The turmoil and stabilization throughout
the history of the majority of the countries of Africa is one of the many
polarizing topics in the world community. From Angola to Zimbabwe, conflict is
nothing new to the continent. The Democratic Republic of Congo is no stranger
to conflicts involving other countries in Africa or from various rebel groups.
Even though the slave trade is one of the best known causes of the poor conditions
the natives to Congo endured. The colonization by King Leopold II of Belgium is
probably the worst, because King Leopold II essentially established slavery in
Congo, without verification European powers recognized King Leopold’s claim to
the Congo basin, and he used a private company to rule of the basin.

            Leopold believed that Belgium needed colonies to ensure its
prosperity, and sensing that the Belgians would not support colonial ventures,
he privately set about establishing a colonial empire (Lagasse). The people of
Belgium and the government did not want to seek out and acquire colonies. Since
King Leopold II did not have the support from his government, he did not have
the funds to acquire the colonies he so desired. Unfortunately, while acting
under the guise of abolitionist, Leopold’s agents in the Congo immediately
began a peonage that was about as close to slavery as possible (Davis). Even
though the raw materials that was being exported out of the Congo basin was
being paid for, it did not meet the market value at the time. King Leopold II
was able to hide the fact that he did rule over slavery in the Congo basin for
almost twenty years. In those twenty years it is estimated that the amount of
deaths that were caused while under his rule reaches twenty one million. Since
there was no census conducted until 1924, there is only an estimate of the number
of deaths.

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            The International Conference held in Berlin
between November 1884 and February 1885 was convened because relationships
between the great powers of Europe seemed, for the first time, likely to be
seriously affected by the activities of their representatives on the West
African coast (Hargreaves). The major powers in Europe wanted to secure
their claims on the vast resources that the African continent provided. One of
the reasons the international conference was convened was to establish commerce
transiting the Congo River. Since King Leopold began colonizing the territory
prior to the international conference, he had claim to the area. Since it was
established that a nation that had control claim the area, and King Leopold II
already had wrested control on the Congo basin from the ruling tribal leaders
in the area, the Congo Free State was at the time a colony belonging to
Belgium. The European powers did not seek out verification of the control of
the area, nor did they inspect the conditions under which King Leopold ruled
over the colony. Effectively being implicit to the cruelty of which King
Leopold ruled over the Congo basin.

            King
Leopold II hired a private company to maintain a presence in Congo in order to
impart his rule. Outside of the forced labor, the conditions the private
company’s actions brought upon the Congolese were abhorrent. At the time,
Africans were still not considered to be equal to white men, and the Force
Publique hired by King Leopold II ruled over the Congolese with cruelty. It was
at the hands of the Force Publique that caused the deaths of the estimated
twenty one million lives. Even though it was a possibility that if the
government was in control over the region the conditions would have been the
same. The commissioning of the private company was a major contributing factor
to the harsh conditions the Congolese had to endure.

            In
conclusion, King Leopold II’s rule over Congo was one of the worst crimes in
Africa. After slavery was abolished in the Americas, he established forced
labor upon the Congolese. King Leopold managed to validate his claim to the
region without verification from European powers, which allowed for the
abhorrent conditions the Congolese endured during his reign. The private
company he commissioned cause millions of deaths, which drastically reduced the
population of the area.