Like its predecessors, this monograph of the ‘Provinces-Decentralisation’ project devotes a large portion to historical, socio-administrative, political, and socio-economic developments. It nonetheless seeks to provide an analysis and survey of knowledge not limited to these aspects alone. Discussions of its nature (fauna, vegetation, hydrology, geology, geography) and other areas of human science (anthropology, musicology) all contribute to a better understanding of Tanganyika, in the wealth and complexity of its many dimensions.
From an early time, the Tanganyika region piqued the curiosity of Western and Arab scholars who were eager to identify the sources of the Nile. The region covers nearly 135,000 km², or a little under 6% of the country’s total territory, in an area roughly located between the Lomami-Lualaba ridge line to the west, a rocky swell to the east, and, in the south, the Kamalondo depression and the barrier of lakes Mweru (northern point), Mweru Wantipa (Republic of Zambia), and Tanganyika (bottom). Only the northern limit running along the 5th parallel south, from the intersection with Kiangwe river to the eastern border of DR Congo, appears to disregard natural circumstances completely.
Its economy was boosted in the previous century by the union of water and iron. From the coastline of the entire eastern side, railway tracks crossed the landbound portion of the country, in search of the Lualaba river, and meeting it at Kabalo, the junction of railway lines between the north (Kindu, Maniema) and south (Kamina, Haut-Lomami). The river itself, replaced by the railway between Kabalo and Kongolo, offers a navigable channel stretching over several hundred kilometres from Malemba-Nkulu (Haut-Lomami) to the Portes d’Enfer falls downstream from Kongolo. This structure progressively developed, along with a vast road network (around 5 000 km) connected to it, until the eve of independence. Several economic sectors grew around this framework. Some of the gems of colonial industry established themselves locally: CFL and Filtisaf in Albertville/Kalemie; Géomines in Manono; Cotanga in Kongolo; etc. Significant trade also grew via its port which connected to the centre and east of Africa, especially along the Kigoma–Dar-es-Salaam corridor. Tanganyika became especially known for its maritime trade, in contrast with the mining areas of the south, even though the region also favoured the agro-pastoral economy.
Given this brief overview of a few economic characteristics specific to the region, it is tempting to shift to politics and, in hindsight, view the short experience of the first decentralisation (1962-1967) as an extension of a regional peculiarity. The map of the 22 provinces included in the Constitution of 1 August 1964 (known as the Luluabourg constitution) recognized the existence of a province of Nord-Katanga that stretched to Tanganyika and Haut-Lomami to cover the so-called “Luba-ised" peoples, while the political scene was dominated for a while by the work and image of the Balubakat, the leading party in the north of Katanga province. But rather than reflecting a given regional identity, this situation is above all the result of situational developments. A detailed analysis of this important period in the district’s history shows a complex situation, where tensions between unitarists and federalists, ethnic reflexes, strategic calculations, personal ambitions, and power struggles all mingled. The prospect of a unified Katanga in a centralised Congo remained the general objective, and the players only accepted the notion of this province created from scratch as a temporary measure, as there was no better alternative for neutralising the Tshombe-led secession. Unsurprisingly, Nord-Katanga officials had mixed reactions to subsequent moves to break up the province. Since that time, with the accession to the highest levels of power by several of its natives, beginning with Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and the actual benefits of this falling short of the initial hopes of locals, the population adjusted their view of decentralisation: it could well be the path they needed to follow in order to take charge of their own development.