The Marriage Alliance at the Crossroads
 of Traditional and Modern Culture

(By Paul Vincent OMOMBO Senga Ekondo)

                                                                               Volume I

Obviously,in general, a man's life on earth passes through three essential stages: birth, marriage, and death. In fact, at the first stage of life, the birth stage, man leaves the spiritual world to enter unconsciously into the physical world. In this circumstance, the family rejoices over the arrival of a new member. In the second stage of life, marriage, a man consciously leaves his father's or mother's family in order to start his own family. In such a situation, the family rejoices to see its own enlargement by becoming a big family and tending towards a clan. In the third stage, that of death, man often unconsciously leaves the physical world to enter the spiritual world. In this circumstance, the family is saddened by its impoverishment due to the loss of a member.


From the above, marriage seems to be the most important stage in a man's life since he is aware of it and makes an ultimate decision in it. It remains true that the marriage alliance is both a cultural and a social fact. In this regard, it should be pointed out that when two cultures are in competition, naturally, the stronger one absorbs or annihilates the weaker... So what about this important socio-cultural phenomenon in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this vast and fabulous country located in the heart of Africa?


It is well known that, demographically and sociologically, the Democratic Republic of Congo is a gigantic socio-cultural mosaic. Its population is composed of about 250 ethnic groups, or rather, ethnolinguistic groupings, which in turn comprise approximately 450 tribes. Nevertheless, within the Congolese population, there are three major dominant ethnic groups: the Mongo ethnic group, the Luba ethnic group and the Kongo ethnic group. These three major ethnic groups make up the Bantu racial group. The first ethnic group constitutes 33% of the total population, the second 18% and the third 12%. The remaining 47% include: the Semi-Bantu, Nilotic, Sudanese and Pygmy racial groups.


Moreover, due to its colonial history and the attraction of its fabulous natural resources, the Democratic Republic of Congo is constantly subject to the imperatives of modernity in the current context of globalization. Thus, the internal socio-cultural duality is juxtaposed with another socio-cultural duality maintained by external influences. Therefore, there is no need to deduce at this stage that Congolese society is currently undergoing a sociological transformation.

In this dynamic of a perpetual socio-cultural duality that is both multifaceted and multisectoral, in terms of the establishment of the matrimonial alliance within and between ethnolinguistic groups, certain traditional values are retreating in the face of more competitive ones.


During the pre-colonial and even colonial period, ethnolinguistic groupings were somewhat compartmentalized. It was here that traditional values remained authentic because they were well preserved. In this regard, it should be noted, however, that marriage was not formed in the same way in ethnolinguistic groups with a patrilineal regime and in those with a matrilineal regime. It should also be noted that the matrimonial alliance did not

materialize in a similar way in ethnolinguistic groups that advocate premarital virginity and conjugal fidelity as absolute values, and in those for whom premarital loss of virginity and conjugal infidelity are rather exploits!     

Moreover, since the colonial period, ethnolinguistic groupings had become open. With the ever-increasing improvement of both the means of transport and those of communication, the dynamic of the constant movement of people, both within the country and across its borders, is at the origin of the decline or even the disappearance of several traditional values in the face of the irresistible surge of the modernist values that dominated, including those of Christianity. There is no need to emphasize that these modernist values of juxtaposition dramatically accelerate the evolution of the gigantic socio-cultural mosaic that is the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thus, in the irreducible movement of the ideals of globalization, Congolese society is slowly and surely experimenting with a tendency towards the standardization of the conditions for the establishment of any matrimonial alliance in the various ethnolinguistic groups. Suffice it to say a priori that, in the subject under examination, traditional values are disappearing in the face of the rise of modern values.


Nevertheless, the intersection of the processes of intra-ethnic, inter-ethnic, extra-ethnic or even interracial marriage alliances generally seems to have in common the following three conditions: (1) the mutual consent of the aspirants to marriage; (2) the approval of both the fiancée's and the fiancé's parents; and (3) the handing over of the dowry by the husband to the wife's parents. Beyond these formal requirements, the delivery of the marriage certificate by the registrar (civil marriage) and the nuptial blessing (religious marriage) are only subsequent administrative formalities!  


As an epilogue, let us recall that culture constitutes the essence of the identity of a given people, of a well-defined nation. Faced with the reality of the loss of traditional values, undertaken as a result of the rise of modern values, the purpose of this note, which is intended as an introduction to future concordant articles, is to highlight, better still, to make prevail the conditions for the determination of customary marriage as they are rigorously envisaged in the flagship ethnolinguistic groupings. In this way, the approach will be able to contribute to the preservation, at least in archives, of this highly essential sectoral culture. It is not only about safeguarding the national identity of the mosaic of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but much more about making it competitive in the face of the inevitable competition of the domination of invasive cultures on the international chessboard.



 Ariticle by Mr.Paul Vincent OMOMBO Senga Ekondo