This is a story of terror, heroism, slavery, greed and discrimination in colonial Africa, particularly in Congo. In the late 1890s, Congo’s population declined due to murder, drought, people being starved, exhaustion, diseases and low birth rates. The death toll was measured to be approximately 12million.
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It is due to this torture that Edmund Dene Morel (a journalist and an agent of a shipping company), Rogger Casement and Henry Grattan founded the Congo Reform Association (CRA) in 1904. The aim of the foundation was to help the impoverished Congo’s workforce. This was through gaining the plight’s attention.
The movement revealed major abuses of the public servants in Congo. This brutality consequently led to Congo’s annexation in 1908. The above mentioned activists gathered enough information on the exploitation and abuse of these public servants in Congo. After achieving their goals, the CRA was dissolved in 1912 (Hochschild 288).
The movement was supported by Joseph Convad (a steam-boat officer) who wrote the Heart of Darkness book. America’s segregation was seen as a kind of apartheid; the kind that was experienced in South Africa. It was an unfair inequality that was a discrimination against black Americans.
The blacks were faced with economic and social discrimination and also brutally abused by the police. They also suffered the problem of homelessness and discrimination of their children in schools. Blacks were made to believe that they were inferior to the whites and they could never rise beyond the poverty line.
Adam Hochschild in his book, King Leopold’s Ghost, describes the brutality that Congo faced under king Leopold II of Belgium. Morel quit his job to concentrate on putting an end to Congo’s brutality and cruelty. Only the courageous people would dare expose the bad side of the Congo atrocity.
More of those who followed suit were two African Americans, George Washington Williams and William Sheppard. All these heroes vowed to struggle for the sake of Congo’s freedom. Rogger Casement was thereafter killed for being a “traitor”. Leopold II was Belgium’s king and a private monopolist of the only colony worldwide. Joseph Conrad was terrified due to the cruelty and inhumanity of the whites based in Congo (Hochschild 166).
Leopold, an individual who robbed off the integrity and good nature of Congo succeeded in the name of religion, humanitarianism, civilization and development. People from Africa and Asia were also tortured. This was very inhuman and hypocritical of the king and other perpetrators.
Morel and Casement acted in boldness and their activism was committed to outdo the murderous people like king Leopold. Morel is recognized as a moral supporter and activist of human rights. Morel and Casement decided that it was time to end the discrimination against human beings of different color, race, religion, country and ethnicity. This was their drive in their activism to end cruelty (Hochschild 293).
Moreover Leopold exploited the people because he had an upper hand in technological advancement. He was able to get exposure to new technology that was unutilized before. This included the gun technologies, medicine among others. The Congo citizens had to live with a lot of pain and humiliation. Also, some murders passed unnoticed.
There existed a coerced labor system in Congo. The Belgians overworked the Congolese and most times this led to death. Leopold committed crimes against humanity and it was a perfect time for this to be put to end, according to Casement and Morel. Thus, human and civil rights activists had to make changes to transform humankind.
Commissions of inquiry were later held as projects to commence and support the end of colonization and a beginning of freedom. Museums in Congo finally established historical sites of king Leopold’s era of brutality in Congo (Hochschild 265).
Morel suffered imprisonment, almost alone, in his fight for the Congo people. The king was greedy for wealth and so he extorted the poor using his power and influence. He wanted to own the colony personally. In this regard, he formed The International Africa Association, to “civilize and aid” Congo. Since Morel worked for a company that had collaborated with Leopold, he was able to establish several facts that show Leopold was taking advantage of Congo.
These include, shipping weapons and not invoicing them, profit skimming and other disparities. Slavery and forced human labor was also high. Morel’s efforts included writing a journal, “West African Mail.” This was aimed at documenting the cruelty of Leopold. The two activists also held several interviews that exposed the evils and also did approximately 50 lectures of the same (Corbett par. 5).
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Leopold used cunning methods, lies, politics, and ignorance to rule. He even used to poach elephants so that he could trade on ivory (Wilson par. 6). Leopold feared competition from the various countries that also dealt with rubber. This made him bring forth slaves who would work tirelessly to ensure he stays ahead of the competitors. He made sure that using his tricks; he got control of the infrastructure especially the transport sector, to run his operations.
His supervisors were often whites while the blacks were the slaves who did most of the dirty work. He defended himself saying that his work was solely humanitarian. It is a sad fact that the judicial system in Congo was very slow and unfair. This made efforts to bring Leopold down futile. The system discriminated against the blacks by giving them punishments while it forgave the whites (Corbett par. 8).
With the help of very reliable sources Morel and Casement were able to reveal Leopold’s secrets. He slowly lost the battle. Leopold succumbed to cancer in 1909. By then, the two activists had succeeded in making certain reforms. They included taxation that replaced forced human labor and also a major transition in the industry of rubber.
Those who took leadership after had the economic and social interests of the Congo citizens at heart (Corbett par. 10). Africa should however not put all the blame for its underdevelopment on colonialism. This is because it has been proven that some countries have made it, despite having had colonization.
The efforts of the activists were overly challenged. They were imprisoned, tortured and even sued for libel from their pieces of writings and documentation. Morel investigated the fraud rate in the shipping business, headed by Leopold. The rest of the colleagues in the shipping company were afraid to expose Leopold’s evils for fear of loss of the lucrative jobs.
Morel was an accurate man who made sure that efforts by those supporters of Leopold to get him failed miserably. He wrote journals, reports, letters, a magazine, conducted interviews, and took photos exposing Leopold. Sir Charles Dilkes was a major supporter of morel.
The pulling down of Leopold meant that the trade industry and revenue of Congo would be enhanced. Morel joined active politics, even after the death of Leopold and was later imprisoned and died in 1924, of a heart attack (Wilson par. 9).
Corbett, Bob. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004. Webster Library. Web.
Hochschild , Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost. New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2004. Print.
Wilson, Garret. King Leopold’s Ghost; A Story of Greed,Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. n.d. Web. <http://www.garretwilson.com/books/kingleopoldsghost.html>.