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DRC Timeline -- Part 1: Prehistory to Prehistory to Beginning of Belgian Administration

A Chronology of Key Events in DRC

By Alistair Boddy-Evans, About.com

c.3000 BCE Ancient Egyptians have knowledge of hunter-gatherer groups in the rainforest of central Africa.
1000 BCE Bantu speaking peoples begin a series of migrations southwards from central-western regions, to the north of the Ubangi-Congo Rivers (now Nigeria and its neighbors), into the center of the continent.
100 CE First arrival of Bantu speakers in the Congo Basin.
Introduction of cattle herding and cereal cultivation.
300 First evidence of iron working in Congo Basin
c.800CE Bantu speakers have colonized the Congo Basin
Katanga culture develops, rule by local chiefs.
1000 CE Bantu speaking people have colonized most of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
13th Century Development of large, politically centralized kingdoms and chiefdoms in the southern savannah of the Congo.
14th Century Bakongo people found the Kongo kingdom having crossed the river Congo from the north. At its peak, the kingdom of Kongo covered parts of present day Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Angola.
15th Century Establishment of the Luba Empire -- a patrilineal society based on agriculture, ruled by a king.
Late 15th Century Loango kingdom formed by the Vili people along the Congo River towards the coast (mostly in what is now the Republic of Congo) but extends inland as afar as the Malebo Pool by the end of the century
1483 Diogo Cão first European to discover the mouth of the Congo River. He makes contact with Nzinga a Nkuwu, the Manikongo of the Kongo kingdom.
c.1500 Zande people arrived in northern Congo migrating from Central Africa. Kingdoms based on agriculture are founded. Territory extends through what is now northern Democratic Republic of the Cong, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
1509 Mvemba a Nzinga assumes the crown (manikongo) of the Kongo. He is baptized a Christian and takes the Christian name of Afonso I.
16th Century Luba kingdom expands greatly, in what is now the southern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by the Kongolo and Songye people.
The Lunda kingdom develops as an independent state founded on salt and copper resources.
Europeans make contact with African chiefs prepared to extend the slave trade.
17th Century Lunda empire develops in what is now the south-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and north-east of Angola.
1630 Kuba kingdom established in north-east of territory between Kasai and Lulua rivers. It develops over the next century as an agricultural state heavily involved in trading
18th Century Lunda develops as an empire of centralized states
Kuba kingdoms reaches its zenith in central Congo.
Rapid development of slave trade both with Europeans and with Arabs to the east. Incursion of Zanzibari Arab traders allows local chiefs to usurp the rule of regional kings.
c.1740 Lunda people expand down into what is now Zambia
Kazembe kingdom begins to develop independently based on rich resources of salt pans and copper mines of what is now the Shaba province.
1808 Slave trade abolished by the British Empire. Slave trade in the Congo suppressed, whilst the Arab slave trade continues to flourish.
1839 Arrival of French traders along coast. (Louis Édouard Bouët-Willaumez makes a treaty with the king of Gabon to the north.)
1840-72 David Livingstone, the British explorer and missionary, travels through the Congo Basin.
1874-77 Henry Morton Stanley, commissioned by the New York Herald and The Daily Telegraph, to continue the trail of exploration of David Livingstone, and complete the decent along the course of the Congo River to the Atlantic Ocean.
1875-78 Italian born, French explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza explores the Congo
1878 Henry Morton Stanley hired by King Léopold II of Belgium to investigate the Congo's potential as a new colony. Léopold II founds the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC, International Congo Society) to further the exploration of the region, and prepare for colonization. The finance comes from international banks. Stanley establishes trading posts along the Congo River and makes trading agreements with more than 450 local chiefs.
1879-82 Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza makes a treaty with King Makoko of the Teke and Tio preventing Henry Morton Stanley acquiring territory to the north of the Congo River for King Léopold II.
1880s Lunda empire begin to break apart.
Kazembe, part of the Lunda kingdoms, gains control of trade routes to the south-east (now Katanga province and neighboring Zambia).
France begins to explore (and claim) region to the north of Congo River.
November 1884 At the Berlin Conference on Africa, organized by the German Chancellor Otto von Bismark, King Léopold II is recognized as the sovereign of the Congo Free State, as administered by the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC, International Congo Society). French claims to Gabon and Portuguese claims to Angola are also recognized.
1885 King Léopold II establishes the Congo Free State with himself as an individual, and not Belgium, as head.
1890s Forced labor is employed by administration of the Congo Free State, building infrastructure, working on rubber plantations, and hunting for ivory.
Belgian forces conquer Katanga, the mineral rich region in the south of the Congo Free State.
1894 A military campaign against Arab slave traders ends the African-Arab trade in slaves.
1899 Part of Kazembe kingdom conquered by the British (now part of Zambia).
1904 Congo Reform Association (CRA) founded by protestant missionaries. It campaigns against the use of forced labor by King Léopold II's administration.
1908 The government of Belgium assumes the administration of the Congo Free State (which becomes the Belgian Congo) by colonial charter. Despite the annexation by the Belgian government, King Léopold II still retains a level of constitutional rule.

More on the History of Democratic Republic of the Congo
Part 2: Beginning of Belgian Administration to End of Katanga Secession
Part 3: End of Katanga Secession to Rebellion in Shaba
Part 4: Rebellion in Shaba to Genocide in Neighboring Rwanda
Part 5: Genocide in Neighboring Rwanda to Assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila
Part 6: Assassination of Laurent-Désiré Kabila to Present Day

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