Liberation Day in Congo Democratic Republic

Liberation Day is a public holiday observed in the Democratic Republic of Congo every year on May 17th. This holiday commemorates the 1997 coup that brought Laurent-Desire Kabila to power after the First Congo War. Since it is a public holiday in DR Congo, it is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed for the day.

It is also a day when people gather to celebrate with communal meals, military parades, and special festivals. However, the popularity of some celebrations has taken a marked downturn in recent years as war, famine, and civil unrest have wearied the population.

The History of Liberation Day in DR Congo

In November 1965, Army Chief of Staff Joseph-Desire Mobutu seized power during a coup d’état—just five years after the country had achieved independence. He would then go on to run Zaire (as it was known at the time) as a one-party state under his dictatorship. His regime was partially propped up by the U.S. government, which viewed his rule as favorable since he had a pronounced anti-communist stance.

After the fall of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s, the United States stopped supporting Zaire. A few years later, Tutsi rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda invaded the country in the First Congo War. Jean-Pierre Bemba led The Movement for the Liberation of the Congo rebel group, and on May 17, 1997, the leader of Tutsi forces from the province of South Kivu became President when Mobutu fled to Morocco. The name of the country was then reverted back to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Observing Liberation Day in DR Congo

Although the popularity of this holiday has waned in recent years, there are still plenty of people who celebrate it with live music, dancing, and street festivals that offer plenty of food and drink. This holiday is also observed with military parades across the Congo.

Where is it celebrated?
Congo Democratic Republic (Public holiday)
When is it?
This year (2024)
May 17 Friday
Next year (2025)
May 17 Saturday
Last year (2023)
May 17 Wednesday