“We have heard stories about white men who made the powerful guns and the strong drinks and took slaves away across the seas, but no one thought the stories were true.”
–Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart
King Leopold II, the man’s crimes
against humanities do not find a mention in the western world.
While the supporters of Belgium football fans might still be celebrating the victory against Brazil, it is not sure if they know one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of Belgium. This bloodiest chapter informs us about Congo under the Belgian occupation. At the peak of European imperialism in Africa, Belgium’s King Leopold II ran a personal empire known as the Congo Free State, and he stood as its only slave master. Congo was administered as a private property of Leopold II for personal enrichment.
Adam Hochschild in his book King Leopold’s Ghost made a claim that under his rule 10 million people were killed. Just as Christopher Columbus had done in Hispaniola 400 years earlier, Leopold II imposed quotas on every man in his realm for production of raw materials. Men who failed to meet their ivory and gold quota even once would face mutilation, with hands and feet being the most popular sites for amputation. If the man could not be caught, or if he needed both hands to work, Forces Publique men would cut the hands off of his wife or children. However, it seems that the colonial legacy of the country did not disturb the mind of Belgium’s prime minister when he replied to question on his country’s past saying, “Colonial past is completely past.”