It was perhaps fortunate I lost my Internet connection recently, as it allowed me time to catch a most disturbing documentary on the History Channel entitled “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Pippa Scott, which is based on a book of the same name by Adam Hochschild. I have been itching to write about this documentary ever since I saw it, but I’m currently engrossed in a book titled “After the Party – A Personal and Political Journey inside the ANC”, by Andrew Feinstein, which I’m finding hard to put down. Besides, I wasn’t so sure how to approach the King Leopold story, and had to conduct some research first.
Essentially, the documentary (and book) reveals a horror story of colonial exploitation, human-rights abuses, forced labour, torture, mass maiming and killings, of the peoples of the Congo, the likes of which were unprecedented up to that time, and which seems to have been conscientiously buried in history. The villain responsible for these atrocities was King Leopold 2 of Belgium, who in pursuit of colonial territory and personal wealth, was responsible for the deaths of more than ten million Congolese, between 1885 and 1908. Now take a minute to digest that figure; ten million hapless souls murdered, in most cases brutally by Leopold’s private army of enforcers. The only atrocity that comes close in scale, is the systematic extermination of about six million Jews by Hitler in World War 2.
Now, I consider myself quite widely read, and I am very aware of the extermination of the Jews, but why is it that I only learnt of this atrocity in the Congo, right on South Africa’s doorstep, only a few days ago? Why has it been hidden? Why is it not widely known in history texts, and taught in schools? Why is King Leopold still highly regarded in Belgium? Is it because Black lives are expendable? Why is the extermination of six million Jews more widely recognized and reported on, than ten million Africans? Why is America (who are known to have been complicit in and supportive of King Leopold’s efforts in the Congo) and Europe so silent about this issue?
Largely due to its rotten past history, the Democratic Republic of Congo today is still plagued by corrupt rulers, and greedy overseas companies stealing its natural wealth. It is indeed a testament to the will and strength of the Congolese people that, throughout their existance, they have survived Arab slave traders, European colonialist exploitation, sickness, disease, starvation, the CIA, Corporate thieves, murderous warlords, and a succession of dictatorial rulers. How much more can they take before total decimation of the Congolese people from the face of Africa?
It is my fervent hope that more decent people like Adam Hochschild, read and learn about this shameful episode in our history and make every effort to denounce King Leopold and Belgium, and also all the other bastards in Congo’s recent history who are tearing this country apart.