Its seeds were sown in 1885, when King Leopold II of Belgium acquired the area under pretensions of humanitarianism in the famous Berlin Conference. He ruled the Congo personally as a corporate state, and made a fortune by forcing villages to produce ivory and rubber for him, cutting individuals’ hands and feet off if they didn’t meet harvest quotas. When reports about these atrocities came out in the media, under internal and external pressure, the Parliament of Belgium annexed the state themselves.
Immediately, the Belgians began to set up a solid infrastructure; missionaries built railways, ports, roads and hospitals. An education system was put in place, and an unusually prosperous and well-run one for the time and place; though few students went past primary school, the literacy rate in the Congo was one of the highest in Africa. This is not to say that the Belgian Congo was a shining beacon of humanitarianism; the Congolese were still very much second-class citizens, and the Belgians never hesitated to throw them under a bus if it was convenient for them: for example, the Belgians put heavy taxes on the citizens in World War II in order to support their own concerns.
Eventually, though, many Congolese became sick of living under Belgium’s thumb. The Congolese could not own land, vote, or travel freely (Vallely, P 2006). With a thirst for freedom and leadership of their own country, many Congolese nationalist groups were formed in the period of 1957-1959. This rising tension peaked in an anti-European riot in Leopoldville, and suddenly, strikes broke out everywhere. The Belgians, eventually realizing that the situation was soon to erupt into a French Algeria-like situation, and no longer making much