June 30, 2010 will mark the 50th anniversary of Congolese independence.
Congo won't be alone. So far, only two sub-Saharan African countries have had 50th anniversaries -- Ghana and Guinea, which got their independence in 1958 and 1959. But 1960 was the great boom year for decolonization. So over the next 12 months there will be 50th independence ceremonies in Cameroon, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Madagascar, both Congos, Somalia, Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Chad, Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad and Mauretania. That's seventeen countries with almost half a billion people.
If I were writing for the Economist, or some such, I'd spend a couple of paragraphs on a beard-stroking retrospective about the high hopes of independence, and how they've been dashed by misgovernment and corruption and war, and how today a few glimmers of hope light the horizon, and blah blah like that. But just thinking about that is boring, no? So here's a thing: these celebrations look to be a really huge deal. Here in the Congo, people are already talking about it. In addition to being an immense national party, the government also views June 30 as a deadline by which it wants to accomplish various things.
Well, national anniversaries don't generally accomplish much except to leave behind a quickly dated monument or two. Still, a continent-wide series of massive celebrations stretching over a year is a pretty cool thing by itself, no?