The Congo Free State: A Legacy of Apathy, Exploitation and Brutality
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Between 1885 and 1908, Belgium’s Leopold II ruled Congo, a region in central Africa, as his personal colony, exploiting the resources and inhabitants for his own gain. Leopold allowed and encouraged Europeans and other Westerners to enter Congo and set up companies whose primary purpose was to gather rubber, which was abundant but difficult to get to in the Congo, using the Congolese as the laborers for the Europeans. Rubber gathering in Congo brutally exploited the inhabitants of the Congo, while at the same time robbed Congo of wealth, as the rubber was “sold” to the Europeans at prices far below what the rubber was actually worth. Only when others, specifically the British and the Americans, revealed the horrible conditions of the…show more content… While Leopold II, the King of Belgium, desperately wanted an overseas colony, the Belgian people did not share his enthusiasm, which created the feelings of neglect and apathy Belgium had towards Congo. The Congo Free State, established “In the margins of the Berlin Conference” in 1885, allowed Leopold to “gain international recognition of his possession” which he had begun to take control of since the 1870s. However, while Leopold was securing control of the Congo, the Belgian people were not interested in controlling colonies, as they believed that colonies “Would merely soak up resources that would be better used for social purposes at home.” Thus, while the Belgian king administered Congo as a colony, the Belgian people and government did not control Congo. In effect, “Leopold would act in two entirely separate capacities: In Belgium, he would rule as a Constitutional Monarch, while in the Congo, he would rule as an autocrat.” Since Belgium was not in direct control of the Congo colony, Leopold could and did act as he pleased in the region.
International powers, specifically the U.S. and the United Kingdom, sent expeditions to the Congo to observe and report on the conditions there, as rumors abounded that Leopold was using particularly brutal methods, such as requiring soldiers to present