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

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