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Location of Katanga in Congo
Location of Katanga in Congo

Katanga is the southern province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, regional capital Lubumbashi (formerly Elizabethville). 518,000 km² with a population of around 4.1 million. Farming and ranching are carried out on the Katanga Plateau. In the eastern part of the province is an rich mining region, which supplies cobalt, copper, tin, radium, uranium, and diamonds.

From the 17th century the province was controlled by the Luba and Lunda. In the late 19th century, a trader from Tanzania called M'Siri founded a short-lived kingdom that lasted until he was killed by the Belgians in 1891. Under Belgian control from around 1884, the mineral resources were heavily exploited by Belgian firms (notably Union Minière du Haut Katanga) and the province developed much more than the rest of the country. Under the Belgium mining cartel, they employed a mixture of contract mercenaries, and hired guards in order to subdue the local population, and to ensure the proper transport of minerals and other goods out of the country. The Baluba tribe interfered often with their mining operations in this province, many were killed in raids on mining operations.

The flag of Katanga during the period of independence.
The flag of Katanga during the period of independence.

Following the granting of independence to the Congo in June 1960 Katanga broke away from the new government of Patrice Lumumba in July and declared independence under Moise Tshombe. Lumumba was replaced in September 1960 in a coup d'état by Joseph Mobutu. In January 1962, Katanga created it own air force, which was commanded by Jan Zumbach. There were 10 Harvard T-6 bombers and two Vampire jets, almost all of which were destroyed by Swedish fighters in December 1962. Forces under the leadership of the UN conducted a two-year campaign to return Katanga to the Congo, culminating in the National Conciliation Plan in January 1963.

In 1966 the central government nationalized the Union Minière du Haut Katanga, as Gécamines . In 1971 Katanga was renamed Shaba. Throughout the 1970s further insurrections were put down by the government with help from foreign nations. In 1978 for example, on 12 May, rebels occupied the city of Kolwezi, the mining centre of the province. Zaire asked the United States, France, and Belgium to restore order. This resulted in 700 African and 170 European victims.

The province became Katanga again in 1997 after Mobutu Sésé Seko was exiled.

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Last updated: 08-31-2005 08:25:51