by the priests; that all attend religious instruction, chiefs and subjects alike; and that they remain loyal to the mission, continuing to bring foodstuffs against payment at an exchange determined by the Fathers. Any contravention of these rules would mean immediate denunciation to the Poste, and the resulting treatment they could expect would be that meted to Kitendwe and his people. The chiefs declared all these conditions acceptable and accepted.'[57]

The missionaries made their resistance to what they considered usurpation of their prerogatives by the colonial administration especially obvious in three domains. First, Joubert had rendered justice during the early years of the Kingdom; while the missionaries might oversee petty corrections (which they did, as when they punished orphans caught stealing, with periods of hard labour in chains), they were to forward more serious cases to the colonial authorities—a change to which they acceded with difficulty.[58] When a circuit judge visited in 1908, for instance, the mission scribe noted that

Our Christians prefer to bring their little affairs before their Father, than before this stranger who appears every two or three years. Better for them is a paternal punishment at the mission than the obligation to travel three or four weeks from the mission to court, to return, still without judgment.[59]

When two murder cases were brought to the missionaries' attention in January of the next year, the diary entry admits that such should be sent on to the court. Yet those involved, apparently plaintiffs as well as defendants, refused to go, since after an arduous journey their case might well be dismissed. Instead, the priests arranged that goods be given in indemnity to the aggrieved family, and all were sent home. The mission scribe's comment was that 'the result will be definitive, as they will take revenge themselves'.[60]

Second, the matter of money and taxes was another in which the White Fathers demonstrated their insularity. In July of 1911, the old pesas of the first phase of the Christian Kingdom were recalled, and new ones bearing a distinctive anchor and wording were struck at Baudouinville Mission. Labourers could choose payment in either colonial francs or mission pesas, although only the latter would be accepted at the mission store. In 1908, a government agent came to collect taxes. The priests' feeling was that the people were being sought only in the


heavily-populated villages located around their mission centres, as a matter of convenience to the collector. But might this not cause the same people, already demonstrably ready for flight, to 'desert' the mission? 'We civilize in a Christian manner; perhaps they [the tax collectors] have it in for us!' When, in May of the next year, a tax collector traversed the Marungu Massif, he allowed his men to pillage and burn five villages as punishment for their inhabitants' having fled before him. This act, for which he was later brought to justice, at once interpreted as an insult to lands considered within the mission territory, only served to strengthen the priests' position as separate from the 'encroaching' state.[61]

Finally, recruitment of labourers for the mining centres of southern Katanga was deemed yet another incursion into their private sphere. The Fathers contended that theirs was an agricultural preserve set aside by the central government, and so their people should not be enticed to leave for the cities. Central Tabwa did provide an extraordinary amount of produce for the World War I effort, and the resistance of the missionaries to labour recruiters eventually proved useful to the overall aims of the colony. In the years between the world wars, the priests at Mpala and Baudouinville missions, in particular, developed cash crops of wheat, potatoes and onions; cattle; and training in marketable skills such as carpentry, masonry and boatwrighting. Local people associated with the missions, profiting from these exceptional opportunities through the schools, seminaries and workshops of the White Fathers, gained a positive reputation throughout southern Zaire. Mission-trained 'Tabwa' moved solidly into the colonial economy, to the extent, for instance, that the majority of seminarians were enticed from the aspirations of ordination to join more lucrative commercial concerns. Being 'Tabwa'—being associated with the old 'Christian Kingdom' of Mpala—became eminently worthwhile.[62]

It is in this context of systematic centralization of authority by the priests that we may consider the formation of Tabwa ethnicity. Two major characters of Congolese colonial history, Monsignor Victor Roelens and his protégé Stefano Kaoze, stand out. Both contributed greatly to the perpetuation of the Christian Kingdom, but for divergent reasons.

Two Culture Brokers for a 'Tabwa' Identity

An important caravan of White Fathers reached Lake Tanganyika from Zanzibar in 1892. Father Victor Roelens was among its members. Ordained in 1884, Roelens assisted Cardinal Lavigerie in establishing a branch of the White Fathers in Belgium. He further seconded the cardinal in organizing the anti-slavery campaign through which Lavigerie would have significant impact upon early European colonialism in Africa. Often opinionated, frequently arrogant and always controversial, Roelens found favour with Lavigerie, who admired his audacity and pluck. Roelens, in turn, has been called the 'Flemish Lavigerie' in recognition of qualities shared.[63]

Roelens displayed his difficult character during the caravan trek; he allegedly reduced one brother to tears with his 'gross insults', and life in his company was described by a fellow traveller as 'real torment'.[64] Immediately upon arrival at Lake Tanganyika, Roelens began criticizing his fellow missionaries who had preceded him there, taking special glee in castigating the brothers of the mission, not even sparing his own superior, Monsignor Lechaptois. After only days along the lake, he wrote that he feared 'the Masonic government of the Congo' would 'one day pick a quarrel' with the priests, and rescind use of Mpala mission; he said that were he in the place of Monsignor Lechaptois, he would found a new mission


which would belong solely to the church.[65] Months later, Roelens would found just such a mission at what would be called Baudouinville (now Kirungu, adjacent to Moba); a year after his arrival in Central Africa, he was promoted to Apostolic Administrator for the Vicariate of Upper Congo, and in 1895, Roelens was nominated as Apostolic Vicar.[66]

Roelens, a 'man of action, of pragmatic character', acted with a firmness and tenacity 'which often made him authoritarian'. His decisions were without appeal, and he defended them obstinately. His judgments unfortunately often lacked nuance and hardly evolved. The portrait he drew of the black man, for example, is particularly negative, despite the frequent urging of Cardinal Lavigerie that his missionaries not judge Africans too severely. Because other prelates in Africa were significantly more generous in their appraisal of their black parishioners, one recent author is left to wonder if Roelens had read the Cardinal's letters, 'or did his obstinacy blind him to such points?'[67] With tragic irony, it would be Monsignor Roelens who would sponsor Stefano Kaoze's brilliant passage through seminary and his emergence as the first Congolese ordained a priest.

A number of accounts of Kaoze's childhood exist. In each he is objectified. One account varies from another in a manner consistent with the form of milandu : each is composed for a different audience in pursuit of different goals. According to one version, Kaoze's mother was accused of sorcery and deemed responsible for slavers' attacks on her village, and three of her brothers, a husband's brother and a daughter were executed at the full moon. Kaoze was captured by slavers soon after, but was liberated by Captain Joubert.[68] Another (and, as Kimpinde and his colleagues suggest, perhaps the source for accounts like the previous one)[69] tells of how 'a tyrant, the cruel Manda' (the Zimba clan chief who would be Kaoze's adversary in interclan rivalry for position in the colonial hierarchy of prerogative) attacked Kaoze's village as a refuge of those who refused him tribute. Kaoze's mother was accused by a diviner—'a true lackey of Satan'—of attracting Manda's attacks and those of coastal slavers thereafter, and her three brothers, father-in-law and daughter were murdered at her feet. Kaoze's parents fled with him to hide in mountain caves, barely survived a smallpox epidemic, and escaped from slavers. They met Monsignor Roelens at the new mission of Baudouinville/ Kirungu and, when Kaoze's mother died, Kaoze escaped from the mean uncle to whom he was sent (but not without further tribulations) to take shelter with the missionaries.[70]

The latest version is that Kaoze's great uncle (MoMoBr), who was of 'dour and jealous character', resented the popularity of his niece, Kaoze's mother; rather than endure his 'intrigues', the woman moved to the village of her brother, very near where the Kirungu mission would be founded shortly thereafter. When the priests opened a primary school in the area, Kaoze was an early student. This plausible account is appropriate today when stereotypes and ancient conflicts are to be forgotten, not exacerbated. Appended to it is an assertion by Kaoze's surviving kinsmen (men sufficiently young that they could not know what sort of character Kaoze's great uncle may have had) and by the authors that the dramatic events of earlier versions are incorrect; and a request that 'to be true to observed facts, we hope that these rectifications will be taken into consideration in future publications, especially at the beginning of this second century of our Evangelization'.[71] This is an honourable position, to be sure, but one based upon a Eurocentric perception of absolute history which overlooks the allegorical nature of even this last version (MoMoBr as 'bad guy'). The authors cite a once-removed statement by Kaoze himself to the effect that he knew nothing of these early years. The objectification of Kaoze in these accounts—the latest included—must be


seen as an element important to the man's personal development, to his intellectual motivation and achievement; to his detachment from peers in the countryside and from White Fathers who might be his colleagues but who were never his fellows; and to the meaning Kaoze, as one of the first local African intellectuals, continues to have for people of the area, Catholic and traditionalist alike, thirty years after his death.

However one reconstructs this past, the underlying message is that Kaoze's transition from village to mission was not easy for him or for his family; other stories of the resistance of his mother's brother to his continued schooling underscore the same point.[72] From passages cited by Kimpinde, it would seem that Kaoze himself sought separation and was attracted to the classroom as a context for an enquiring mind beyond that of other boys his age. His quickness with languages (Latin and Flemish, as well as Swahili and French), his capacity to grasp the abstractions of an alien philosophy taught at the seminary, and his growing sense—evidenced in his letters and manuscripts—of how to use such forms of thought for political goals, indicate his exceptional intellect.

The White Fathers' schools at Mpala and other missions southwest of Lake Tanganyika began as orphanages to accommodate purchased slaves and other youngsters like Kaoze, who were attracted in a variety of ways, including coercion. Their organization in early years 'resembled . . . more an agricultural colony than a school', although the orphanages soon became 'places for religious instruction and Christian education from which fervent and exemplary Catholics should emerge'.[73] 3 Shortly after his arrival, Victor Roelens proposed the founding of a school for catechists at Mpala, which opened in 1893. Because of his peculiarly negative view of Africans, Roelens, 'more than other vicars apostolic, felt that only a radical transformation [and separation] of the African from his milieu could lead him to become fully Christian'. Candidate catechists were selected among orphans, and after four to six years' instruction, the missionaries chose wives for them and sent them to settle in outlying villages.

By 1903, there were eight chapelles-écoles run by catechists around the Mpala mission, and another eight around that of Baudouinville. As the years passed, the catechists obtained a great deal of local-level political power, often at the expense of traditional chiefs. As Roger Heremans has written, 'in their desire to convert Africans to Catholicism, the Fathers assembled entire populations under their direction. They created "new tribes" ' in so doing.[74] In the mid-1890s, schools were opened at the missions where reading and writing in Swahili were taught; Roelens noted that such skills might 'open these intelligences a little and render them more apt to comprehend Christian verities. But the real advantage of the school is to submit the children to a serious surveillance, absolutely unkown in pagan families', in which 'children are brought up like little animals. . . . Their school is the circle of adults seated about a fire . . . [and] they learn everything, except truth and good.'[75]

Kaoze was among the earliest students and first catechists. His brilliance noticed, Kaoze was admitted when a Lower Seminary was begun at Mpala in 1899. By 1905 he was one of two continuing the course in Latin, and began studying theology and philosophy in an Upper Seminary. He was transferred to Moba/Kirungu when a sleeping-sickness epidemic struck Mpala, killing, among hundreds of others, Kaoze's only fellow student. Kaoze was the joy of his tutors, as he mastered even the most difficult subjects with ease.[76]

While Kaoze was at seminary, he was approached by a magistrate, A. Hoomaert, and asked to write a text that would be edited by Father Vermeersch, a Jesuit, concerning the 'psychology of Africans'. The goal was to prove the 'fundamental


equality existing among all human beings'. Kaoze's 'La psychologie des Bantu ' resulted.[77] To seek to demonstrate that Africans were the equals of Europeans implies that many thought they were not, and Kaoze painstakingly demonstrated the existence of imagination, memory, intelligence and other faculties among Africans, for his European readers. He wrote in French, a language to which only seminarians in their last years of training had access, which 'created a sensation in Europe at the time. It was the first time that one read a text entirely in French written by an African.'[78]

While Kaoze was developing his thesis proving the equality of Africans to Europeans, Victor Roelens, his bishop and mentor, was working on his own 'Psychology of our Blacks.'[79] Roelens's 'Psychology' was the very antithesis of Kaoze's, a racist diatribe in which he portrayed the African as 'an impulsive [being] who obeys, without great reflection, the dominant impression of the moment'; for whom 'intelligence and will intervene rarely in the habitual circumstances of his life'; whose intelligence 'atrophies under the influence of the press of passions'; and whose 'capital defect' is 'egotism—dominant sentiments: fear, self-interest'. While Roelens admitted that 'the mentality of Blacks is an enigma for us', he explained that this is because of the blacks' impulsiveness and other shortcomings.[80] Such profound ambivalence (to use the kindest word possible) must have marked Kaoze: even as the young man separated from his peers in personal and intellectual development, he as a black was denied basic humanity by the very authority figure who gave him shelter.

The objectification of Kaoze was not limited to stories of his childhood. He was ordained in 1917, at a time when Europeans in the Congo were feeling anxious about having given arms to Africans to fight the Great War and the 'revival of passions' that pillaging, killing and general excess of war might have engendered.[81] This was a time of increasing racial segregation in the Belgian Congo, and many Europeans there objected to admitting Congolese to higher education and the Church hierarchy, since the result would be that Africans might achieve a place on earth and in heaven superior to ordinary, bourgeois Europeans. In turn, this could be a 'seed of revolution' among the colonized, the more dangerous just after the war.[82] It is to the great credit of Victor Roelens that Kaoze's ordination was made an event none could overlook.

Fifty Europeans, including Governor Malfeyt, the Royal High Commissioner for the colony, attended Kaoze's ordination, along with a great many Congolese who, in the words of one, 'dared not think that Stefano Kaoze would be a priest exactly like those come from Europe'. The effect of Kaoze giving the benediction to European priests kneeling before him during the next day's mass can be imagined. As one missionary wrote, 'this day was for us one of the most wonderful of our lives and the crowning of our efforts, of all the suffering endured over the first years of Evangelization'.[83] Yet even as it might seem that, in ordination, Kaoze had gained equivalence with his white colleagues (and he certainly did to a degree unusual for the colony at that time), he would always be kept in 'his proper place'. He became superior of a new church, but one staffed entirely by Congolese clergy, and he was never superior to a white. The white priests remained in their own walled compounds.[84]

Kaoze began to travel with Monsignor Roelens, first to a meeting of all Superiors of Congolese missions (before Kaoze himself was one), then, in 1919, to Europe. A first stop was at Algiers, where a new headquarters of the White Fathers, 'Maison Carrée', had been established; then to Rome for the beatification of the Ugandan martyrs; then to Belgium where Kaoze was received by King Albert. Kaoze visited and preached at a number of schools and churches


there, in French and in Flemish; he sang several hymns of his own composition (he would become a renowned choir master) and then 'brought the house down' with 'Vlaamse Leeuw', the Flemish national anthem, and 'Zy zullen hem niet temmen', 'they [the Walloons] will never vanquish [the proud lion of Flanders] ,' to 'unending applause' in places like Ostende. In effect, Kaoze was 'very amused by our rivalries between Walloons and Flemish, but he understood the reason for certain difficulties, and said, "So, men are alike everywhere; Europeans put tribalism between them too."'[85]

Kaoze's own sense of ethnic identity, enhanced by racism in the Congo that made it painfully obvious that blacks were not equal to whites, was given a new dimension by a first-hand view of a Belgium riven by ethnic difference. Most importantly, Kaoze, by being in Brussels at the end of 1920, was on the periphery of the National Colonial Congress (to which it seems he was not invited); in that context he met Panda Farnana, president of the Union Congolaise, first Congolese to study agronomy in Belgium, and an outspoken defender of the rights of colonized blacks. Panda addressed the sessions and mentioned Kaoze as sharing his opinions on the oppression of Congolese. Kimpinde correctly notes that Kaoze's encounter with Panda and his trip to Europe more generally had the effect of 'opening his eyes', and it was soon thereafter that Kaoze began his political writings with the first universal history of the Tabwa.[86]

Elizabeth Colson has written cogently that 'contemporary African tribes . . . represent the emergence of self-conscious nationalistic movements comparable to those of Europe', and that 'the ideology of European nationalism was transferred to Africa' via 'the school man, the intellectual, who has been most eager to advance his own language and culture and who has seen himself as vulnerable to any advantages given to the language and culture of other groups within the country'.[87] By any measure, Kaoze was a brilliant man, whose intellect was fostered in the classroom in such a way that he could regard his own society and culture from the distance of abstraction. Kaoze was a man who knew divisions: among clans of the Marungu Massif where he grew up; between the missionaries of the de facto 'Christian Kingdom' and the colonial government; between blacks and whites in a segregated colony; between Catholics and Freemasons often engaged in vitriolic exchange (in which Roelens participated as a spokesman); between Walloons and Flemish, Belgians and Germans. Kaoze was not 'amused' by Belgian 'imperial ethnicity', he lived its consequences and put lessons learned to work as he began his career as historian and patriot of clan and 'tribe'.[88]

The first published works which delimited a distinct Tabwa ethnic identity were a grammar and a Tabwa-French dictionary; a lexicon with a few folktales in Tabwa was also prepared with the assistance of Kaoze, for use by missionaries.[89] These documents undoubtedly served as 'literary instruments' in a colonial context in which White Fathers wished to define their sphere of politico-economic interests vis-à-vis claims of missionaries of different denominations, or others who would infringe upon their 'sovereignty'.[90] Kaoze soon began a different task, by writing of Tabwa history and culture in French, a language only a handful of Tabwa could read. Kaoze's intended audience was not the Tabwa people, then: he would engage the colonizers in a debate vital to him, concerning Tabwa and, ultimately, his own identity.

The context for Kaoze's first historical writing is the following: White Fathers at Kirungu had brought with them a man from north of Lake Tanganyika who had been 'burgomaster' of the Christian village around their mission at Kibanga near the Ubwari Peninsula until the mission was closed and moved to Kirungu in 1893,


due to unending harassment by slavers and brigands. Fransisko Bulani, the man in question, was an able leader and was recognized chief of Baudouinville, the village about the new mission, in 1910 by a representative of the Comité Spécial du Katanga then governing the region. Bulani was the missionaries' puppet chief, and, as his powers grew, those of the local Zimba clan chief Manda, whose lands these had been previously, declined. A young colonial administrator named Gilson—a Freemason—took up Manda's cause against Bulani in an overt attack upon the missionaries themselves for, as he wrote, 'whoever speaks of Bulani, speaks of the missionaries'. Gilson rose in the ranks of colonial administration, but his strident approach toward White Fathers at Baudouinville did not abate; Gilson was quite possibly related to an important metropolitan family of Liberals of the same name, and his career was probably furthered by such kinsmen and favour shown for his position vis-CH:224>-vis missionaries in the Congo.[91]

In the early 1920s, colonial legislation was proposed by which the 'disaggregation of indigenous authority'—6095 'independent' chiefdoms existed in 1917—would be corrected through the 'guided evolution' of chiefdoms of 'true "royal-blooded" chiefs'. 'Great Chiefdoms' would be recognized where they 'still existed' or where it was 'possible to revive them'; such distinctions were left to the discretion of particular territorial administrators to determine. Thus, by 1922 Gilson could write that 'Manda is the chief clearly indicated' by such logic, and that 'the State has as . . . its imperious duty to protect and support this chief, for 'only Manda can re-establish the traditional unity of this region'.[92] Whatever the merits of Manda's case, he was being used as a pawn by Gilson to goad priests whom he despised.

Roelens and the White Fathers felt the implementation of this policy to be an assault upon their prerogatives, a fragmentation of the Christian Kingdom they still maintained, albeit in a less overt form than that of the late nineteenth century. The Monsignor responded with a letter of his own to the District Commissioner, to which he attached a document prepared for him by Kaoze.[93] Roelens stated that he was astonished that administrators did not seek information about local Africans from the missionaries among them, and then reiterated some of the disparaging remarks current in the Belgian press as penned by Liberals and Freemasons. In this particular case, he admitted that one might assume him to be against Manda, since Bulani, the mission chief, had been given lands once Manda's; but local people wanted 'nothing to do with Manda, who in their eyes is an intruder who has no right to be chief. Kaoze's account affirmed this position.

A 'tribe', according to Kaoze, is the group of people known by a chiefs name or by that of the land he occupies as the descendant of the first occupant of the lands.[94] The clan is the basic unit of social organization, and Tabwa' (as Kaoze identified himself in the title of his offering) are those who originated in LiTabwa, a land to the south. In this, Kaoze contradicts himself, since people of the Marungu Massif inhabited other named lands (in his own case, Kasenga), and yet called themselves Tabwa; what is more, Nsama of the Zimba clan was the chief of LiTabwa whom Kaoze himself recognized as such and would not be someone with whom Kaoze would identify, particularly in a document written in complaint about Zimba chief Manda's claims to legitimacy. Kaoze used elements of milandu (although in written rather than spoken, hence debated, form) as he recounted the myth of Kyomba, the first named human in Tabwa cosmogonic myth and archetypal father of his three wives, the first of whom was Bulanda, Kaoze's own clan genetrix. Manda's ancestress was Kyomba's third and last wife. If Kaoze's written history—that, after all, of the first Congolese ordained a priest—were


accepted as true, then once and for all Tabwa would have a universal history proving the seniority of Kaoze's own clan.

Kaoze's document may have served Roelens's purpose of countering Gilson, but it was not written for that reason. Kaoze was most interested in the local-level political arena, and the contest between his Sanga clan and chief Manda's Zimba clan for land rights, especially as these were beginning to be interpreted by colonial administrators. He was also interested in the Tabwa people among whom he preached as he moved from one mission of the White Fathers to another—that is, within the old Christian Kingdom. Kaoze would continue his writings, many of which are masterpieces of ethnography for one never trained in the discipline.

Near the end of his life, Kaoze's involvement in local and colonial politics intensified. His writings included general discussions of Tabwa culture, including a version of the 'Table d'enquête' sent out from Maison Carrée to White Fathers' posts, to gain a survey of ethnographic data on the peoples they served. He had become so involved in such subjects that he asked his bishop to relieve him of his duties as Superior of the Kala mission so that he could dedicate his time and energy to his ethnographic researches. This was in part as a preparation for his participation in colonial politics, for he was to be a member of the Commission for the Protection of Natives. He would also assist the Council of Government chaired by the Governor General, in 1946.[95] Here he represented Congolese in general, but Tabwa more particularly. Kaoze continued in another arena as dear to him: he pursued his contention that Manda of the Zimba clan was not the legitimate 'Grand Chef of lands, including those of the Marungu Massif, which he believed belonged to his own clan. One of his protégés in this was Kyando Polycarpe, who just after Independence would become a firebrand leader of opposition to Manda during days when all past authority was being questioned. Kyando and several of his henchmen would be murdered then, apparently by Manda, an event lost in the swirl of political strife and confusion of the moment, and never officially investigated.[96]

Kaoze was not without his detractors, especially late in life as he rose to local and colonial prominence. His political views were at variance with the official colonial position, and he was virulently attacked by one administrator in particular. Kaoze's madness during the last months of his life (1950–1) has been attributed to this by a contemporary, and one violent argument with the administrator seems to have sent Kaoze into a fit of depression accompanied by crushing headaches.[97] 1 would suggest that this tragedy was rooted more deeply.

Kaoze was rudely separated from his family and his peers, and learned a Western philosophy at the seminary which assisted him in stepping outside his culture to describe it as an ethnographer. A true intellectual, Kaoze would synthesize the ideas of his people and write them as general history and ethnography. In an important sense, he created the Tabwa as he did so. Kaoze was also objectified from infancy, set apart, made an avatar of change, a symbol to be taken in tow and shown about. In the process, he became a spokesman for Tabwa and Congolese more generally. Tabwa began calling him 'Mulopwe ', the Luba title for 'chief of the sacred fire, of the sacred blood'; he was as influential as such a chief, and yet at the same time he was separated from his people.[98] Through ordination, Kaoze was taken into the priesthood and could eat with whites, ride a bicycle and otherwise share in the trappings of power; but he was not white, and was not an equal to his white colleagues. This other Tabwa saw.

A psychohistorian might find it relevant that in the course of Kaoze's madness, after an initial incident late in 1949, he experienced a major schizophrenic episode on Easter Day, 1950, and died exactly one year later, on Easter Day,


1951.[99] It might be argued that his was a 'created demise', and that Kaoze internalized the intense irony, chastisement, and wrenching wounds of an iniquitous colonial existence, to use some Biblical terms, suffered by all Congolese. A parable told to me by the late Kizumina Kabulo captures Kaoze's dilemma, even in death.

Upon dying, Kaoze went upwards to heaven (biaguni ), and stood in line to pass through the Gates. To go to heaven, one must be called and possess a letter to gain entry.[100] The other priests with Kaoze, all Europeans, were admitted, leaving Kaoze to stand alone.

'Where is your letter?'

'I'm with the others.'

'No, they all have letters. You go down from here. You'll see a guardian down below there, and perhaps that is your path.'

Kaoze returned downward, to Kibawa's, the place of the Tabwa dead. Kibawa asked if Kaoze had not walked by the entrance to his cavern on his way to heaven. Kaoze admitted that he had, but he had then lacked the letter necessary to enter heaven. Kibawa shouted, 'Aha! Seize him! Tie him up!' Kaoze was taken into Kibawa's and bound in his own rosary, as if in chains.[101]

In the 1970s, people from Kalemie south into Zambia called themselves 'Tabwa' sometimes. Sanga clan members said Kaoze's history, written 'as a book', was 'true, as books are'. Manda and his Zimba said Kaoze's history was a lie, and the chief gave me a copy of his own written version of a Tabwa universal history, as 'proof. In it, the same archetypal father, Kyomba, appears as in Kaoze's history; yet for Manda, Kyomba's first wife (and not his third, as Kaoze would have it) is his clan's genetrix, Kabamba Mwenya, while Kaoze's Sanga ancestress, Bulanda, is Kyomba's third wife and not his first.[102] Accordingly, the Zimba and not the Sanga are senior, superior and legitimate rulers. The argument is not settled,[103] nor, according to Tabwa logic evidenced in history through the mulandu story form, can it be.


Finally, then, who are the Tabwa? In the 1880s and 1890s, people in southeastern Zaire were made aware of an identity separate from others surrounding them, as Storms of the IAA and Joubert and the White Fathers after him, using superior arms and tactics, created an enclave of order in trying times of slave-taking and pillage. During later colonial years the difference was underscored by missionary proselytism, usurpation of local economic and political prerogatives, early linguistic work, schools and training programmes, the active efforts of an energetic bishop to retain independence from the damning influences of Masonic administrators and the corruption of urban life, and the growing pride of association with Kaoze, the first Congolese priest. To be Tabwa could be profitable, when literate workers and skilled craftsmen were few. Tabwa rose in local commerce and ranks of government open to Africans, and during the independence and subsequent secession of Katanga, they assumed important leadership positions (e. g. Minister of Education in Tshombe's regime).

The feeling of separation from the rest of Zaire continues, but in significant ways has been inverted from one of superiority to stigmatization. President Mobutu, according to my informants, questions the loyalty of the Tabwa, as theirpast enthusiasm for the Katanga state makes them untrustworthy. Some Tabwa have changed their names from ones that make their ethnic identity obvious, to others that sound like those of more favoured groups, so as to find employment in


government. It is perhaps no coincidence, then, that in 1976 Mobutu virtually gave away their portion of Zaire, in the short-lived OTRAG Concession. The accord was rescinded, but no more obvious sign can be found of Mobutu's feeling that this portion of the country and its Tabwa inhabitants are different and dispensable.[104]

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6— History, Ethnicity and Change in the 'Christian Kingdom' of Southeastern Zaire
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