Path: ICPP > ICPP 1980 > List of Countries --> Congo-Brazzaville
Kenneth Janda
Political Parties: A Cross-National Survey
New York: The Free Press, 1980: pp. 980-981
CONGO-BRAZZAVILLE: (later the People's republic of the Congo)
The Party System in 1950-1956 and 1957-1962
(Text as published in 1980 citation above)

The Republic of the Congo, a former French colony much smaller than the former Belgian Congo, has neither good agricultural land nor valuable mineral deposits. However, its location on the Congo River across from Leopoldville, the capital of the Belgian Congo, made it something of a trading center, and the selection of Brazzaville as the administrative capital for all of French Equatorial Africa fostered additional white-collar employment. As a result, its literacy rate was relatively high for new African nations, and one might have expected considerable political and party activity soon after World War II. Before 1956, the territory's party politics was largely based on tribal groupings, with Jacques Opangault leading the Mouvement Socialiste Africain (MSA) supported by the M'Bochi tribe in the north and Jean Félix Tchicaya leading the Parti Progressiste Congolais (PPC) supported by the Vili tribe along the coast. Until the 1956 elections, Tchicaya's PPC had control of the assembly with the MSA in the minority. But the Abbé Fulbert Youlou, a Catholic priest under interdiction who continued nonetheless to wear clerical garb and use the title "Abbé," contested the elections and nearly won with the support of the Balali section of the Bakongo tribe. Later the same year, Youlou formed his own party, the Union Democratique de la Defense des Interdts Africains.

In the elections of March 1957, following the enactment of the loi cadre that permitted internal autonomy for the French Congo, the contest was between Youlou's UDDIA and Opangault's MSA, with the PCC almost without support. The UDDIA and the MSA each fell short of a majority in the Assembly, and a coalition government was formed by Opangault, with the support of from two of the three independents. Before the end of the year, however, the four UDDIA ministers resigned, and thereafter relations between the two parties grew increasingly worse. Both MSA and UDDIA, however, did agree to persuade the voters to cast their ballots in the Referendum of 1958 in favor of joining the French Community. Immediately thereafter, Youlou claimed a defector from Opangault's camp and thus the right to form a government with himself as prime minister. Youlou was invested as prime minister, but almost immediately fighting and rioting broke out in the major towns. Finally, Youlou suppressed the MSA and imprisoned Opangault. In the 1959 elections, the UDDIA won 51 of the 61 seats in the legislature. Thereafter, Youlou negotiated a new constitution, became both president and prime minister, and, in 1960, arranged for a merger of the UDDIA and the MSA, granting Opangault a position as minister of state. In August 1960, the Congo became fully independent of France, although it retained close formal ties with the French Community. Youlou continued to dominate politics in the Republic of the Congo through the end of our time period.

Continuity and Change since 1962

Parties in Congo-Brazzaville tended to change with changes in government leadership. Neither of the two original parties continued much beyond 1962, and one new party arose.

Original Parties, Terminated

932 African Socialist Movement. The MSA ended in 1962 when it was absorbed by UDDIA, the party of President Fulbert Youlou.

931 Democratic Union for the Defense of African Interests. The UDDIA did not play the role of the ruling party in a one-party state for very long. Youlou was forced to resign in August 1963, and his UDDIA terminated with his departure.

New Party, Continuing

933 Labor Party. When Youlou was forced from office, government leadership was assumed by Alphonse Massamba-Débat, who created the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) in 1964 as the sole party to assist in the Marxist-Leninist path of development. In a power struggle with more extreme leftists, Massamba-Débat dissolved the assembly in 1968, and he was forced to resign later in the year. He was succeeded by army commander Marien Ngouabi, who in late 1969 renamed the MNR the Congolese Labor Party (Parti Congolais du Travail-PCT) and reemphasized its socialist policies.


Under Ngouabi, the National Assembly was not restored until 1973, when elections were held under a new constitution and all seats were won by the PCT. But Ngouabi was assassinated in March 1977, and the Assembly was dissolved once again the next month. The new government was headed by Colonel Joachim Yhombi-Opango, who governed under the military committee of the PCT. As of early 1979, Yhombi-Opango had not changed the name of the party, which appears to have developed an ideological orientation to sustain its existence despite a transfer of power. Indeed, the party was convened in March 1979 to confirm the leadership of Colonel Denis Sassou-Nguesso, who had ousted Yhombi-Opango a month earlier.

1. Our study of party politics in Congo-Brazzaville is based on a file of 475 pages from 50 documents, 32 of which are in French, the rest are in English (see Table 1.3). The bibliographic search and indexing of material for the file was done by Susan Lauffer. Nancy Artz used the file to code both parties on the variables in the ICPP conceptual framework. Victor T. Levine kindly reviewed this section and offered advice on our coding.