The Belgian Colonial Empire, (1880) 1908-1914

C.) The Congo Free State and Belgian Congo

In 1878 King Leopold II. of Belgium established the International Association of the Congo and recruited American explorer Henry Morgan Stanley. In 1879, Stanley arrived at the Congo river estuary and established Vivi as the capital of the future CONGO FREE STATE (later moved to LEOPOLDVILLE, modern Kinshasa). He travelled inland as far as STANLEYVILLE (Kisangani), obtaining treaties placing African peoples under the International Association's protection. At the BERLIN CONFERENCE of 1884/85, the International Association was internationally recognized, and shortly afterward renamed Congo Free State. According to the General Act signed at the Berlin Conference, the Congo Basin was to be governed according to the principle of free trade and navigation. In order to suppress slavery, establish (and extend) it's authority and build an infrastructure, the administration of the Congo Free State became oppressive, fighting many wars and forcing the local population to work on the railroad. The railroad connecting Leopoldville with the sea was finished in 1898. In 1891, the Compagnie du Katanga succeeded in acquiring the region with it's valuable copper ore. Reports about the brutal treatment of the indigenous population, published in 1903, triggered a parliamentary debate which led to the annexation of the heavily indebted Congo Free State, in 1908, turning it into BELGIAN CONGO.

Zaire : the Colonial State, from Library of Congress, Country Studies : Zaire
Zaire : History, from infoplease, encyclopedic, scroll down
Armed Conflict Events Data : Belgium 1800-1999, from OnWar.org

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 4th 2002, last revised on November 11th 2004