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The Republic of the Congo was first settled by the illusive Pygmies that were slowly replaced by the Bakongo, Bateke and Sanga peoples in the mid-15th century.
Once the Portuguese
discovered the coastal areas, the natives (having made friends quickly) began to cooperate with the Europeans
, and the slave trade started to flourish. The coastal area, in fact, became a major source for the transatlantic trade.
A series of revolts led by Kimpa Vita during the 17th century ultimately soured the relationship between the Kongolese and Portuguese. These battles lasted throughout much of the 1600s, as the Kongolese fought the Portuguese
against their push for extra territorial rights.
Kimpa Vita, a Catholic nun, established the Anthonian prophetic movement after seeing visions of St. Anthony of Padua commanding her to restore the kingdom of Kongo. Although her revolt was short lived, and relatively unsuccessful, she managed to capture the capital Mbanza Kongo. Portuguese
Capushin Friars condemned Kimpa Vita for being a witch, and ordered her death.
For many nationalists she is a symbol of African
resistance against early colonialism, and widely regarded as the African
version of Joan of Arc.
Over many decades, an array of European
traders searched for additional economic opportunities within the Congo region, and then, in 1891, this resource-rich land was colonized by the French
, and named the French
Congo - later the Middle Congo.
Under the command of the French
, the natives of the Congo suffered through forced labor, and saw their valuable rubber and ivory resources exploited as well.
In 1945, Jean-Felix Tchicaya was elected into the French
Parliament, becoming one of the first African
leaders given the opportunity.