Cultural Violence In The Congo
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ABIR's tax collection system forced men out from the villages to collect rubber which meant that there was no labour available to clear new fields for planting. This in turn meant that the women had to continue to plant worn-out fields resulting in lower yields, a problem aggravated by company sentries stealing crops and farm animals. Leopold sanctioned the creation of "child colonies" in which orphaned Congolese would be kidnapped and sent to schools operated by Catholic Missionaries in which they would learn to work or be soldiers; these were the only schools funded by the state.
In one such march boys were sent over to a mission school and only 62 survived, eight of whom died a week later. Indigenous Congolese were not the only ones put to work by the free state. Caribbean peoples and people from other African countries were also imported to work on the railway in which 3, would die in the first two years of construction from railroad accidents, lack of shelter, flogging, hunger, and disease. I suggest that it is impossible to separate deaths caused by massacre and starvation from those due to the pandemic of sleeping sickness trypanosomiasis which decimated central Africa at the time. Neal Ascherson . Historians generally agree that a dramatic reduction in the overall size of the Congolese population occurred during the two decades of Free State rule in the Congo.
The historian Adam Hochschild argued that the dramatic fall in the Free State population was the result of a combination of "murder", "starvation, exhaustion and exposure", "disease" and "a plummeting birth rate". Opponents of Leopold's rule stated, however, that the administration itself was to be considered responsible for the spreading of the epidemic. In a local study of the Kuba and Kete peoples , the historian Jan Vansina estimated that violence accounted for the deaths of less than five percent of the population. The sentries introduced gross and wholesale immorality, broke up family life, and spread disease throughout the land. Formerly native conditions put restrictions on the spread of disease and localized it to small areas, but the black Congo soldiers, moving higher and thither to districts far from their wives and homes, took the women they wanted and ignored native institutions, rights, and customs.
Raphael Lemkin . Diseases imported by Arab traders, European colonists and African porters ravaged the Congolese population and "greatly exceeded" the numbers killed by violence. It is also widely believed that birth rates fell during the period too, meaning that the growth rate of the population fell relative to the natural death rate. Vansina, however, notes that precolonial societies had high birth and death rates, leading to a great deal of natural population fluctuation over time.
A reduction of the population of the Congo is noted by several researchers who have compared the country at the beginning of Leopold's control with the beginning of Belgian state rule in , but estimates of the death toll vary considerably. Estimates of some contemporary observers suggest that the population decreased by half during this period.
According to Edmund D. Morel , the Congo Free State counted "20 million souls". In the absence of a census providing even an initial idea of the population of the region at the inception of the Congo Free State the first was taken in ,  it is impossible to quantify population changes in the period. Hochschild cites several recent independent lines of investigation, by anthropologist Jan Vansina and others, that examine local sources police records, religious records, oral traditions, genealogies, personal diaries , which generally agree with the assessment of the Belgian government commission: roughly half the population perished during the Free State period.
Since the first official census by the Belgian authorities in put the population at about 10 million, these various approaches suggest a rough estimate of a total of 10 million dead. Louis and Stengers state that population figures at the start of Leopold's control are only "wild guesses", while calling E. Morel's attempt and others at coming to a figure for population losses "but figments of the imagination". Eventually, growing scrutiny of Leopold's regime led to a popular campaign movement, centred in the United Kingdom and the United States, to force Leopold to renounce his ownership of the Congo. In many cases, the campaigns based their information on reports from British and Swedish missionaries working in the Congo.
The first international protest occurred in when George Washington Williams , an American, published an open letter to Leopold about abuses he had witnessed. In the United Kingdom, the campaign was led by the activist and pamphleteer E. Morel after , whose book Red Rubber reached a mass audience. A few days later the British consul in the town of Boma , Roger Casement, began touring the Congo to investigate the true extent of the abuses. He delivered his report in December, and a revised version was forwarded to the Free State authorities in February In an attempt to preserve the Congo's labour force and stifle British criticism, Leopold promoted attempts to combat disease to give the impression that he cared about the welfare of the Congolese and invited experts from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to assist.
This would avoid damaging the delicate balance of power between France and Britain on the continent. While supporters of the Free State regime attempted to argue against claims of atrocities, a Commission of Enquiry, appointed by the regime in , confirmed the stories of atrocities and pressure on the Belgian government increased. In , as a direct result of this campaign, Belgium formally annexed the territory, creating the Belgian Congo.
For some time after the end of the Free State the Congolese were also required to provide a certain number of days of service per year for infrastructure projects. It was indeed a holocaust before Hitler's Holocaust. What happened in the heart of Africa was genocidal in scope long before that now familiar term, genocide, was ever coined. Historian Robert Weisbord . The significant number of deaths under the Free State regime has led some scholars to relate the atrocities to later genocides , though understanding of the losses under the colonial administration's rule as the result of harsh economic exploitation rather than a policy of deliberate extermination has led others to dispute the comparison;  there is an open debate as to whether the atrocities constitute genocide.
Historian Adam Hochschild . It is generally agreed by historians that extermination was never the policy of the Free State. According to historian David Van Reybrouck , "It would be absurd But it was definitely a hecatomb , a slaughter on a staggering scale that was not intentional, but could have been recognised much earlier as the collateral damage of a perfidious, rapacious policy of exploitation". He was greedy for money and chose not to interest himself when things got out of control. Historians have argued that comparisons drawn in the press by some between the death toll of the Free State atrocities and the Holocaust during World War II have been responsible for creating undue confusion over the issue of terminology.
Hochschild himself criticised the title as "misleading" and stated that it had been chosen "without my knowledge". Similar criticism was echoed by historian Jean-Luc Vellut. Allegations of genocide in the Free State have become common over time. Stapleton , "Those who easily apply the term genocide to Leopold's regime seem to do so purely on the basis of its obvious horror and the massive numbers of people who may have perished. It was supported by 48 MPs. In Hochschild published King Leopold's Ghost , a book detailing the atrocities committed during the Free State existence.
The book became a bestseller in Belgium, but aroused criticism from former Belgian colonialists and some academics as exaggerating the extent of the atrocities and population decline. Historian Idesbald Goddeeris criticised these works—including Van Reybrouk's Congo: A History —for taking a softened stance on the atrocities committed in the Congolese Free State, saying "They acknowledge the dark period of the Congo Free State, but The term "Congolese genocide" is often used in an unrelated sense to refer to the mass murder and rape committed in the eastern Congo in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide and the ensuing Second Congo War between and The legacy of the population decline of Leopold's reign left the subsequent colonial government with a severe labour shortage and it often had to resort to mass migrations to provide workers to emerging businesses.
The atrocities of the era generated public debate about Leopold, his specific role in them, and his legacy. Belgian crowds booed at his funeral in to express their dissatisfaction with his rule of the Congo. Attention to the atrocities subsided in the following years and statues of him were erected in the s at the initiative of Albert I , while the Belgian government celebrated his accomplishments in Belgium. Some activists accused him of not making a full apology. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. King Leopold II , whose personal rule of the Congo Free State was marked by severe atrocities, violence and major population decline. Further information: Congo Free State propaganda war. Democratic Republic of the Congo portal. London: P. Retrieved 26 September Civilisation in Congoland.
ISBN The Guardian. Retrieved 20 October Mariner Books. London: William Heinnemann, p. Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity. Detroit, Michigan : Macmillan. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. Belgium and the Congo, — New York: Cambridge University Press. Morel's History of the Congo Reform Movement. Oxford: Clarendon, pp. South African Historical Journal. S2CID Replies to LOIs. Concluding observations. Follow-up to concluding observations. General reporting guidelines. Common Core Documents. Documentation tools on reporting to the UN Treaty Bodies.
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