Before Adolf Hitler, there was Leopold II, King of Belgium. In his own country he was a constitutional monarch with limited powers. In Africa, without ever going there, he made himself both ruler and owner of a vast empire, the so-called Congo Free State.
King Leopold’s exploitation of the Congo was so inhuman and devastating that the country was depopulated. Measuring the scale of the catastrophe is difficult, one demographic study estimated that the population was halved, from twenty million to ten million, between 1880 and 1920. Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost is a compelling account of the fate of the Congo, written in the conviction that this, one of the greatest inhumanities of the modern world, needs to be remembered and understood.
Belgium’s imperialist rape of Congo is in my view the greatest crime in human history. In less than 10 years, more than 10 million Congolese were murdered during Leopold’s personal rule, under a barbarous system of forced labour and systematic terror. When reading a reference by Mark Twain to these deaths, and the world-wide campaign against slavery in the Congo of which he was a part, he was surprised at his own ignorance. “Why were these deaths not mentioned in the standard litany of our century’s horrors? And why had I not heard of them?” Pursuing his inquiries he uncovered a “vast supply of raw material”.
His book ruffled quite a few feathers, particularly in Belgium. Even the British Independent newspaper’s review calls the comparisons to contemporary imperialism “unhelpful.” Unlike other great predators of history, from Genghis Khan to the Spanish conquistadors, King Leopold II never saw a drop of blood spilt in anger. He never set foot in the Congo. There is something very modern about that, too, as there is about the bomber pilot in the stratosphere, above the clouds, who never hears screams or sees shattered homes or torn flesh.
You see, when you kill over ten million Africans, you aren’t called “Hitler”. That is, your name doesn’t come to symbolize the living incarnation of evil. Your name and your picture don’t produce fear, hatred, and sorrow. Your victims aren’t talked about and your name isn’t remembered.
When there’s a blast in my beloved country, Nigeria, as much as it is a daily or weekly thing, do you people broadcast it and make an issue out of it?? Or is it the death of a skin colour that counts? I feel ashamed of this nature as a black man to see majority of the Western world showing concern only for Paris or Brussels. I guess nothing has really change, they might deny it, but the truth still is the rest of the world don’t matter to them.
Terrorism Imperialism CongoGenocide
Mr. Afolabi-Jones published his opinion on Facebook