This is a horror story, blood-soaked tyranny perpetrated by a real Munster. The King of Belgium, King Leopold II was the undisputed slave master of the Congo Free State for nearly 30 years. The Congo was administered as the privately owned property of this single man for his personal enrichment. His crimes would rival the worst of the 20th-century dictators.
The Free State Congo possessed rich minerals and agricultural resources, the world’s largest plantation, 76 times the size of Belgium. King Leopold II ascended to the throne in 1865; he was obsessed with building overseas empires as the larger countries had. He was convinced his countries greatness was tied directly to whatever they could squeeze out of equatorial colonies. His attention would turn to Africa in 1868 after negotiations collapsed with Queen Isabella of Spain to get the Philippines. The Congo would be forever changed.
Officially a philanthropic venture in which the “benevolent King” would bestow natives with the blessings of Christianity, steam engines and many trappings of modern civilization. King Leopold promised to work diligently to help save the souls of Africans and get Africans into heaven; of course, this was an obvious ruse, because Europeans did not believe Africans had souls. He would introduce Africans to Jesus in the most brutal way possible, by killing them in large numbers.
Every district had quotas for the production of gold, diamonds, rubber, and ivory. Huge numbers of Congolese were forced into hard labor, many were forced underground to work the mines from which many would not emerge alive. These forced labor forces would loot the natural resources of the Congo with Industrial efficiency. Ivory-bearing elephants were slaughtered in such numbers; it would empty the entire ecosystem of these majestic behemoths almost entirely. The greed of these Munster’s knew no boundaries. The means to which they would go were likewise extreme. Each man was responsible for a quota of raw materials, failure to satisfactorily reach the quota even once resulted in mutilation, feet, and hands being the most often targeted locations. If a man needed both hands to perform an assigned task, the hands of his wife or children would be severed in substitute for his own.
Prior to colonization in 1885 the Congo Free State was three times the size of Texas and populated by up to 20 million people, by the 1924 census this number had dwindled to 10 million. A world war level of mass death as a result of overwork, mutilations, infections, disease, starvation and straight out executions. Only after the Belgian government had siphoned every penny of profit from the Congo would it be granted its independence in 1971.
The Belgian bloodletting of the Congo would have everlasting effects on its population; it had been subjected to murder on the scale of a nuclear war. 10 million lives lost, million’s mutilated, families destroyed and displaced. Foreign countries own virtually all of Congo’s natural resources and guard their extraction claims with UN peacekeepers. The majority of the Congolese population live in abject poverty, despite living in the most resource-rich country on earth (per square mile).
We must tell our own stories!
The Lion has learned to write!