On January 16 and 17 of every year, DR Congo celebrates what it calls its Martyr Days, corresponding to the dates Laurent-Désiré Kabila and Patrice Lumumba were killed. On these days every year, the Palais de Marbre is open to the general public in Kinshasa, where Kabila Sr. was assassinated. A rather morbid, but fascinating trip back in time, it is well worth the visit if you are in Kinshasa during those dates.
After missing it several times, I finally made it out there. A group of us thought to avoid the long lines, so we showed up at 8am, when we were told it would open. It opened 30 minutes later after massive scrambling by the guards to set up security and several school busses had dropped off legions of kids coming to visit the site. The compound is beautiful, on top of a hill in Ngaliema Commune, overlooking Kinshasa’s valley. Driving up the windy roads to get here, it’s always a sight to see the huge lion statues guarding the gate and it was great to finally see inside.
There were a lot of pictures of Kabila Sr. in the walk through the compound to the house he was shot in, with little excerpts of his speeches and of course, regular references to his “Ne jamais trahir le Congo” slogan (never betray the Congo). Once there was a critical mass of people inside what was Kabila’s office, a guide began to tell the story of January 16, 2001. The room has not been touched since that day, you can see the papers he was reading, his glasses, and even some blood spots on the sofa he was sitting in.
The information the guide shared was interesting, and though it was a lot of waiting to get in for a very short visit, it was definitely worth it. It is also possible to do in the morning before going in to the office one or two hours late, if your work is mean and doesn’t give those two days off.
What to Bring: Nothing out of the ordinary.
When to Go: The compound is open to the public only on the Martyr Days, January 16 and 17 of every year.
How to Get There: Heading west out of Kinshasa, it is on Avenue Deviniere in Ngaliema Commune.