Saturday, April 30, 2011

Leopoldville 1911 - Kintambo Cité Established

When Stanley first reached what would become Kinshasa near the end of his transcontinental journey in March 1877, he camped in the village of Ntamo as guest of the local chief, Ngaliema.  Ngaliema was an ex-slave who owed allegiance to the Muteke Chief Makoko. The Bateke were fisherfolk, occupying land of the local BaHumbu, and traded in ivory and other up-river products with the Bakongo and Bazombo downstream.  Stanley returned in 1880 as agent for King Leopold II, and renewed his friendship with Ngaliema, eventually settling on a hill nearby to establish his station which became Leopoldville.  The nearby market at Ntamo was an important consideration in the location of the new settlement.
Leopoldville 1896 - Kintambo village on the far horizon

Sims Chapel circa 1891

Representatives of the British Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) arrived in 1881, though the BMS eventually moved their work to Kinshasa (See March 5, 2011).  The following year representatives of the Livingstone Inland Mission (LIM) reached the Pool, establishing a mission station in the village in February 1883. At this point, LIM (taken over by the American Baptist Missionary Union (ABMU) in 1884) only considered Ntamo as a base to support its strategy of extending evangelization work upriver. In 1889, ABMU missionaries Aaron Sims and Fritz Gleichman transferred the station from the village to its actual site on the river where Dr. Sims built the small brick chapel in 1891.  Fritz Gleichman died in June 1893 and was buried behind Sims Chapel, the sole grave on the site.  After the arrival of the railroad in 1898, the logistic importance of the site declined for the Baptists and the station was rented to the Congo Balolo Mission, while Dr. Sims moved to Matadi. 

The colonial authorities established a market at Ntamo in 1883, but at the turn of the century Cdt. Mahieu transferred the market to the adjacent European town of Leopoldville.  The greatest need was to ensure a steady supply of chikwange (manioc bread) for the African personnel, which included some 1000 workers, soldiers and their families.
Loads of Chikwange assembled at Madimba south of Leopoldville

The Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes opened a school at Kilimani between Kintambo and Leopoldville in June 1910.  The following year, Commissaire Moulaert formalized a cite in Kintambo, which came to be called “Belge”. In his memoires, Moulaert refers to Kintambo as “Ngaliema” and described the road that connected the port (Chanic) with the train station (Kintambo Magasins) as Ave. Mahieu.  The road bordered the Baptist mission and was planted with coconut and Traveller palms.  The Baptists assigned Moses Kikwakwa from Sona Bata in 1913 to look after the Mission’s interests in the city. In 1928, both Utexleo and Chanic, new industries on the western side of town, built housing for their African employees in Kintambo.

In 1930, the American Baptists re-established missionary presence in Leopoldville (See Jan. 6, 2011). Peter McDiarmid and family arrived as the Legal Representative, while the Eriksons came to provide financial support.  In September 1933, Ernest Atkins completed the new church and school in Kintambo, the latter taken over by Miss Schaeffer.  In 1935, Elmer Hall joined the group in Leopoldville and built additional buildings in Kintambo.  With the cement mortar remaining at the end of the day, he constructed a cement elephant around a 200 liter barrel which provided drinking water to passers-by from a faucet in its curved trunk.
The Baptist Church at Kintambo

Buildings at St. Georges School - 2006
As elsewhere in the development of the city, competition between Protestant and Catholic missions appears to have influenced decisions about location and expansion of mission work.  The Frères des Ecoles Chrétiennes established St. George Primary school in Kintambo in 1935 and built the Velodrome stadium the following year. This preceded inauguration of Stade Reine Astrid in Kinshasa in 1937 and was the first sports stadium in the city.  The complex became St. Francois Parish and the church was built in 1938.  By 1939, the Frères had 455 boys enrolled in  a full 6-year primary school,  the Franciscan Sisters girls primary school had 255 students in 5 years, the ABFMS school had 177 pupils, while the Salvation Army (which established itself in 1934, and one of the few Belgian Protestant missions working in the colony) served 1,070 students in three schools across the city.  At this time, only Belgian mission schools were eligible to receive state subsidies.  Nonetheless, District Commissioner Macquet in that year gave out diplomas to the 5th graduating class of ABFMS students, an event attended by 30 whites and 650 Africans. 
St. Francois Church 2010

The Velodrome in 2006
The new Primary School at Kintambo

The mission in 1954 supported a small dispensary, managed by Mattie Marie Nsingani, who at Independence became President Kasavubu’s personal nurse.  Construction of a new two-story primary school with government funding started in 1955.  This allowed the mission to open a Christian community center at the church, which offered night school classes and day sessions in literacy, sewing and knitting.  In 1956 Marjorie and Murray Sharp were assigned to work at the center with Murray also serving as Director of the new primary school. 
Kintambo Primary School -1958

Marjorie Sharp at the Christian Center office - 1958
Children's games at the Christian Center 1964 - original primary school (L) and old Church (R)

Kintambo Hospital Maternity wing - 2006
In 1956, the colonial government began construction of a new public hospital for Congolese near the Franciscan Sisters concession along the Basoko River.  This facility would complement the Hôpital des Congolais in Kinshasa.  Designed by Ilinsky (the architect of the building on the river where the Au Plein Vent restaurant is today) it offered 540 beds in 10 pavilions and a 150-bed maternity.  Completed in 1958, the hospital was managed by a Swiss medical mission.  After Independence, the hospital was supported by the Swiss Red Cross until 1964.  During the post-independence period, the hospital also served the UN Contingent in Leopoldville.
Kintambo Hospital entrance 1960
Kintambo Hospital Maternity - 2009
As the Belgian colonial government began in the late 1950s to belatedly respond to Congolese desire for self-government, elections were organized in Leopoldville in March 1957 in which Ngaliema Commune was gerrymandered to comprise all the river front from Chanic to Utexleo as a mixed European-African Commune, and relegating Kintambo to the hinterlands. Thus, Kintambo Magasins is actually in Commune Ngaliema.
John Marshall and Protestant and Catholic stakeholders at groundbreaking for the Kintambo Church
The American Baptist mission, now a Congolese church, the Association des Eglises Baptistes du Congo-Ouest (ADEBCO), broke ground in an ecumenical ceremony in 1965 for a new church adjacent to the new school and original church.  The new church was completed in May 1966.  This allowed use of the old church building for additional Christian Center activities.  In 1971, the Sharps obtained funding to expand the Center and contracted Scheut Brother Paul DeQueker (whose numerous accomplishments in the city include Institut St. Raphael on Blvd. Lumumba in Limete) to prepare the architectural plans.  The original school buildings behind the church were demolished to make way for larger, purpose-built structures. Marjorie developed a kindergarten curriculum in Lingala for use at Kintambo and other ADEBCO centers in the city, while Murray continued to expand the social and community opportunites offered by the Center.  The nationalization of the education system in 1974 suspended the Sharps’ contribution to education in Kintambo.
The Baptist Church at Kintambo - May 1966
When Congo sponsored the OAU meetings in 1967, Ave. OAU was constructed as a one-way street into Kinshasa to relieve traffic on Ave. Mondjiba, the main road linking downtown with the western districts.  This road followed the rail line, passing by Kintambo Maternity hospital.
In September 1973 a Chinese medical team began working at Kintambo Hospital following Mobutu’s successful visit to the People's Republic.  The French Government proposed to rehabilitate the hospital in 1998 and in 2004, the Government awarded a contract to Consortium Kikalakasa to rehab the hospital.

·        Moulaert, Georges. 1948. Souvenirs d’Afrique – 1902-1919, Brussels: C. Dessart.
·        Smith, Viola. 2006. Batie sur le Roc, Virgil, Ont.: Niagara Graphics.