The Belgian Congo

The Belgian Congo

The Belgian Congo

The Belgian Congo

Excerpt

For long the Congo appeared to be a peaceful island untouched by African anti-colonialism. Even the maps produced in Belgium seem designed to convey this impression of an isolated island fortress; often they give only the sharp outline of that immense square of Central Africa, with its two tapering additions, the one pushing West to provide an outlet to the Atlantic, and the other South-eastward down into the Copperbelt. Then on the Eastern border they show the Belgian trusteeship territory of Ruanda-Urundi adjoining the Congo like an afterthought. Apart from this, however, there is little indication that it is not water which surrounds the Congo, but other African territories. From the maps they see in the schoolroom most Belgian children would be able to draw a passable outline sketch of their country's colony, but there would probably be few who could set it in its African surroundings.

Until recently, of course, the need to place the Congo in relation to its African context was not particularly apparent; only now has this become inescapable. Theoretically the evolution of the Congo was to have taken place in a logical succession of slow and easy stages; mass education was to provide a literate population before the education of an élite was considered, and a long apprenticeship in consultative councils was to prepare the way for democratic institutions at some remote date. At the same time a system of social welfare and the gradual creation of an African middle class provided satisfaction for the immediate future, and it was thought that a calm and peaceful discussion of economic and political emancipation could safely be relegated to some distant period. Theoretically the plan was perfect; and if the . . .

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