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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 September 2006, 18:04 GMT 19:04 UK
Africa explorer's remains exhumed
By Mark Doyle
World affairs correspondent, BBC News

A Congolese fisherman passes in front of the Brazzaville skyline in the harbour of Kinshasa
The once-rival cities of Brazzaville and Kinshasa are linked by ferry
The remains of Pierre de Brazza, the 19th Century French explorer and founder of modern-day Congo, have been exhumed in Algeria.

They will be reburied in three days' time in the Congolese capital, Brazzaville.

It is one of the few African cities that retains the name of its colonial founder.

Brazza was buried in 1905 in Algiers, when Algeria was part of metropolitan France.

His century-old adventure story pits the Frenchman against the envoy of the Belgian crown, Henry Morton Stanley, to capture central Africa.

Both men had different masters but a common aim - to win the 19th Century "Scramble for Africa", that audacious and often cruel race to subjugate a continent.

Mineral riches

The American Stanley, who today is famous for having re-supplied the struggling British explorer David Livingstone, was working for the ambitious King of Belgium, Leopold. Brazza was working for France.

Map of Congo

They both wanted to capture the navigable section of the great Congo river - and with it vast territories and fabulous mineral wealth.

In the end, Brazza won the race through uncharted jungles, planting the French flag on the northern shore of the river.

Brazzaville was born. Stanley was forced to the southern shore of Congo river. He founded another city and named it after his royal Belgian backer, and Leopoldville took root.

Today, Brazzaville and Leopoldville, later renamed Kinshasa, are joined by only a short ferry ride.

Brazzaville is the capital of Congo. Kinshasa is the capital of the confusingly named "Democratic Republic of Congo".


Brazza's remains will be flown to Brazzaville in a few days time to be reburied in a mausoleum built jointly by the French and Congolese governments.

Some Congolese are critical about the honouring of this controversial figure.

They say Africans have not benefited from the relationship with France.

French and Congolese historians of Brazza's exploits say, however, that by the standards of the day, their man was a humanist who had respectful relationships with African chiefs.

Where possible, they say, he used negotiations rather than force - unlike Stanley, who by most accounts was a brash and violent conqueror.

Close encounter with Congo's president
28 Jan 06 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Country profile: Republic of Congo
22 Aug 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Republic of Congo
11 Jul 06 |  Country profiles


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