In January 1960, Belgium agreed to grant independence to the Belgian Congo, and general elections were held May 31. On June 30, the country became independent. The Congo was immediately torn by domestic violence, causing most whites to flee and two of the richest regions, Katanga and South Kasai, to secede. In August, Belgian troops were replaced by United Nations forces, which gradually restored order and suppressed the independence movements in the south. In 1963 Katanga was reunited with the Congo, and on June 30, 1964, its president, Moise Tshombe, became president of the Congo. Within months of the U.N. withdrawal (June 1964), yet another separatist movement broke out, when leftists proclaimed a people's republic in Stanleyville. The central government suppressed this uprising, with the support of Belgian and white mercenary troops.
In 1965, General Joseph D. Mobutu became
president. He began an Africanization program, wherein all Congolese with
Christian names were required to adopt African names (he became Mobutu
Sese Seko), Congolese place names were changed and, in 1971, the Congo
itself was renamed the Republic of Zaire. After more than two decades of
corrupt and inefficient rule, Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, and Zaire
again became the Democratic Republic of the Congo.