Albert Kalonji was born in Luluabourg, Belgian Congo on 6 June 1929 to a Luba family, and he joined Patrice Lumumba's Congolese National Movement (MNC) party. Kalonji later led his own splintergroup of the party, pushing for federalism. Kalonji, concerned with the persecution of the Luba people, declared the "autonomy" of South Kasai in 1960; he continued to sit in the parliament of Congo-Leopoldville, as he claimed that South Kasai was the part of a federalized Congo. Kalonji was arrested on 30 December 1961 when Congolese troops, preparing for the invasion of Katanga, occupied South Kasai. In October 1962, South Kasai returned to the Congo after an anti-Kalonjist military coup, and Kalonji fled to Spain. Kalonji returned to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the overthrow of Mobutu Sese Seko, and he died in Mbuji-Mayi on 20 April 2015 at the age of 85.