The Jewels of Independence Congo - Rwanda - Burundi 1960-1990
On June 30, 1960, the Congo, the Belgian colony, became independent. Would the new state remain true to the colonial orders: the Order of the African Star and the Order of the Lion, highly esteemed by the population? Belgium left the Congolese authorities no choice: in July 1960 the two orders were awarded for valour to Belgian military staff and to civilians who had shown a courageous attitude or for those who lost their lives in the mutiny of the Force Publique in July 1960.
On June 30, 1962 Rwanda and Burundi, two territories under Belgian custody, also became independent.
The orders and decorations created at the issue of these independences have up till now been insufficiently or badly studied. Due to the successive changes in power in the concerned countries it is not easy to trace the necessary sources; the disappearance of some manufacturers’ archives complicate matters even further. The writings on the subject therefore display quite some gaps. The bulk of information in this publication comes from legal texts often very difficult to obtain, the study of objects in both public and private collections and testimonies gathered over the years. Many Belgians were presented with decorations by the newly independent states of Burundi, the Congo and Rwanda, which stressed the links still existent with the former home country. Through these awards the researcher has access to pieces no longer available in the countries of origin, where new leaders outlawed them.
The subject is a delicate one, as most orders discussed here were created by sometimes dictatorial or at least authoritarian regimes who were responsible for bloody repressions and political assassinations.
The heated debates about the turbulent periods following the independence, with their negative consequences, cannot undo the fact that these dark times are actual parts of these countries’ histories, and amongst the documents explaining that history we find the awards created in those days.
However, this study has to transcend all sensibilities because although some distinctions were very short-lived, they are extremely diverse and display great craftmanship. Most awards were conceived by Belgian counselors and largely produced by Belgian and some French manufacturers.
The first few years in the existence of the Congo were quite stormy, with the appearance and disapperance of ephemeral states, susch as South Kasai and Katanga. The orders and decorations of these fleeting creations are therefore also discussed in this book. It was imperative to execute a strict selection in the awards of the studied countries. First of all chronologically: in spite of their undeniable interest the present-day distinctions are not included. Cuts had to be made. The medals and decorations of South Kasai and Katanga are reviewed as they are extremely rare; those of the Congo and Zaire are not considered due to a lack of space.
This obviously is a snapshot. Due to the lack of sources, we were forced to formulate hypotheses. The discovery of new documents or information provided by our readers could of course render these obsolete. But is that not how it always goes in history? Les Bijoux de l’Indépendance De Juwelen van de Onafhankelijkheid The Jewels of Independence Congo - Rwanda - Burundi 1960-1990 Philippe Jacquij met - avec - with Guy Deploige Publication The Jewels of Independence Congo - Rwanda - Burundi 1960-1990 The authors Philippe Jacquij, Chairman of the Royal Society of the Friends of the Armed