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The Batetela rebellion[lower-alpha 1] (French language: Révolte des Batetela) was the most important native insurrection in the history of the Congo Free State (1888-1908). The rebellion began as a mutiny among soldiers from the Tetela tribe serving in a military expedition led by Francis Dhanis to the Upper Nile. The rebellion broke out in 1897 and lasted until 1898. Its trigger was the execution of a number of Tetela chiefs who had been accused of cannibalism.

Mutiny of Dhanis expedition

The column of Force Publique regulars and auxiliaries assembled under Lieutenant Dhanis was the largest colonial force assembled in Central Africa. Its objective was an advance to the Nile, bringing a region of the ivory-rich southern Sudan under the control of Leopold II's Free State. In the absence of sufficient indigenous volunteers, the Force Publique had relied on tribal levies recruited on the basis of one conscript for every twenty-five families. The loosely organised "army" included many hundreds of civilian camp-followers and even the FP soldiers were poorly trained and fed. Approximately six thousand levies and auxiliaries turned on their Belgian officers, ten of whom were killed, and the expedition disintegrated.[1] A further twelve white cadres (officers and NCOs) were killed in subsequent clashes.

Notes and references


  1. In most Bantu languages, the prefix ba- is added to a human noun to form a plural. As such, Batetela refers collectively to members of the Tetela ethnic group.


  1. Van Reybrouck, David. Congo. pp. 81–83. ISBN 978-0-00-756291-6. 

Further reading

  • Pakenham, Thomas (1992). The Scramble for Africa: the White Man's Conquest of the Dark Continent from 1876 to 1912 (13th ed.). London: Abacus. ISBN 978-0-349-10449-2. 
  • Renton, David; Seddon, David; Zeilig, Leo (2007). The Congo: Plunder and Resistance. London: Zed Books. ISBN 978-1-84277-485-4. 

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