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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Assessment for Luba in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo

View Group Chronology

Dem. Rep. of the Congo Facts
Area:    2,345,410 sq. km.
Capital:    Kinshasa
Total Population:    49,000,000 (source: unknown, 1998, est.)

Risk Assessment | Analytic Summary | References

Risk Assessment

The Luba remain at risk in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as ethnic relations continue to be tense particularly between the Luba and the Lunda in the Shaba (formerly Katanga) Province. Territorial concentration and regime instability following the assassination of the DRC leader, Laurent Kabila in 2001 and Rwandan involvement in the DRC may put the group at greater risk of rebellion. However, the lack of cohesion amongst the Luba may make rebellion by the group more difficult. With the exclusion of Etienne Tshisekedi, a Luba, in the Laurent Kabila government, division amongst the Luba was created as Tshisekedi has large popular support in Kinshasa and the Kasai province.

After the fall of the Mobutu rule in the DRC (formerly Zaire during his reign), the Luba no longer face discrimination politically nor culturally, which may temper the risks of protest. However, the instability of the government and its difficulty in rectifying the differences between ethnic minorities as elections in the Shaba province in 2006 have heightened ethnic tensions in the region. The DRC’s new and unstable democracy may serve as a factor placing the group at a higher risk of protest in the future.

However, as long as sporadic violence continues in the general region, the Luba must be considered an at-risk minority should the balance of power shift in the near future. The Luba remaining in the Katanga region are especially at risk, given the intense levels of violence in that region. While Joseph Kabila has talked of democratic reform and bringing an end to the violence in the DRC, little has changed and the prospects of peace across the country remain distant.


Analytic Summary

The Luba people live in the southeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in the provinces of Kasai and Shaba (Katanga) (GROUPCON = 3). Prior to colonization, the Luba controlled a kingdom in what is now southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Belgians colonized the Congo region in 1884-1885, which coincides with the demise of the Luba kingdom following attacks by the Chokwe peoples. The Luba were originally concentrated in the Kasai Province, but in the early 1900s they moved to the Katanga Province at the urging of the Belgians to run the mining operations there. Mines in southern DRC include copper, cobalt and diamond. The Luba became a privileged class politically and economically during the colonial era and became resented by the Lunda, residing in the southern portions of the Katanga Province. Today, Luba living in the Shaba Province are sometimes referred to as Balubakat or Lubakat. The Luba, mainly Christian since conversions during colonial times (BELIEF = 0), have become an advantaged minority under the recent Kabila regimes (first, Laurent from 1996, then Joseph since January 2001, both of whom are Luba) after experiencing repression during the Mobutu rule.

During the late 1950s, clashes over land were fought between the Luba-Kasai and Lulua. By this time, another ethnic group, the Lunda, emerged, resentful of the positions held by the Luba-Kasai in the Shaba Province. Ethnic rivalry flared after the 1957 urban council elections in which the Luba-Kasai gained victory. At independence from Belgium, the people of Kasai attempted to secede led by Albert Kalonji. Consequently, large numbers of Luba were killed in 1960 by government forces in an attempt to quell the secessionist movement. The Katanga province also expressed secessionist aspirations under the Lunda and led by Moise Tshombe. Both bids for independence were abandoned by 1963.

During the post-colonial rule of Mobutu Sese Seko, the Luba faced great repression and discrimination. The government encouraged the Lunda of Katanga to harass and expel the Luba-Kasai from their homes. Mobutu's armed forces were ineffectual in stopping the violence and were sometimes involved. During the 1992-1993 violence between the Lunda and Luba reports indicated that more than 5,000 died and 1,350,000 were forced to flee the violence, most of whom were Luba. The Luba-Katanga were forced back to Kasai, a province from which they had originated in the early 1900s, but with which they were no longer familiar.

The violence targeting the Luba-Kasai in Katanga receded during 1995-1996 largely because hundreds of thousands of Luba fled the province. A rebellion, sparked by ethnic violence against Banyarwandans (Congolese Hutus and Tutsi of Rwandan descent) in the east and later led by Laurent Kabila, began in Zaire in the fall of 1996. This rebellion spread across the country from October 1996 until May 1997 when Mobutu fled the country and overshadowed all other conflicts within the country during this time period. A second rebellion against Kabila's regime began in August 1998 when Kabila expelled his Rwandan allies. The Rwandans had aided Kabila in his rebellion against Mobutu because they were concerned with the presence of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus, many of whom were believed to be genoçidaires, who were taking refuge in Zaire. After some months in power, Kabila faced pressure from "native" groups in Zaire, which he renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo, to oust the Rwandans, and eventually the Congolese Tutsis. Kabila allied himself with the remaining Rwandan Hutus in Congo and other ethnic groups residing in the east, while the Congolese Tutsis allied themselves with the Rwandans and Ugandans, and some Congolese ethnic groups and former Congolese military personnel. Since fighting resumed in the country, the eastern region has been extremely unstable and the people of the region have suffered greatly. South Kivu and Katanga have been very hard-hit by the fighting. Kabila is being supported by Libya, Zimbabwe, Angola, and Namibia. It is unclear how the Luba-Kasai have been affected by the recent fighting, but since much of the east is affected, they are not likely to have escaped the conflict, nor is there any indication that the Luba are taking sides in the present conflict. In late 1999, a cease-fire was agreed to (the Lusaka peace accords), but all sides in the conflict remain wary of each other, and the prospects for peace are not promising, as violence has continued. In an effort to stop the violence, Joseph Kabila has invited the UN Peace Observation Mission in the Congo (MONUC) to help enforce measures described in the Lusaka peace accords.

As aforementioned, the ascension of Kabila to the post of President of the DRC effectively ended government-induced political and economic discrimination against the Luba (POLDIS06 = 0; ECDIS06 = 0). Yet, the Luba, like all of the DRC’s ethnopolitical groups have been very negatively affected by "Africa’s First World War" in the DRC, which since 1998 has pitted the government forces, supported by Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe, against rebels backed by Uganda and Rwanda. The provinces with a substantial Luba population in fact continue to have a heavy Zimbabwean troop presence, which for the most part has served not as a tool of repression (REPGENCIV06 = 0; REPNVIOL = 0; REPVIOL = 0), but as protection for the Luba against a nearby hostile Tutsi presence whose militia were abandoned by Laurent Kabila after he gained a power base by 1997.



CIA World Factbook. “Congo, Democratic Republic of the.” 2004.

“Katanga: The Congo’s Forgotten Crisis.” International Crisis Group. Africa Report No. 103. 9 Jan. 2006.

Lexis-Nexis 2001-2006 (French/English)

United States’ Department of State. “Congo, Democratic Republic of the: Country Reports on Human Rights practices.” 2001- 2006.

Villers, Gauthier de. “Confusion politique au Congo-Kinshasa.” Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des Études Africaines, Vol. 33, No. 2/3, Special Issue: French-Speaking Central Africa: Political Dynamics of Identities and Representations. (1999), pp. 432-447.

Zaire: A country study. Sandra W. Meditz and Tim Merrill, eds. Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress. US government Printing Office: Washington, DC, 1994.


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Information current as of December 31, 2006