REMEMBER MOREL; HAILED FORGOTTEN HUMAN RIGHTS CAMMPAIGNER WHO HALTED AFRICAN SLAUGHTER; Biographer Fears Great Political Activist Has Been Airbrushed from History Books

Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), June 8, 2014 | Go to article overview

REMEMBER MOREL; HAILED FORGOTTEN HUMAN RIGHTS CAMMPAIGNER WHO HALTED AFRICAN SLAUGHTER; Biographer Fears Great Political Activist Has Been Airbrushed from History Books


Byline: Jenny Morrison

He was the controversial politician who ousted Winston Churchill from his seat in Dundee.

Nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize after leading an international human rights campaign against abuse in the Congo, he was a vocal opponent of World War I before his anti–war convictions led to him being jailed.

But despite the many achievements of this reformer, rebel and political activist, admirers of Edmund D Morel say he has been rubbed out of history.

Now, 140 years on from his birth, a campaign has been launched to establish a memorial to him.

Author Donald Mitchell – who has written a biography on Morel – says, far from being dated, Morel's stand against secrecy in government is as relevant today as it ever was.

The 74–year–old said: "I don't think E D Morel was intentionally forgotten but I think, when he died prematurely in 1924, there was a sense of relief from many in the establishment that he had gone. He was such a powerful personality.

"He was a radical campaigner for human rights and led the first great humanitarian campaign of the 20th century, which brought King Leopold II of Belgium's brutal and genocidal regime in the Congo to an end.

"But, closer to home, he was a very prominent opponent of World War I who believed that Britain was pushed into war by its own politicians and deals and agreements that were made behind closed doors.

"He was very much against this kind of secrecy and felt that, in the run–up to World War I, ministers were not feeding to Parliament what was going on.

"Now, 100 years on, we have the Chilcot Inquiry stalling over exactly the same thing in the run–up to the war in Iraq.

"If Morel was around today, he would be speaking out very strongly as he believed a government must be open and honest with its population. His strong views meant he wasn't always popular with his contemporaries and, perhaps for that reason, he does seem to have been rather forgotten.

"But as we prepare to commemorate the centenary of World War I, it seems like the right time to remember Morel and mark the contributions he made.

"I would like to see a memorial to him and I hope my biography of him helps bring him back to life."

Edmund Dene Morel was born in France in 1873, the son of a French father and an English mother. Following the death of his dad when he was just four, he moved to England with his mum.

At 18, he started work as a clerk with a Liverpool–based shipping firm that had a contract with the Congo Free State.

Realising the ships that went to the Congo were filled with soldiers, guns, chains and explosives and they returned from the Congo filled mainly with raw rubber, Morel believed King Leopold II of Belgium was effectively ruling the Congo with his own private army.

Morel investigated what was happening and was outraged to discover the brutal forced labour regime Leopold was running, where Congolese workers were having limbs amputated, being raped and murdered for failing to meet the quota of rubber the king wanted to ship to Europe.

Many millions of men, women and children from Congo were estimated to have been killed by Leopold's army.

Morel started campaigning tirelessly to expose what was happening and went on to set up the Congo Reform Association – who were seen as the first human rights association of the 20th century and the model for modern–day humanitarian groups such as Amnesty International.

The CRA won the backing of high–profile f igures such as writers Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad and Mark Twain, missionaries who confirmed Morel's stories about what was happening and even the Church of England.

Public support of their campaigningled to Western governments applyingpressure on Belgium to bring to an end the brutal regime. …

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