Mwami Godefroid Munongo Shyombeka we Shalo

Mwenda VI. September 12, 1976 – May 28, 1992

Godefroid Munongo was born on November 20, 1925, in Bunkeya. His father was the Mwanangwa (Prince) Mutampuka Munongo, who later adopted the name of Musanfya Ntanga upon becoming King. His mother was the Mugoli Luebo Lwa Nkolomba, a woman from the Baushi people in Katanga.

At birth, it is the Mwami Kitanika (his uncle/father) who was in power. Kitanika, as he previously did for other children, took the responsibility of educating the young Godefroid. Instead of letting him join his older relatives to primary schools away from Bunkeya, he decided that Godefroid would stay at the royal court to learn the intricacies of the Yeke tradition; something the young Godefroid learnt by heart without failing.

Around 1936, Godefroid Munongo started his primary education in Bunkeya and continued his studies at the Saint Boniface School in Elizabethville. Later, he went on to finish his humanities studies at the catholic mission of Kapiri. After his humanities didactics, he attended the Seminary School of Baudouinville where he studied Philosophy from 1947 to 1949. In 1954, he went on to study Public Administration at the University of Lovanium Kisantu, the first French-speaking University in Central Africa.

Upon his return from his studies, he filled several administrative positions in Katanga, such as attaché to the Office of guardianship in 1954, clerk at the Elizabethville Tribunal, Judge at the Office of identification cards, chief officer of the office of pensions for the indigenous people (as the Congolese were referred to by the Belgians), and territorial agent in 1959.

In the late 1950s, Godefroid became more active in local politics. At this time, the majority of the Congolese began to demand more rights and justice. The Katangese demanded no less. In short, Katanga’s natural resources not only made Belgium richer, they also kept the other Congolese provinces afloat, without improving the lives of Katangese. It is the same inequitable politics that motivated Godefroid Munongo, Moise Tshome and their friends, to create the Confederation of Tribal Associations of Katanga (CONAKAT, in French) in October of 1958. He became its first president, however because he was a state employee, he had to give up his post in favor of Moise Tshombe. The CONAKAT was advocating a greater autonomy for the Province of Katanga, especially a fair distribution of the wealth and a larger political participation. In his role as a state employee, Godefroid Munongo was nominated as administrator of the state-run Inga Company. It is in this capacity that he participated in the Board meeting that was held in Brussels in November 1959. Later, he became member of the executive college under the Governor of Katanga during the first semester of 1960, before being elected provincial deputy of the Elizabethville territory.

Eleven days after the June 30 declaration of independence by the Congo, the Katangese government declared secession from the Congo. The secession of Katanga lasted for 3 years (July 11th 1960- January 15th 1963).

Godefroid Munongo became the provisional president of Katanga from April 26 1961 to June 22, 1961. Then, he became Minister of the Interior until 1963.

Following the Secession:

From February1963 to July 1964, he was successively Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Health in the government of Oriental Katanga.

From July 9, 1964 to July 9, 1965, he became Minister of the Interior and Minister of Public Works in the central government of Moise Tshombe. From October 1965 to April 25, 1966, he was governor of Oriental Katanga.

From April 25 1966 to December 1966, he became Governor of South Katanga. Shortly thereafter, he was arrested and transferred to Bula Bemba, an island in Bas-Congo, located around the mouth of the Congo River. His arrest was a direct order from Joseph Désiré Mobutu, president and dictator (1965-1997). On August 30, 1968, he was pardoned and freed from Bula Bemba by the latter.

From his release of prison to the early 70s, Godefroid Munongo progressively reintegrated the workforce, by filling different jobs and working for a number of organizations, including the Office Transportation in the Congo (OTRACO), where he was vice-president. Later he became Vice-President of the Portfolio Management.

From 1974 to 1976, he was Chief Operating Officer of the Zaïro-Italian Refinery (SOZIR in French). In 1976, at the age of 71, his older brother, the Mwami Mwenda Luhinda Shalo Antoine Munongo passed away in Bunkeya. The Council of notables selected Godefroid Munongo as fifth successor to the throne of Msiri. On September 12, 1976, he was enthroned in Bunkeya.

Godefroid Munongo adopted the name of Mwenda Msiri Shyombeka we Shalo, which means the builder of the nation. He got involved in the development and the conservation of our cultural and historical roots, a process his predecessors had started before him. He initiated the renovation of historical sites, such as the Mount Nkulu, the Kimpata well, the canal construction of Bunkeya, among many projects. He emphasized traditional ceremonies, while remaining a fervent Christian. In his eyes, there was no incompatibility between the existence of God the creator, and the Yeke traditions. The latter represented our identity, and not some folklore. Like his fathers, the Mwami Shyombeka made it a point of honor to visit his people and to organize full-scale journeys within the empire to visit his vassals in the Mayanga (villages that make up the Yeke Kingdom).

In the early 1980s, the Mwami Shyombeka Godefroid Munongo became member of the Central Committee, then Secretary of State for the Homeland in the government of Kengo Wa Dondo.  The Department placed him in a position where he could defend the interests of rural people and those of traditional chiefs. In 1990, the National conference was created. It was supposed, at its completion, to set an election date, and of course to promote the institutions of democracy. Godefroid Munongo participated as a ‘chef coutumier’ within the Katangese delegation. After insistent and acrimonious attacks in the media on the subject of Lumumba’s death, the Mwami Shyombeka Godefroid Munongo decided it was time to put an end to the avalanche of defamations and fallacies. He announced that on May 28, 1992, he would break the silence on the death of Lumumba. His statement was scheduled for 17:00 hours, and at 12:30 of the same day he suffered a mysterious shortness of breath and a massive heart attack that took his life. It is clear, beyond any doubt, that the statement of Mwami Shyombeka Godefroid Munongo was going to be disquieting for some, and devastating for others. He had to be silenced…However, his legacy lives on. His love for Katanga and her people remain an inspiration and an indelible component of our history.

Godefroid Munongo’s children:

  • Mwami Mwenda Msiri Mwemera Christian Munongo (deceased)
  • Symphorien Mutampuka Munongo (deceased)
  • Claude Mwansa Munongo
  • Dominique Inamizi Munongo
  • Marie-Ange Kamama Munongo
  • Odile Luebo Munongo
  • Mwami Mwenda Bantu Kaneranera Godefroid Munongo Jr.
  • Eric Kazembe Mwika Munongo
  • Patrick Kalenga Munzyalira Munongo