The Tragic State of the Congo: From Decolonization to Dictatorship

The Tragic State of the Congo: From Decolonization to Dictatorship

The Tragic State of the Congo: From Decolonization to Dictatorship

The Tragic State of the Congo: From Decolonization to Dictatorship

Synopsis

In the mineral-rich, dirt-poor Congo, the promise of democratic elections now offers to ignite a glorious future for the country - or a final conflagration.

Excerpt

Prior to the colonization of the Congo in 1876, the slave trade had wreaked havoc on the region for fully four centuries. The Portuguese alone claimed over 13.25 million lives during the space of this time. From the lively port of Lisbon, between ten and twenty thousand Africans per year were being shipped to the New World to serve as slave labor for the plantations. By the time of the seventeenth century, the Portuguese were trading in 15,000 slaves annually. In this, they competed with the Arabs, so that the total figures for the slave trade are much higher.

A “CIVILIZING” MISSION

It was the under pretense of ending the slave trade and Christianizing the Congo that King Leopold II of Belgium finagled his way into the country. Claiming that he wanted to “pierce the darkness which envelops the entire population,” Leopold called a conference in Brussels in 1876 to discuss colonization. Britain and France, which generally had strong interests in opposing the Portuguese (or any other rivals), decided to support King Leopold in this, provided that he would establish a free trade zone in the country. Support would also come from Berlin, where Bismarck held a conference in 1884, and the matter was decided. The Congo Free State, as it came to be called, was to be King Leopold’s private possession.

In taking the Congo as his own, King Leopold invested his personal finances in the region and sought a system of development that would generate a . . .

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