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Essay: The Horrors of the Belgian Congo: Exploitation, Genocide, and War by Terrible Rulers

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,177 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)
  • Tags: Genocide essays

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In the history of mankind, there has always been imbalances of power. Never has our race enjoyed and shared the abundance of resources, wealth, and economic power with one another. There has not been one point in human history, where all people were free of torment, grief, anxiety, hunger, poverty. The Belgian Congo has a deep and horrifying history that has evilness embedded into it. Evidence of this evil is evident through the slavery, genocides, and imperialism that have taken place in this colony committed by their rulers from 1960 to present day.

The Belgian Congo, the former colony in Africa, was ruled by Belgium from 1908 until 1960. It was established by the Belgian parliament to replace the previous, privately owned Congo Free State, after the outrage they received internationally over the abuses committed. The Congo Free State was a corporate state in Central Africa privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium founded and recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1885. In the 23 years (1885-1908) Leopold II ruled the Congo he massacred 10 million Africans by cutting off their hands and genitals, flogging them to death, starving them into forced labour, holding children ransom and burning villages. The ironic part of this story is that Leopold II committed these atrocities by not even setting foot in the Congo.

King Leopold II, in his exploitation of the Congo, dealt the Congo a future of political, ethnic, and economic destabilization. At one time consisting of unified and advanced kingdoms, the Congo turned to one completely beleaguered by poverty and political oppression. Leopold acquired the Congo through unethical means and thus took the peoples chances away at self-rule. He provided for no education or vocational training, which would stunt future Congolese leaders from making sound economic and political policies. Leopold also exploited the Congo with the help of concession companies, both of which used forced labor to extract valuable resources. Millions of Congolese died and the Congo itself became indebted through Belgian loans that were given with no assurance they could ever truly be paid back due to the crippled economy of the Congo. With the Congo now in crippling debt, the current president, Joseph Kabila, has little incentive to invest in reforms or public infrastructure, which stunts economic growth.1 For over a century the Congo has been ruled by exploitative and authoritarian regimes due to Leopold‟s initial acquisition. The colonization from Leopold lasted from 1885-1908, and then he sold it to his home country of Belgium who ruled the Congo from 1908 to 1960. Belgium helped prop up a dictator named Joseph Mobutu or Mobutu Sese Seko who ruled from 1965 to 1997.

Mobutu Sese Seko was the president of Zaire, which was previously known as the Belgian Congo. Mobutu established corruption into his government, eliminating the potential threat of his rivals taking control.  Mobutu was mainly backed by the United States under the supervisions of Carter, Kennedy, and Johnson. They even supported the military involvement to ensure the survival of Mobutu’s government against internal revolution. However, this resulted in bringing extreme deprivation in the lives of the people in Zaire. Their people were considered to be the most underprivileged within Africa. They did not a

tain their necessary rights by the government, even though there were more than enough resources that the country had in order to feed them. Mobutu was also guilty of not providing efficient public services to his country. Services such as hospitals, schools, and road maintenances are examples of such who were affected. People had to live in such a system, and as a result of this it brought many problems regarding corruption. On occasion, people who worked in these services would ask for payments before doing their job. Police would regularly be involved in bribery. Mobutu was not a man of the people and did nothing to help the Congo’s sustainability problem. Shortly after the end of the Cold War, Mobutu relinquished his role as president to the rebel leader Laurent Kabila. Mobutu had died from in exile a short time later.

Kabila as president did not get to do much damage to the Congo, as he was assassinated a couple years into his presidency. He pretty much helped weaken the movement towards democracy for the Congo. He would often times arrest those who opposed him which quickly gave him a negative reputation.  As a result of this, allegations of human rights abuse consequently came towards Kabila and his forces. In the same year he was elected, the people who had helped bring Kabila to power had started to rebel him with the support of Uganda and Rwanda. They had been angered by his unkept promise of protecting their borders by raiders. They had succeeded in overthrowing him two years later, as he was shot to death at his presidential palace in Kinshasa. About a week later, his son, Joseph Kabila, had replaced him in office.

Over 10.8 million people have been killed as a result of civil conflicts between 1998 and 2018. His son has not been much better than the previous presidents of the Congo. Kabila, who succeeded his father Laurent-Desire as president in 2001, and has been refusing to give up his power after the end of his second term. His last term had ended on December 19, 2016 and he did not respond civilly to it. Instead, to keep power, he responded with cruel but basic forms of warfare. He conducted large-scale killings of his own civilians, including children, to keep them intimidated and submit to his wishes. In February, a video was published by New York times which showed his forces walking down a sandy road in the Kasai region towards a group of presumed Nsapu supporters. The soldiers approached them and without hesitation, raised their weapons and opened fire. What they did next was horrifying and merciless, as they approached those who survived, and blasted them in the head. The victims in the video appeared to be young children and women, who did not appear to be carrying weapons.

Along with the innocent being killed by Kabilas forces, they are currently suffering from mass starvation problems. According to the World Food Programme, 7.7 million people in total are on the verge of starvation. 3.2 million of those are in the region of Kasai alone, and about four hundred thousand children are at risk. To put this in perspective, this is on par with the situation that is currently happening in Syria and Yemen. The issue that is presented is quite straightforward but difficult. The survival of 400,000 children in the Kasai region depends Heavily on the mercy of the international community, and its policymakers in London, Paris, Washington, Brussels, Berlin, Ottawa, etc. The World Food Programme says it has only secured 1% of the $135m required to assist the people of Kasai until next June.

In addition to this, the Congolese people are currently suffering from homelessness problems too. The violence in Kasai that happens to be state-sponsored continues almost unhindered, displacing 1.4 million people from their homes and destroying farming and food production, which has inflamed an already dire humanitarian crisis.

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