In the pre-dawn hours of November 20, 1925, five shots rang out in Bunkeya, the capital of the ancient Garenganze kingdom, in what is today Katanga, in the DRC. Mwami Kitanika, the reigning king at the time, immediately sent armed guards to check what appeared to be a lion alert. When they arrived in the neighborhood of Bwala, they found the Mwanangwa Munongo MUTAMPUKA (the king’s younger brother and future King MUSAMFYA) dancing with joy. The Mwanangwa asked them to go tell his brother Mwami KITANIKA the following: “the one we had been expecting was just born.” At the announcement, the Mwami replied with a shot of his 12 calilbre rifle. This is how Godefroid Munongo, later known as MWENDA M’SIRI SHYOMBEKA WE SHALO, came into the world.
After 10 years of initiation at the Royal Court (1925-1935), under the supervision of Mwami KITANIKA and his brother Munongo, Godefroid Munongo, who was nicknamed Ngelemani (the german) for his feisty character, began primary school at age 11. From that point forward, his nearly seamless life trajectory would take him to Seminary School in Kapiri and to the Institute of Kisantu in Bas-Congo, where he studied with Justin Marie BOMBOKO and Albert Kabare. While employed at the Office of Passports and faced with multiple adversities stemming from colonization, his political aspirations began to grow. On the death of his father Mwami MUSAMFYA in 1956, Godefroid Munongo temporarily distanced himself from the Catholic Church which was alleged to have plotted the king’s death.
As the political awakening began to evolve in Leopoldville (today Kinshasa), Godefroid Munongo founded the CONAKAT (Confederation of Tribal Associations of Katanga) with Moise TSHOMBE and Jean-Baptiste Kibwe. Confronted by Pan-African pressures and subsequent challenges from the Cold War, the Belgian government conceded independence to the congolese.
However, prior to Independence, Godefroid Munongo was appointed as INGA Administrator with residence in Brussels. This appointment came because the belgians were fearing that his passion for Katanga would lead to a possible rupture between the CONAKAT and its partners.
At the dawn of independence of June 30, 1960, he returned home to fill the post of Minister of the Interior of the seceding State of Katanga starting on July 11, 1960. He participated in all major episodes of Congolese and Katanga political life during the most tumultuous period of the Cold War. As the secession of Katanga ended, he helped develop the Luluabourg Constitution as Interior Minister of Central Congo, before becoming Governor of Katanga from 1965 to 1966. Following a period of political incarceration, Godefroid Munongo remained in the private sector, though later he would once again become Minister of the Interior and member of the Central Committee (Senate).
On September 12, 1976, he succeeded his brother Mwami LUHINDA SHALO Antoine Munongo, as sixth Mwami of the Bayeke of Garenganze. It is then that the next chapter of his life, which our grandfathers had presciently anticipated at the time of his birth, would become manifest. Soon after becoming king, GODEFROID MUNONGO restored the ancient rites before the Bikabilo (small huts used during traditional celebrations to commemorate the ancestors); he revitalized the yeke culture and language, and toured throughout the Garenganze kingdom to bring the Mayanga (Yeke villages) under the aegis of Bunkeya , as they were 100 years before during the reign of his grandfather and founder of Garenganze, M’SIRI I. With his many contacts, both domestic and international, Godefroid Munongo opened new horizons to the kingdom and secured old partnerships by inviting guests and friends to partake in the yearly celebration of December 20, the date commemorating the day M’SIRI refused the implantation of the flag of the Congo Free State in 1891.
However, on May 28, 1992, a phone call interrupted the tranquility of a spring day in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. The lion was gone. He passed away at the Sovereign National Conference (CNS in french) in Kinshasa. I could not believe my ears. I started calling around to inquire on the health of our mother, my family and especially the consequences for Katanga and the future of our Bwami (kingdom). We all returned home for the royal funeral. Subsequently, the Royal Court designated our older brother to continue the vision of our lion, king, father, protector, and General.
Twenty years have passed now, but one would think it was just yesterday. In spite of this immeasurable loss, the Bwami has persisted on the treacherous path towards development and the fulfillment of a dream for a prosperous Katanga.
Bunkeya, January 3, 2012.
MWENDA BANTU MUNONGO GODEFROID Jr 8th Mwami of the Bayeke of Garengaze