The Congo: Anguish at The Hands of Leopold

Essay by nshelton04High School, 12th gradeA, December 2003

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For nearly a century the Congo has been the site of widespread famine, poverty, the most devastating diseases known to man, and relentless civil war. The Congo has been forced into this state of destruction economically, politically, and socially because of King Leopold II's policies which no succeeding Congolese governments have been able or willing to reverse. Leopold II's initial government in the Congo was created to establish himself as a philanthropic leader, or at least fool others into believing this. Later, Leopold's policies proved he was a tyrant who cared nothing for the people of the Congo. These policies restricted trade, an essential part of the Congolese life, took away natural resources vital to the Congolese, and provoked unsurpassed civil conflict. The Congo has always been a leading source of cobalt, copper, ivory, rubber, and other natural resources; Leopold recognised this and desired the riches that the land could provide him.

He went about getting these riches in any manner that he could. Leopold's governmental tactics violated the trust that the Congolese placed in their king, but Leopold did not care and he did nothing to stop the harsh conditions of this land. And why would he? These policies and decrees were issued in large part to increase the profits of Leopold and his coterie of government officials. The Congolese governments that were set up after King Leopold's, did nothing to reverse the conditions that were already created. These succeeding governments even worsened the conditions of the Congo. As Leopold sought financial gain by exploiting the Congo's abundance of natural resources, the Congolese became mere pawns in reaching this goal. The Congolese were brutally forced to collect the natural resources yet they could not share in the profits from these resources. Despite the minimal action taken by other countries...