Then, quite suddenly in 1959 and early 1960, the Congolese independence movement was ignited. In January 1959, riots erupted in Leopoldville during a rally of the Association Culturelle des Ressortissants du Bas-Congo (ABAKO), a political party headed by Joseph Kasavubu. At first the crowd was small and orderly, but soon there were shouts for immediate independence. The police began to panic and their commissaire was knocked over while trying to arrest the party leaders. Police started to shoot in an effort to clear the crowd, and pandemonium resulted. The crowds rampaged, looting stores in both African and European neighbourhoods. Reinforcements from the Force Publique tried to cordon off the affected areas, but by nightfall disorder had spread throughout the segregated quarter of the city. The Canadian trade commissioner in Leopoldville later reported that “all white people walking or driving through the native City and the outskirts of Leopoldville were attacked with stones, iron bars, and anything handy, their cars smashed and burnt, some women disrobed.” Police arrested more than two hundred people, including Kasavubu, and some fifty Africans were killed. High unemployment was said to be one of the causes of the riot, but dissatisfaction with the level of political independence from Belgium was also a crucial factor.
— Canada, the Congo Crisis, and UN Peacekeeping, 1960-64 by Kevin . Spooner