Do you know this guy? No? Thought so. Unless you really know your history, you are not going to know about him. When you see his image, you should already have the revulsion you have when seeing Hitler, Mao, Stalin or Mussolini. Why? Because this guy killed over 10 million people in Congo in the act of African genocide.
He is King Leopold II of Belgium. He is a vital part in the history of colonialism, imperialism, slavery, and genocide that clashes with the popular social narratives in today’s era. He used to run a personal empire so vast and cruel that it rivalled, some might even argue that it exceeded, the crimes of even the worst dictators of 20th century. He ascended to throne in 1865 as the ruler of Belgium after the democratization of the country in a series of revolutions and reforms. Like other empires in the days, he believed that the country can only grow further if it occupies and utilizes the resources of the colonies.
He carried out his “business transactions” under the banner of International African Society. He called it “philanthropic” and “socialist” while in fact he was creating slave labour to extract Congolese resources and services. He enforced his “philanthropic” activities via work camps, body mutilations, torture, executions and domination with his own private army. Without doubt, he was the slave master in the empire known as Congo Free State. He continued doing so for almost 30 years under the colony of European government, and used Congo as his own property for his own personal enrichment.
Congo was rich in mineral and agricultural resources, with a size 76 times that of Belgium. But it lost half of its population when the census was counter in 1924 with a population of 10 million.
When we learn about Africa is the western world, we often learn about the H.I.V. epidemic, the overblown Egyptian history, slight hint of slave trade, and South African Apartheid. What we don’t learn is the Great African War or the Great Reign of Terror by Leopold during the Congolese Genocide.
The only “famous” written document is by Mark Twain who wrote “King Leopold’s Soliloquy: A Defense of His Congo Rule”, a sarcastic account of King Leopold with about 49 pages. However, this has never been in the educational curriculum in most schools in the west. The education system has books like Orwell’s Animal Farm, that serves to reinforce America anti-socialist propaganda about how egalitarian societies are doomed to turn into their dystopian opposites. This isn’t by accident though. The education board have the full right to include books in curriculums, and they have in fact ignored Mark Twain’s book. From their point of view, African have no history.
Even the Congolese Genocide isn’t mentioned in the list of “Genocides in History” page.
Perhaps, had it been any other population of “major” countries in the west, it would have made stories, with over thousands of books written to his name. But no, he only killed few million (10 to 15 millions) Africans. And Africans don’t have history, right?