King Leopold's Scramble for Congo

Topics: Congo Free State, Leopold II of Belgium, Belgium Pages: 3 (772 words) Published: December 13, 2005
Belgium become an independent country not before than 1830 and by law was a neutral country. Therefore, it could not participate in adventures along with the big powers such as Britain and France. Although the Belgian people were not enthusiastic, king Leopold was desperate to make an Empire out of Belgium; his philosophy was that no country is complete without overseas possessions, more precisely, colonies. He did not want Belgium to be left behind the other European countries who had colonies in Africa. Leopold felt pushed out by Britain and France, and the growing power of Germany.

When Leopold heard of the American explorer Henry Stanley who had completed several expeditions in Congo, he hired him as his agent and between 1880 and 1884, Stanley established several trading stations, mostly in the lower Congo, and got local natives to sign agreements, not knowing they were giving away their land to Leopold. The area Stanley was able to get consisted of nearly 905,000 square miles. At the beginning, King Leopold gained ownership over Congo mostly because of the disinterest of the major powers of Europe. Leopold put Stanley mission to further explore Congo. Nevertheless, Stanley's true mission was to establish Belgian sovereignty along the river's south bank and create monopoly control over rubber and ivory trade. King Leopold proceeded in great secrecy, living the impression that he was engaged in a philanthropic enterprise. Leopold's justifications were of missionary nature, such as civilizing the natives of Congo and protecting their rights, scientific exploration, establishment of legal trade, and war against Arabs who were slave traders in that area.

By bribes, Leopold got recognition for Congo in 1884 by the United States and thereafter by France. In 1885, by bilateral agreements at the Berlin conference, he drown out the boundaries for this enormous colony. At the Berlin Conference, Leopold claimed to a huge piece of Congo, about eighty times bigger...
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