Sunday, May 8, 2011

Behind the Phone Case

This documentary reminds me of my visit to the Royal Museum for Central Africa at Tervuren, Belgium. The museum is home to Congo’s history and King Leopold’s unforgiveable crime towards the people of Congo. King Leopold told the then Belgian parliament then that Congo will not be invaded but it will be - a confederation of “free Negro Republics”. He convinced them that agreement will be reached with the Congo chiefs who will live in peace under the Belgian King. He was excited at the prospect of ruling a place 78 times the size of Belgium directly from his palace.

He told the US President, Chester A. Arthur that the agreements will be like those which the early Puritans made with Native Americans. As if that wasn’t enough, he told the French he’s keeping out the English and the English that he’s keeping out the French. A two-faced King indeed. He promised that the International Africa Association will support free trade, making Congo a free trade zone and thus no protectionism. So he entered Congo not as a Belgian conqueror but as the IAA with a blue flag containing a gold star – a bit like the EU flag. Meanwhile, King Leopold’s idea of ‘free trade’ was that if you collect ivory you have to sell it to Leopold’s agents. Thief! He reached 450 agreements with the Congo Basin chiefs which were compiled legally in French – and naturally they don’t understand a word. They signed over their land for promises of assistance – and sometimes pieces of cloth.

Leopold then started building a 400km railway, 2,000 people die building it (100 whites) – ‘the railway freed them from porterage’ and he also had his eye on a new raw material called RUBBER. It was around the time George Washington Williams, a Civil War veteran campaigned against slavery, complaining about forced labour – Leopold said that lazy natives have been learning ‘the sanctity of work’.

To cut the long story short, Congo was almost filleted to its bone by the ambitious and greed King who later sold Congo to Belgium for 110 million francs.

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