Notes Belgian Congo

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Notes Belgian Congo

Lazy Trout 4th Feb 2013 Based on articles in Wikipedia

In 1483, the Portuguese explorer Diogo Cão sailed up the uncharted Congo River, finding Kongo villages and becoming the first European to encounter the Kongo kingdom.
In the following decades, the Kingdom of Kongo became a major source of slaves for Portuguese traders and other European powers
Slavery had existed in Kongo long before the arrival of the Portuguese. Life was hard then even before the arrival of Europeans. Can we imagine what life was like?
Belgium achieved independence only in 1830. (Immediately prior to that (1815-1830), it had formed part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.) Would this affect their view of colonisation.

Leopold II acquired the Congo in the 1880’s through private acquisition and military force, not through the apparatus of the state. Leopold II exploited the Congo for its natural rubber, which was becoming a valuable commodity. The Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company employed the Force Publique brutally to extract profits from the territory. Could we imagine Queen Victoria doing this?

Thus, under Léopold II’s administration, the Congo Free State became the site of one of the worst man-made humanitarian disasters of the turn of the 20th century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement, published in early 1904, was an irrefutable indictment of the “rubber system”: “... the drowsy, unsupervised machine of coercion which wore out the people and the land. Had Britain learned from its violent past?

On 18 October 1908, the Belgian parliament voted in favor of annexing the Congo as a Belgian colony. When the Belgian government took over the administration from King Léopold II in 1908, the situation in the Congo improved in certain respects.

Article 3 of the new Colonial Charter of 18 October 1908 established that: “Nobody can be forced to work on behalf of and for the profit of companies or privates” Has the USA learned from colonial powers of the past?
A key argument that was often invoked as a justification for colonialism in Africa was that of the so-called 'civilizing mission' of the European nations.[23] This was no different with respect to the Belgian Congo. As elsewhere, this self-declared 'civilizing mission' went hand in hand with the goal of economic exploitation and development. Conversion to Catholicism, basic western-style education and improved health care were objectives in their own right, but at the same time helped to integrate what was regarded a "primitive society" into the Western capitalist model, in which workers who were disciplined and healthy, and who had learned to read and write could be efficiently (and cheaply) put to work. Starts with Christianity then business takes over.
Ultimately the colonial administration was split into 6 provinces. Each province was divided into a number of districts (24 in all), and each district into territories (some 120 in all). A territory was managed by a territorial administrator, assisted by one or more assistants. The territories were further subdivided into numerous “chiefdoms” (chefferies), at the head of which the Belgian administration appointed “traditional chiefs” (chefs coutumiers). The territories administered by one territorial administrator and a handful of assistants were often larger than a few Belgian provinces taken together (the whole Belgian Congo was nearly 80 times larger than the whole of Belgium). Like the British reign in India it was carried out with very few people from the colonial power. Why do the oppressed people allow it?
After WWI, priority was given to mining. Immense wealth was siphoned off to Europe. Land that was not directly used by the local tribes—fell to the state, which redistributed it to European companies, individual white landowners (colons) or the missions. This way an extensive plantation economy developed. It was based on forced labour of course.
During WWII, industrial production increased drastically. After Malaysia fell to the Japanese, the Belgian Congo became a strategic supplier of rubber to the Allies. The Belgian Congo was one of the major exporters of uranium to the US.

After WWII, the colonial state took on a much more active role in the economic and social development of the Belgian Congo. An ambitious ten-year plan was launched in 1949. It put emphasis on house building, energy supply and health care infrastructure. The ten-year plan ushered in a decade of strong economic growth, from which, for the first time, the Congolese began to benefit on a substantial scale.[citation needed] In 1953, the Congolese were granted the right to buy and sell private property in their own name. In the 1950s, a Congolese middle class, modest at first, but steadily growing, emerged in the main cities (Léopoldville, Elisabethville, Stanleyville and Luluabourg).

It became increasingly evident that the Belgian government lacked a strategic long-term vision in relation to the Congo. This was due partly to the fact that ‘colonial affairs’ did not generate much interest or political debate in Belgium, so long as the colony seemed to be thriving and calm. Is this a poor aspect of democracy – if the voters ain’t bothered then the Government don’t care either?
In the winter of 1958–59, while the Belgian government was debating a program to gradually extend the political emancipation of the Congolese population, it was overtaken by events. On 4 January 1959, a prohibited political manifestation organized in Léopoldville by ABAKO got out of hand. At once, the colonial capital was in the grip of heavy rioting. It took the authorities several days to restore order and, by the most conservative count, several hundred died. The eruption of violence sent a shock-wave through the Congo and Belgium alike. On 13 January, King Baudouin solemnly declared in a radio address that Belgium would work towards the full independence of the Congo “without hesitation, but also without irresponsible rashness“. The colony was handed over on 30 June 1960. Rash?

MNC Party, led by Patrice Lumumba, won the parliamentary elections July 1960. The parliament elected as President Joseph Kasavubu, of the Alliance des Bakongo (ABAKO) party.
Within weeks 80,00 Belgians evacuated.
Sept 1960 Lumumba dismissed by Kasavubu.
Joseph Mobutu used the conflict to gain power, he was very anti communist so supported by Belgium and the USA
On 17 January 1961, Katangan forces and Belgian paratroops – supported by the United States and Belgium – kidnapped and executed Patrice Lumumba.
The Katanga secession was ended in January 1963 with the assistance of UN forces.
Looks like the West was looking after its interest?

Zaire (1971–1997)

A one-party system was established, and Mobutu declared himself head of state.
Although relative peace and stability were achieved, Mobutu's government was guilty of severe human rights violations, political repression, a cult of personality and corruption.
In 1971, Mobutu renamed the country the Republic of Zaire
By 1984, Mobutu was said to have $4 billion (USD), an amount close to the country's national debt, deposited in a personal Swiss bank account.
Massive corruption fuelled by the West?
Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, U.S. relations with Mobutu cooled, as he was no longer deemed necessary as a Cold War ally.
In1996, following the Rwandan Civil War and genocide, Rwandan Hutu militia forces fled to eastern Zaire.These forces allied with the Zairian armed forces (FAZ) to launch a campaign against Congolese ethnic Tutsis in eastern Zaire.
A coalition of Rwandan and Ugandan armies then invaded Zaire to overthrow the government of Mobutu, This new expanded coalition of two foreign armies allied with some longtime opposition figures was led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, - The First Congo War
Mobutu was forced to flee Zaire in 1997.
Tutsi versus Hutu?

1997 – 2012 Democratic Republic of the Congo
Laurent Kabila became president.
Laurent Kabila asked foreign military forces to return back to their countries because he was concerned that the Rwandan officers running his army were plotting a coup in order to give the presidency to a Tutsi.
Rwandan troops retreated to Goma and launched a new Tutsi led rebel military movement.
While Uganda instigated the creation of new rebel movement led by the Congolese warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba.
The two rebel movements, along with Rwandan and Ugandan troops, started the Second Congo War by attacking the DRC army in 1998. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia became involved militarily on the side of the government to defend a fellow SADC member.
Kabila was assassinated in 2001 and was succeeded by his son Joseph Kabila.
By June 2003 all foreign armies except those of Rwanda had pulled out of Congo.
On 30 July 2006 DRC held its first multi-party elections.
An election result dispute between Kabila and Jean-Pierre Bemba turned into an all-out battle between their supporters in the streets of Kinshasa.
A new election was held in October 2006, which Kabila won with 70% of the vote.
However, the Kivu conflict continued in the east and an armed rebellion against the government and was believed to be again backed by Rwanda as a way to tackle the Hutu group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR)
In March 2009, after a deal between the DRC and Rwanda, Rwandan troops entered the DRC and arrested Nkunda and were allowed to pursue FDLR militants.
2012 East DR Congo conflict started by a group called March23. They captured the provincial capital, Goma, in November 2012 and withdrew in December following negotiations. Neighboring countries, particularly Rwanda, have been accused of using rebels groups as proxies to gain control of the resource rich country and of arming rebels, a claim made by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch.
Estimates of the number who have died from the long conflict range from 900,000 to 5,400,000.
How can a country be so dysfunctional?

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