History of The Congo

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History of the Congo for As level background information for studies of Blood River and Heart of Darkness

Resource summary

History of The Congo
1 King Leopold
1.1 Belgian colonization began when King Leopold 11 founded the Congo Free State, a corporate state run solely by King Leopold. Reports of widespread murder and torture in the rubber plantation led the Belgian government to seize the Congo from Leopold 11 and established the Belgian Congo. Under Belgian rule, the colony waxs run with the presence of numerous Christian organizations that wanted to westernize the Congolese people.
2 Henry Morton Stanley
2.1 Sir Henry Morton Stanley, born John Rowlands (28 January 1841 – 10 May 1904), was a Welsh journalist and explorer famous for his exploration of central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone. Stanley is also known for his discovery of the source of the Nile, and his work in and development of the Congo Basin region in association with King Leopold II of Belgium.
3 Congo Free State
3.1 The Congo Free State was a large area in Central Africa that was privately controlled by Leopold II of Belgium. Leopold was able to procure the region by convincing the European community that he was involved in humanitarian and philanthropic work; through the use of several smokescreen organizations he was able to lay claim to most of the Congo Basin. Leopold eventually allowed the concept of a philanthropic International Association of the Congo involved in the Congo to end. On May 29, 1885, the king named his new colony the Congo Free State. The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo and existed from 1885 to 1908.
3.1.1 Leopold's reign in the Congo eventually earned infamy due to the increasing mistreatment of the local peoples. Leopold extracted ivory, rubber, and minerals in the upper Congo basin for sale on the world market, even though his nominal purpose in the region was to uplift the local people and develop the area. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became one of the greatest international scandals of the early 20th century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903. The loss of life and atrocities inspired literature such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, and raised an international outcry. Excess deaths in this period are believed to number up to 10 million. During the Congo Free State propaganda war, European and U.S. reformers exposed the atrocities in the Congo Free State to the public through the Congo Reform Association, founded by Casement and the fervent humanitarian journalist E. D. Morel. By 1908, public pressure and diplomatic manoeuvres led to the end of Leopold II's rule and to the annexation of the Congo as a colony of Belgium, known as the Belgian Congo.
4 Belgian Congo
4.1 The Belgian Congo was a Belgian colony in Central Africa between 1908 and 1960 in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
4.1.1 Colonial rule in the Congo began in the late 19th century. King Leopold II of Belgium, frustrated by his nation's lack of international power and prestige, tried to persuade the government to support colonial expansion around the then-largely unexplored Congo Basin. Their ambivalence resulted in Leopold's creating a colony on his own account. With support from a number of Western countries, who viewed Leopold as a useful buffer between rival colonial powers on the Continent, Leopold achieved international recognition for a personal colony, the Congo Free State, in 1885. By the turn of the century, however, the violence used by Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and a ruthless system of economic extraction led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did in 1908, creating the Belgian Congo. Belgian rule in the Congo was based on the "colonial trinity" of state, missionary and private company interests. The privileging of Belgian commercial interests meant that large amounts of capital flowed into the Congo and that individual regions became specialised. On many occasions, the interests of the government and private enterprise became closely tied, and the state helped companies break strikes and remove other barriers raised by the indigenous population. The country was split into nesting, hierarchically organised administrative subdivisions, and run uniformly according to a set "native policy". This was in contrast to the British and the French, who generally favoured the system of indirect rule whereby traditional leaders were retained in positions of authority under colonial oversight. The Congo had a high degree of racial segregation. The large numbers of white immigrants who moved to the Congo after the end of World War II came from across the social spectrum, but were always treated as superior to blacks. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Congo had extensive urbanisation, and the colonial administration began various development programs aimed at making the territory into a "model colony”. By the 1950s the Congo had a wage labour force twice as large as that in any other African colony.
5 Patrice Lumumba
5.1 Patrice Émery Lumumba (2 July 1925 – 17 January 1961) was a Congolese independence leader and the first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo (now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo). As founder and leader of the Movement national congolais, Lumumba helped win his country's independence from Belgium in 1960. Within twelve weeks, Lumumba's government was deposed in a coup during the Congo Crisis. The main reason why he was ousted from power was his opposition to Belgian-backed secession of the mineral-rich Katanga province. Lumumba was subsequently imprisoned by state authorities under Joseph-Desiré Mobutu and executed under the command of the secessionist Katangan authorities.
6 Mobutu
6.1 Zaire (1965- 1997)
6.1.1 Unrest and rebellion plagued the government until November 1965, when Lieutenant General Mobutu, seized control of the county and declared himself president for 5 years. Mobutu quickly consolidated his power and was elected unopposed as president in 1970. Embarking on a campaign of cultural awareness, Mobutu renamed the country Republic Of Zaire in 1971 and required citizens to Adopt African names as well as drop their French- language ones. Relative peace and stability prevailed until 1977 and 1978 when Katangan rebels, bases in Angola, launched a series of invasions into the Shaba (Katanga) region. The rebels were driven out with the aid of Belgian paratroopers. Zaire remained a one-party state in the 1980's. Although Mobutu successfully maintained control during this period, opposed parties were active. Mobutu's attempts to quell these groups drew significant international criticisms. As the Cold War came to a close, internal and external pressures on Mobutu increased. In April 1990, Mobutu declared the Third Republic, agreeing to a limited multi-party system with elections and a constitution. In 1992, after previous similar attempts, the long-promised Sovereign National Conference was staged, encompassing over 2,000 representatives from various political parties. The conference gave itself a legislative mandate and elected Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo as its chairman, along with Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba, leader of the UDPS, as prime minister. By the end of the year Mobutu had created a rival government with its own prime minister. The ensuing stalemate produced a compromise merger of the two governments into the High Council of Republic-Parliament of Transition (HCR-PT) in 1994, with Mobutu as head of state and Kengo Wa Dondo as prime minister.
7 Democratic Republic of Congo
7.1 The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country located in Central Africa. It is the second largest country in Africa by area and the eleventh largest in the world, with a population of over 75 million. The Congolese Civil Wars, beginning in 1996, brought about the end of Mobutu Sese Seko's 31 year reign, devastated the country, and ultimately involved nine African nations, multiple groups of UN peacekeepers and twenty armed groups. The wars resulted in the deaths of 5.4 million people since 1998 with more than 90% of those deaths the result of malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and malnutrition, aggravated by displacement and unsanitary and over-crowded living conditions.
7.1.1 The country is extremely rich in natural resources but political instability, a lack of infrastructure and a culture of corruption have historically limited development, extraction and exploitation efforts. Besides the capital, Kinshasa, the country's other largest cities are both mining communities (Lubumbashi and Mbuji-Mayi) and the country's largest exports are raw minerals with China accepting over 50% of DRC's exports in 2012.
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