The name of Paul Panda Farnana marked the history of Democratic Republic of Congo for many reasons: he was the first Congolese to have completed higher education in Belgium. He was above all the first Congolese nationalist to denounce with virulence the colonial methods put in place by the Belgians. He called for, for example, the generalization of secular education as well as access for the Congolese to universities in the Metropolis. He also pleaded for the participation of his compatriots in the decision-making bodies of the colony as well as for the Africanization of the executives.
He was also an active activist Pan-Africanism and collaborated with Paul Otlet (one of the fathers of the internet), Henri La Fontaine (Otlet's collaborator and Nobel Peace Prize in 1913) WEB DuBois, and Blaise Diagne to the organization of the Second Pan-African Congress, at the Palais Mondial, in Brussels in September 1921. He was imbued with the internationalist and pacifist ideals which were those of Paul Otlet and Henri La Fontaine.
He wanted to be the spokesperson for the Belgian Congo in Brussels and multiplied the articles in the press of his time. In 1919, he founded the Union Congolaise (Society for mutual aid and moral development of the Congolese race), the oldest non-profit association initiated by Congolese on Belgian soil. One of the goals of this organization, of which he was in turn the Secretary General and the Honorary President, was to defend the rights of Congolese veterans of the First World War which he was. This association demanded on several occasions the erection of a monument to the "unknown Soldier Congolese ”in order to mark the debt of Belgium towards the Congolese soldiers who had fought under its flag in Africa (among others to Tabora in Cameroon) and in metropolitan France. A monument in tribute to the Congolese fighters of the Public force will eventually be built to Schaerbeek, square François Riga and inaugurated in 1970, 40 years after the death of Panda.
- 1888: birth of Paul Panda Farnana in Nzemba near Moanda Lower Congo.
- 1900: Panda arrives in Belgium on April 25, accompanied by Lieutenant Derscheid, who took part in theBia shipping Katanga. He began secondary studies at the Athénée d'Ixelles.
- 1904: in October, he passes the entrance exam to the Vilvoorde school of horticulture and agriculture.
- 1907: Panda graduates with the highest distinction; he also obtains the "certificate of capacity" with the specialty of tropical crops.
- 1908: anxious to complete his training, Panda enrolled as a regular student at the Higher School of Tropical Agriculture in Nogent-sur-Marne. At the end of his studies, he obtains the “Certificate of studies”. At the commercial and consular college of Mons, he deepens his knowledge of English.
- 1909: Panda is hired by the Colonial Ministry as "Third Class Crop Leader". Upon arrival at Boma the June 21 he is appointed to Eala Botanical Garden nearly Coquilathville, where he also teaches theoretical courses.
- 1911: his term completed, Panda embarks on the SS Brusselsville, June 21st. On his arrival in Belgium, he received the distinction of "the service star". On his return to Congo in December of the same year, he was appointed director of the station of Kalamu, where he will notably collect herbarium specimens kept at the National Botanical Garden of Belgium.
- 1914: war breaks out while Panda stays in Belgium. He joined the “Congolese Volunteer Corps”. Two other Congolese make the same gesture: Joseph Adipanga and Albert Kudjabo. All three will be taken prisoner by the Germans. While Joseph Adipanga manages to escape, Paul Panda and Kudjabo Albert remain in captivity until the end of the war. On December 6, 1916 they found themselves at the Soltau prisoner of war camp in Germany and were separated again on March 24, 1917. In the prisoner of war camps, he got closer to the Senegalese riflemen for whom he acts as a public writer. Through this, he comes into contact with Blaise Diagne, Member of Parliament Senegal.
- 1919: released, Panda returns to Belgium and obtains at his request a layoff for personal convenience. In February, he took part in the first Pan-African Congress in Paris, organized at the joint initiative of Blaise Diagne, member of the French government, and WEB Du Bois, African-American sociologist and head of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of colored People). In November, he founded with his compatriots (including Joseph Adipanga and Albert Kudjabo) the Union Congolaise, a "society of relief and moral and intellectual development of the Congolese race". It is placed under the high protection of Louis Franck, Liberal Minister of Colonies andEmile Vandervelde, Socialist leader and Minister of Justice.
- 1920: Panda intervenes at the podium of the first National Colonial Congress (from September 18 to 20, 1920) whose meetings are held in the Senate. His contribution is all the more noticed as he is the only Congolese invited to speak to colonial personalities: ecclesiastics and civilians. It was during this congress that Panda met Father Stefano Kaoze, then secretary of Monsignor Roelens, apostolic vicar of Haut-Congo. The two men who take the time to get to know each other esteem each other and Panda expresses their consensus on the desired participation of the Congolese in decision-making bodies.
- 1921: the Second Pan-African Congress is held alternately in London and Brussels. Panda sits on the Congress office alongside Blaise Diagne, WEB Du Bois, Paul Otlet, and Miss Jessie Fauset. On September 11, Paul Panda gives a conference on “the history of Negro civilization on the banks of the Congo River”. In addition, he expressed the wish that black diplomats be present in international commissions responsible for administering the mandates exercised over the former German possessions in Africa. At the request of the members of the Congolese Union, Paul Panda took steps with the Ministry of Colonies in order to organize courses for the use of his compatriots. Thus, courses for Congolese subsidized by the Belgian authorities are open in Brussels, Charleroi and Marchienne. Panda himself provides a few lessons alongside teachers duly appointed by the authorities. Accused of sedition, the catechist Simon Kimbangu is condemned to death. His sentence is commuted to life imprisonment; he was deported to Katanga, where he was imprisoned until his death in 1951. Through Minister Louis Franck in particular, Panda worked to convince the colonial authorities not to apply the death penalty to the convicted person. Kimbangu is all the more decried by some colonists as they consider him to be a disciple of Marcus Garvey. A violent controversy opposes Paul Panda to the editorial team of Avenir Colonial Belge, the spokesperson for the most conservative colonials.
- 1925: “the rebirth of the West” devotes a special issue to Congolese arts and crafts. Panda is involved and speaks with relevance on questions of art as well as the future of craftsmanship in his country. He denounces the looting which allowed Europe to fill its museums and judges that colonization constitutes nothing more or less “rationalized” vandalism.
- 1929: return of Panda to the Congo; he returns to his native village; he had a school and a chapel erected there, dedicated to his patron saint.
- 1930: Paul Panda Farnana dies on May 12 in his native village, aged 41. In Brussels, the Congolese Union is having a mass celebrated in the church of theAbbaye de la Cambre.
Faces of Paul Panda Farnana: Nationalist, Pan-Africanist, committed intellectual
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