May 14, 2022 5:00 pm

The horrors committed in the Congo that the King of the Belgians managed to hide for decades

The figure of King Leopold II of Belgium it was appreciated in the world as that of a generous man who had brought civilization to the Congo out of pure charity. of him wrote black and white at the end of the 19th century: “Calm and laid-back, with good pasta and a very sweet character, the King of the Belgians has become like a friend of his people.”

It took many decades for the veil to fall and show the atrocious lie: the presence of Belgium in the Congo, attracted by the economic opportunity offered by rubber, had only brought hunger, mutilation and death to Africa. King Leopold was a real monster, who sponsored the Congo to pass

from a population of 20 million to 10 million.

To seize this territory, he neither inherited nor conquered it, and in fact it was only integrated into Belgium after his death. Arabs. Nothing is further from reality, the true objective of the Belgian, who used to define his small European kingdom as “Small country, small people” (“Small country, small people”), was to take over a colony and squeeze every last drop of its economic resources. Although he did not dare to call him worse things, the journalist Joseph John Chains already stated in the ABC edition of March 9, 1908:

«The Belgian Monarch, from what they tell me, is a beast with all kinds of businesses, that King who still in the 20th century continues human trafficking in the Congo».

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The secret of Africa

Leopoldo was a specialist in disguising his economic desire, generating an image of a humanitarian and altruistic monarch, who financed charitable associations to combat slavery in West Africa and paid for missionary travel to those regions. As a consequence of these sibylline movements, in February 1885 fourteen nations gathered in Berlin, and headed by Great Britain, France, Germany and the United States, they gave Leopold II the entire Congo through the association he presided over. A territory 20 times the size of Belgium, where he promised to “abolish slavery and Christianize the savages” in exchange for his cession.

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The great powers granted the King of the Belgians the Congo, without knowing what kind of person he was and, above all, because they were unaware of the great treasure that was hidden among its trees. In addition to the ivory from his elephants, Leopold was attracted to the Congo because of its large rubber reserves. During his reign, the international demand for rubber, which was extracted from the rubber trees that were very numerous in the Congo, skyrocketed. The problem of collecting this material was the huge amount of labor that was needed and the harsh conditions for these employees. To settle the matter, the King of the Belgians devised a system of concessions that, in essence, condemned all Congolese to slavery.

The catalog of human rights violations could occupy entire books: from lashes, sexual assaults to the theft of their villages. The mutilations of hands and feet left entire tribes maimed and lame, when entire villages were not directly exterminated. The sadistic Leopold didn’t have to fire a shot to conquer the Congo, but he hardly even faced resistance when he established his slave system, since the Congo spread over a gigantic piece of land where each tribe lived in isolation. The historian Adam Hochschild estimated that ten million people died based on research carried out by the anthropologist Jan Vansina.

It took years for Europe and Belgium to begin to criticize themselves and assume the crimes in the Congo. The British blanched to learn of their savage crimes by a report from Roger Casement to the Foreign Office, but only the particular efforts of foreign politicians such as the British vice-consul in the Congo, Roger Casement, or journalist Edmund Dene Morel, ex-employee of a Liverpool shipping company, brought to light the Belgian genocide in the last years of the Monarch’s life.

Disassociate Leopold from the Congo when interested

In June 1910, an ABC news item on surviving slave practices in America compared it in passing, without naming Leopold, to “the state of things there is analogous to that which prevailed in the worst period of the Belgian administration in the State of the Congo». In more critical terms, Sinesio Delgado was shown on the pages of ABC (10-11-1919), ironically answering the Belgian initiative that tried at that time to restore a monument in Brussels, destroyed by the Germans during the First World War, dedicated to the “martyrs of the Spanish inquisition”:

«My dear gentlemen: If you insist again on the monument that the Germans destroyed, we will erect one in the Puerta del Sol, in Madrid, in fair correspondence. We have it in mind with all its details, and it can be precious, because we do not lack good sculptors. We will put at the top the figure of a black writhing in flames; the bas-reliefs will represent some officers practicing pistol shooting over other blacks tied to some rubber trees, and a King caressing a dancer, and all of this will bear this brief and expressive label: “To the martyrs of the Congo, victims of the Belgian barbarism.”

Caricature of Leopold II in the ABC newspaper.+ info
Caricature of Leopold II in the ABC newspaper.

Even so, over the years the propaganda prodigy of separating Leopold from the crimes committed in the Congo was achieved. Even in 1959 it was said on the pages of ABC, in an article entitled ‘Leopold II, King of the Belgians’, that this man “protected the African continent, for which he made many sacrifices and raised himself to civilizing heights as just a man European is capable of doing it.

Paradoxically, what was not achieved, at least in the Spanish press, was to separate Leopold’s disastrous business government from that later established by Belgium, to which the King bequeathed ownership of the Congo due to international pressure.

Belgium took its remedial role seriously after the crimes of its King. When he took over the colony, not a single road existed in a country with an area equal to one third of the United States, but, upon independence, it had a network of more than 120,000 kilometers, more than 2,000 medical centers and global returns from its economy of one billion dollars per year. “What Belgium has done in the Congo is unparalleled in the colonial annals of Africa. The colossal enterprise was carried out with a paternalistic government and with respect for the human interests of the indigenous people”, stated ABC in a report published in the 1960s where, once again without explanation, Leopoldo was attributed a large part of the merits.

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