Breaking

Father stares at the hand and foot of his five-year-old, severed as a punishment for failing to make the daily rubber quota, Belgian Congo, 1904


The picture is of Alice Seeley Harris, the man's name is Nasla. Here is a part of his account (from the book "Don't Call Me Lady: The Journey of Lady Alice Seeley Harris"): he had not made up his rubber quota for that day, so the Belgian-appointed overseer had his daughter beheaded. . hands and feet. His name was Baoli. She was five years old. Then they killed him. But they were not finished. Then they also killed his wife.

And because he didn't seem ferocious enough, strong enough to stand his ground, they cannibalized both Bidli and her mother. And he presented Nasla with tokens, what was left of the once living body of his beloved child whom he loved dearly. His life was destroyed.

They partly destroyed him anyway by forcing his servitude but this act ended it for him. All this filth happened because a man, a man who lived thousands of miles across the ocean, a man who could not be rich enough, had decided that this land belonged to him and that these people would serve their greed.

Leopold did not give any thought to the idea that these African children, these men and women, were our perfect human brothers, created equally by the same hand that made up their lineage of European royalty.

The Congo Free State was a corporate state in Central Africa, owned by King Leopold II of Belgium, established and recognized by the Berlin Convention of 1885. In the 23 years (1885–1908) that Leopold II ruled the Congo, he slaughtered and killed 10 million Africans. They cut off their hands and genitals, put them to death, starved them into forced labor, ransoms children, and burned villages.

The irony of this story is that Leopold II committed these atrocities without even setting foot in the Congo. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became one of the biggest international scandals of the early 20th century.

The ABIR Congo Company (established as the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company and later known as Compagnie do Congo Belge) was a company appointed to exploit natural rubber in the Congo Free State. ABIR enjoyed a boom in Europe until the late 1890s, selling a kilogram of rubber for 10 fr, which cost them only 1.35 fr.

However, this came at the cost of the human rights of those who could not pay the tax, with imprisonment, whipping and other corporal punishments entered into.


Failure to meet the rubber collection quota was punishable by death. Meanwhile, the Force Public (gendarmerie/military force) was required to provide the hand of their victims as evidence when they shot and killed someone, as it was believed that they would otherwise use weapons. (imported from Europe at a considerable cost) for hunting.

As a result, partial payment of the rubber quota was made in mutilated hands. Sometimes the hands were gathered by the soldiers of the force public, and sometimes by the villages.

There were even small wars where villages attacked neighboring villages to gather hands because their rubber quotas were too unrealistic to fill.

A Catholic priest quotes a man, Tswambe, referring to the hated state official Leon Fivez, who ran a district along the river 500 kilometers (300 mi) north of Stanley Poole: All blacks called this man the equator. Seen as the devil of ... all slain in the field from the dead bodies, had to be cut off. He wanted to see that the number of hands cut off by each soldier that they had to bring in the baskets… the village refusing to give the rubber would be completely wiped out.

As a young man, I watched [Fivez's] soldier Molly, then guarding the village of Boyeca, take a net, put ten arrested natives in it, attach large stones to the net, and throw it into the river. Throw ... the rubber causes these pains; That's why we don't want to hear its name anymore. Soldiers see young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters.

A junior European officer described the raid as being intended to punish the protesting village. The European officer in command "ordered us to behead the men and hang them on the village planks ... and hang the women and children on the planks in the form of a cross".


After seeing a Congolese man die for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: "The soldier said, 'Don't take this to heart.' They kill us if we don't bring the rubber. The commissioner promised us that if we have too many hands they will shorten our service.

In the words of Forbath: baskets of severed hands, laid at the feet of European post commanders, became a symbol of the Congo Free State... The collection of hands became an end in itself. Force public constables brought them to stations instead of rubber; They even turned out to cut them instead of rubber ...

They became a kind of currency. They began to be used to make up for the reduction in rubber quotas, to replace ... those sought by forced labor gangs; And Force Public soldiers were paid their bonuses based on how many hands they collected.


In theory, each right hand proved to be a murder. In practice, soldiers sometimes "cheat" by simply cutting off the arm and leaving the victim to live or die.

More than a few survivors later said that they lived through a massacre by acting dead, not moving their hands even when they were cut off, and waiting until soldiers left before asking for help.

In some instances, a soldier could shorten his service life by bringing more hands than other soldiers, leading to widespread amputations and dismemberments.

The decrease in the population of the Congo is noted by all who have compared the beginning of Leopold's control of the country with the beginning of Belgian state rule in 1908, but estimates of the death toll vary greatly.

Estimates by contemporary observers suggest that the population declined by half during this period and are supported by some modern scholars such as Jan Vancina. Others dispute this. Scholars at the Royal Museum of Central Africa argue that the first forty years of colonial rule (until the 1924 census) decreased by 15 percent.

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