Belgium ran its Congo colony as a frankly commercial affair, taking pride both in the efficiency of the big companies (with state participation) which dominated the economy, especially in mineral-rich Katanga (32), and in the suppression of politics. Neither whites nor Africans had votes.
In 1957 the first voting for municipal councils revealed both nationalist and separatist forces. The best organized party to emerge was Joseph Kasavubu's Abako (24). In 1959, after rioting in Leopoldville, Belgium hastily launched reforms. Pressure mounted, and in January 1960 Belgium promised full independence by June 30th. Meanwhile internal rifts appeared. In Kasai in 1959 the (Bene-) Lulua attacked the (Ba-)Luba; Moise Tshombe, provincial premier of Katanga, encouraged by mining companies, sought autonomy for his province (32). While many parties represented tribal or local interests, among those who wanted a centralized state the foremost was Patrice Lumumba (himself one of the (Ba-)Tetela from Kasai settled in Orientale province). In elections held just before independence, his Mouvement National Congolais (MNC) won 33 seats out of 137 ( Abako won 12). Kasavubu failed to collect a parliamentary majority. Lumumba succeeded, forming a large and very divided ministry that included both centralists and federalists. Kasavubu accepted the presidency.
A few days after independence, the Force Publique mutinied. Five- sixths of the 115,000 Belgians and other Europeans fled from the ensuing violence, and administration and economic life largely collapsed. Belgium rushed in white troops to restore order, while Tshombe declared Katanga independent and ran it with Belgian help. Lumumba and Kasavubu appealed to the United Nations for military aid against Belgium. The Security Council authorized aid and called for withdrawal of Belgium's troops. The UN secretary- general, Dag Hammarskjöld, backed by the UN's African members, organized an international force, predominantly African (F). Belgium withdrew most of its troops, except from Katanga, where Tshombe defied the UN; but in August Hammarskjöld personally led UN troops into Katanga, and the Belgian forces left. Tshombe, however, hired white mercenaries, as did Kalonji's break- away 'mining state' in south Kasai (32).
In September 1960 Lumumba and Kasavubu finally split, the central government broke down completely, and the army chief, Mobutu, seized power; later he came to terms with Kasavubu.