Following the 1884-1885 Berlin Conference, numerous European nations went out to raise their flags all over Africa, massacre the people, and plunder their resources in order to enrich Europe.
Belgian King Leopold II through his army sailed to Congo and claimed it his territory, threatening the Congo’s indigenous inhabitants with physical violence (Kongo). He declared the people and the land to be his property and swiftly turned the kingdom into a cash cow for himself and his monarchy.
Kongo was rich in a variety of minerals, but Ivory and rubber were the most valuable at the time. He established a system that was cruel to the population, killing and mutilating indigenous peoples if they did not meet daily quotas.
The Kongo people were then slaves in their own land. Since slavery had been abolished, the Europeans devised a scheme to take from Africans while also killing them in great numbers.
King Leopold II needed to investigate and survey the Congo after the Belin Conference in order to discover its resources, people, and best routes for his intended exploitation.
He hired and dispatched Henry Morton Stanley, a British explorer, to the Congo. The Congo Free State was to be established by Stanley. He chose Stanley because, as the European who charted out the Congo River, he had some familiarity with the people and the area.
Although historians have claimed that Stanley had no intention of harming the Congolese people at the outset, we do not believe that this should absolve him of his crimes against them. His first transgression was entering the Congo without the consent of the local people and then mapping out their area without their knowledge.
The presence of him and his soldiers in Congo enraged the locals, resulting in misunderstandings and subsequently chaos.
Seven different Kongo indigenous peoples banded together to confront Stanley and his men. The locals had seen Stanley writing in his journal, and they assumed it was witchcraft or a conspiracy to destabilize them. They threatened to kill him and his troops unless he burned his book. The Indians made it clear that they did not want what was written in his journal to leave their territory. That was for a good reason: the gods knew what they were doing.
When the Kongo people got too close or he saw them, Stanley resumed his search and expedition and began shooting at them. By the time he reached the end of his expedition, he had burned down over 32 native settlements and killed a large number of them.
His soldiers were out of control, and they perpetrated a slew of crimes against the Kongo people. For any little disputes, they kidnapped and raped the ladies and flogged the males to death.
On the foundations of terror, murder, rape, and arson, the Congo Free State was founded.
Stanley reported temples loaded with ivory (elephant tusks) and the existence of rubber across the Congo in his report to King Leopold. The resources were abundant, and Leopold was determined to make money from them.
By force, King Leopold II acquired control of two-thirds of the Kongo territory and compelled the genuine proprietors to labor as slaves for him. According to some sources, the people were given pennies for their effort, but this was soon stopped, and they were forced to work for 20 days without pay in a month.
According to King Leopold II’s government and officials, rubber harvesting was a mandatory tax that everyone who lived on the property had to pay to the crown. Simply put, Leopold took a people’s land and resources and forced them to work as slaves on their own land.
The authorities of King Leopold II made the quotas excessively large and impossible to reach because of the strong anticipation of wealth and profit from the rubber and ivory. It meant that the people would work for 20 days to achieve their rubber quota, and then they would be free to farm and labor for the remaining 10 days of the month to feed themselves and their families.
By the 1890s, Leopold II had doubled the rubber quotas of the Congolese, who had been pummeled and oppressed. In Europe, the rubber industry was booming, and he needed to keep up with demand. The indigenous people will have to work longer hours as a result of this. The situation deteriorated further when failing to reach your quota resulted in the amputation of a limb or death.
Leopold II commanded a force of approximately 19,000 men. They were employed as mercenaries from Europe to safeguard his government and financial interests, as well as to serve as a police force. The Force Publique was their name. Africans were also forcibly recruited into the army’s lowest ranks. These Africans were forcibly conscripted into duty and slaughtered if they resisted.
The Force Publique was in charge of enforcing the rubber tax quota that was to be collected by the people. Some of the officers tasked with enforcing these laws were African-Americans, but the majority was whites.
The European officials were so ruthless in their hatred and pursuit of the rubber that they enacted a legislation mandating that soldiers chop off and deliver the hand of any Congolese person killed for failing to reach their quota.
To punish the Congolese men who had been forced into servitude, they threatened to execute them unless they submitted a basket full of their people’s hands. This was a method of turning people against themselves, a ploy that Europeans have used to split people all over the world, particularly in Africa.
After several years of harvesting and tapping the Congo’s rubber, the supply began to decline and become limited. Rubber collection became more difficult as a result of the fact that many people had to climb lofty trees to access the vines. People could fall to their deaths if they slipped from the trees.
The Congolese were sometimes obliged to cut off the vine in order to tap more rubber sap due to the fear of losing a limb or being killed. It worked, but it rendered those vines unusable and prevented them from being tapped again in the future. As a result, cutting the vine was a crime that might result in death or severe beatings.
One of the Congolese who hacked off a vine was apprehended by a commissioner on one of the days. “We must combat them until their entire submission has been obtained… or their complete extermination,” he wrote in his journal as a recommendation.
Some commissioners refused to execute or amputate the limbs of those who failed to reach their quota. They thrashed them so violently that some of them died, while the majority was severely injured.
To keep track of their quota, the Congolese laborers were handed discs to wear around their necks. Any Congolese who did not reach his quota would be beaten for 25, and in most cases, 100 lashes with hippopotamus skin whips. When these whips came into touch with the skin, they possessed the ability to peel it off.
Aside from the murdering and maiming of Congo’s indigenous people, illnesses were another culprit that killed millions. The Belgians did not care about the workers’ health, feeding them rotten meat and food, and starving them much of the time.
With all of the human parts and the destruction of the natural environment, the ecosystem has become unhealthy. The men became ill as a result of the spoiled food, and a pandemic broke out.
To collect the rubber, the workers had to trek deep into the bush, where they were bitten by Tsetse fly, which spread countless illnesses and fatalities throughout the Kongo and even into other African countries.
Over 500,000 people died in Kongo alone as a result of the sleeping illness, which was generally fatal. Please keep in mind that this is a cautious estimate.
The Belgians, on the other hand, were unfazed. They continued to exploit and enslave the Congolese people for the sake of profiting from their natural riches.
Any aware Black person would be moved to tears by the studies and testimony of the numerous crimes perpetrated against him. Several times during this investigation, we were forced to pause in fury and bewilderment.
The burning of Congolese communities was one of the most devastating testimonies of the genocide. The commissioners and their officers frequently assigned a quota to an entire village. When a village failed to achieve its quota, soldiers would surround it, massacre the inhabitants, and then burn the community down.
Victims and bystanders reported that these incidents occurred frequently and in rapid succession. In the area where a Swedish missionary lived, 45 towns were burned down in a short period of time, according to him.
What was even more upsetting was learning that many of these towns had been burned down for no apparent cause. Of course, why would a murderer or robber kill individuals whom their scientists and religion have labeled as lower animals or subhumans?
Soldiers burned down a town, slaughtered 50 males, and imprisoned 28 women with chains around their necks. The officials claimed that the rubber tapped by the locals was of poor quality, therefore the peasants were slaughtered and burned even though they had met their quota. I’m referring to how the people manage the rubber that falls from the trees.
Torture and amputations were used by Belgian officials and their European mercenary forces to force people to be terrified and work for free.
They were preying on the Congolese people’s worries by instilling psychological terror in them. According to reports, European soldiers would kidnap women from communities that didn’t meet their rubber quotas in order to force the men to do so. The Europeans kept the majority of the women as slaves and prisoners.
To make matters worse, once the men had completed their quota, they would have to buy their wives back with their live stocks.
On one occasion, a soldier was dispatched to raid a town that had failed to meet its quota. His commander gave him explicit orders to destroy the village and make an example of the inhabitants.
“He ordered us to chop off the heads of the males and hang them on the village palisades, along with their sexual members,” the soldier added, “and to hang the women and children in the shape of a cross on the palisade.”
This was the level of depravity displayed by the Europeans during their stay in Kongo.
The International Community’s Intervention
The crimes committed by King Leopold II and his army lasted over a decade, to the point where missionaries had to write to various governments and organizations around the world to express their displeasure.
The testimony of American missionary G.W. Williams, as well as writers like Mark Twain and Joseph Conrad, was crucial in the trial of King Leopold II’s atrocities in the Congo.
A British journalist named Edmund Dene Morel, a British diplomat named Casement, and a missionary named William Shephard were among those who reported on the genocide.
These men’s accounts and testimonies, as well as those of many others, were widely circulated in foreign media, which focused attention on the Congo’s depravity. Many people around the world condemned the atrocities and demanded that human rights be respected.
When an investigation was completed in 1905, the various pieces of evidence that had been filed in the reports were confirmed. The commission in charge of the investigation issued a devastating report on the genocide taking place in the Congo.
The commission’s recommendations, together with the missionaries’ testimonies, sparked widespread resistance to King Leopold II from foreign governments and the Belgian people.
Following diplomatic conversations and pressure from various sectors, Leopold II renounced his sovereignty over the Congo Free State, handing it over to the Belgian government, and the Congo was renamed the Belgian Congo.
He and his homicidal army went away unscathed after the horrors, leaving the Congolese people to bear the brunt of the Genocide for the next 100 years and beyond. Congo is still a European possession, and European countries are constantly at odds with it, attempting to take its riches while keeping the people divided.
It may surprise you to learn that Killer Leopold II’s entire cutting up of the Congo did not begin with Genocide. No, it’s not true. He went to Congo as a humanitarian and charity worker.
He came carrying presents and promising to improve the Congolese people’s living conditions. His charity was believed to have received massive donations from all across the world.
With such smooth and appealing words, he persuaded the world’s population that donating to his cause was the holiest and noblest thing they could do. “To open to civilization the only part of our world where it has yet to penetrate, to dispel the darkness that hovers over entire peoples, is, I dare say, a crusade worthy of this century of progress,” he said in a speech.
They were unaware, however, that he was secretly seeking cash to pay big armies and construct infrastructures that would facilitate and hasten the slavery of the Congolese people.
“I do not want to miss a good chance of acquiring us a portion of this beautiful African cake,” Leopold II was recorded saying behind closed doors to one of his ambassadors.
In Africa, King Leopold II left a legacy. Meanwhile, in other regions of the continent, the British, French, Germans, Portuguese, Spanish, and others were murdering Africans and seizing their resources.