Kisangani is the capital of Orientale Province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is the third largest urbanized city in the country and the largest of the cities that lie in the tropical woodlands of the Congo.
Formerly known as Stanleyville in French (or Dutch as ), the city takes its present name from Boyoma, the seven-arched falls located south of the city, whose name was also initially given to the landscape on which the city is located, Singitini (or Singatini) as rendered in Lingala, (Kisangani is from present Swahili), each of which share the same meaning “the City on the Island”, in reference to the surrounding tributaries (whose waters separate much of Kisangani from the mainland). It is also known as "Kisangani Boyoma", and the demonym for Kisangani is Boyoman (or Boyomais in French).
The languages most spoken at home by the population in the city are Swahili and Lingala, followed by French. The official language of Kisangani is French as defined by the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Some 1,300 miles from the mouth of the Congo River, the city of Kisangani is the farthest navigable point upstream. Kisangani is the nation’s major inland port after Kinshasa, an important commercial hub point for river and land transportation and a major marketing and distribution centre for the north-eastern part of the country. It has been the commercial capital of the northern Congo since the late 19th century.
Kisangani has been home to influential politicians, including the national hero Patrice Emery Lumumba, the first prime minister of the country. The city is also the birth place of the University of Kisangani graduate, entrepreneur and current governor of Orientale Province, Bamanisa Jean Saidi.
Henry Morton Stanley founded Stanley Falls Station in 1883, on the island of Wana Rusari in the Congo River near the present town of Kisangani. During the mid-19th century the area was inhabited by a native Congolese tribe known as the clans of Enya, who had used Wagenia falls (nicknamed Stanley Falls by Stanley) for fishing. The island is located a few meters from the shore site of the present town on the Lualaba River its 7 falls spread over 100 km between Kisangani and Ubundu.
Some 1,300 miles from the mouth of the Congo River, Stanley founded the area’s first trading post for King Leopold II of Belgium in December 1883. The city was known first as Falls Station (or "the Post Stanley Falls" or "The Falls" or simply "Boyoma" the African name of Boyoma Falls) and then with Belgian colonization of the area, it grew into a settlement called Stanleyville (after the explorer Henry Morton Stanley). A city terminus of steamer navigation on the Congo River, the town began as a Belgian trading post. It has been the major centre of the northern Congo since the late 19th century.
Stanley left Mr. Binnie, an engineer and a Scotsman, in charge to trade with the local people and to represent the Congo Free State. The name "Kisangani" was apparently used consistently by the local people, in conjunction with the name "Stanleyville" (as the city was referred to in French and respectively Stanleystad in Dutch). In Swahili the manual published by the Marist Brothers in the 20s, we find an example of substitution naming "from X to Stanleyville" which is translated "toka X Mpaka Kisangani". The name "Kisangani" is a Swahili rendering of the indigenous Congolese language word Boyoma, meaning “City on the Island”, also rendered in Lingala as Singitini (or Singatini) with the same meaning.
Soon after the establishment of relational ties between the Africans and Europeans, East African slavers from Zanzibar, often erroneously called "Arabs" by European writers of the time, reached Stanley Falls. Relations between Free State Officials and the slavers were strained and after a fight the Station was abandoned in 1887.
After the Arab-Euro wars in the Congo, in 1888 the Free State obtained (after negotiations in Zanzibar) an agreement to establish a form of power by appointing Mohammed Bin Alfan Mujreb Tippu Tip, one of the greatest Zanzibar slavers as first governor of the district of "Stanleyfalls" stretching from eastern Tanganyika in Ituri through Maniema. Ultimately the Europeans gained complete control of the vast area in central Africa.
On July 15, 1898, Stanleyville began serving as the capital of the relatively prosperous District of the Eastern Province Stanleyfalls. City status was achieved by incorporation Order No. 12/357 on 6 September 1958, which divided Stanleyville into 4 municipalities: Belgian I, Belgian II, Brussels and Stanley. Towards the end of 1958, the city became the stronghold of Patrice Emery Lumumba, the leader of the political party Mouvement National Congolais (MNC). His strong ties with the city had been forged during his days as one of 350 clerks at the central post office. After the assassination of Lumumba in 1961, Antoine Gizenga installed a government that competed with the central government in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). Before the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960, Kisangani was reputed to have more Rolls-Royces per capita than any other city in the world.
Stanleyville served as the capital and center of the secessionist independent state of the Republic of Congo during the bloody seize of the Orientale and Kivu provinces by Simba rebels in late 1964. During the Congo Crisis, the Simbas took over 1,600 Belgian and other European hostages and after 111 days of negotiating, Operation Dragon Rouge was launched by the United States, Belgium, and the Congolese Army which included a mercenary force called "L'Ommegang" under the command of Colonel Frederic Vandewalle to free the hostages. 1,000 government troops of the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC), ferret armoured cars and 100 vehicles loaded with gasoline and ammo made the final leap to Stanleyville. The airborne assault phase of the hostage rescue operation was referred to as Operation Dragon Rouge, and "Mad" Mike Hoare and his mercenary unit, 5 Commando ANC, also were part of Vandewalle's assault column.
In 1966 and 1967, Kisangani was the site of the Mercenaries' Mutinies, who pillaged the city. The Armée Nationale Congolaise, Belgian Armed Forces and United States troops opposed the mercenary forces and took control of the city in 1967 under a U.N. mandate.
With the assumption of the "Zairianization" program in the 1970s by Mobutu Sese Seko, Stanleyville was officially renamed Kisangani and Stanley Falls became Wagenia Falls, and as of October 27, 1977 the municipalities were renamed as follows: Belgian I (Mangobo and Tshopo ), Belgian II (Lubunga), Brussels (Kabondo) and Stanley (Makiso).
Africa's World War
In the 1990s, the area emerged as the theatre for a series of major battles known as the fight of Kisangani during the First Congo War. Laurent-Désiré Kabila, leader of the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo invaded the Congo from the eastern region of the country with assistance from Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda military forces. As of 30 October in 1998, there were 15,000 Ugandan and 19,000 Rwandan troops on Congolese soil. Laurent Kabila designated Kisangani as the forward base for the foreign forces as he marched westwards towards Kinshasa to overthrow Mobutu Sese Seko.
The alliance of foreign military forces disintegrated when people of Hutu descent were massacred by the thousands in western Zaire and because of looting in the mining areas, in particular, Kisangani and the Kivus. The population was completely opposed to the presence of foreign forces because of their behaviour. Laurent-Désiré Kabila could not continue to support the use of Kisangani as the base for foreign fighters as they launched attacks to massacre the Hutu people - hence he demanded that Rwanda pull its forces out of the country.
In 1999, the city was the site of the first open fighting between Ugandan and Rwandan forces in the Second Congo War, when nearly 3,000 people died in the cross fire. This followed the fracturing of the anti-government rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) into camps based in Kisangani and Goma. The fighting was also over the gold mines near the town. The local population was caught in the cross fire between Ugandan and Rwandan military forces which led to the destruction of about a quarter of the city. Various buildings were damaged, most notably the roof of the Cathedral Rosaire of Notre-Dame, which was ignited by missiles. Both of the foreign forces were reported to have looted and pillaged the city. Despite the condemnation of Uganda by the International Court of Justice, establishment of responsibilities, realization of compensation, or arrests are yet to be made. More clashes between Rwandan and Ugandan led to thousands more deaths and widespread destruction on June 5, 2000.
During the Second Congo War, on 14 May 2002, 160 people were massacred in Kisangani which is believed to be the work of those under the command of Laurent Nkunda. By the time a peace agreement was signed in 2002, the town was under the control of the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy - Goma (RCD-Goma).