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King Leopold’s Ghost Survives in the Congo

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The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Laurent Kabila, continues to fight a rebellion in his country that he says is being backed by Uganda and Rwanda. This week, the Congo blasted the United Nations for not stopping this outside intervention in the country. A little-known period in the Congo’s history, back to the late 1800s, an estimated 10 million Congolese were slaughtered under the regime of King Leopold II of Belgium.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacific Radio’s Democracy Now!, the Exception to the Rulers.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has been in the news of late with the Rwandan- and Ugandan-backed intervention there and the peace conference that has been being held on and off over the last few weeks. What is the background to the Congo? It wasn’t in the news for more than 30 years, when Mobutu, the dictator of the Congo, was in charge, plundering the country and killing how many people in the Congo, and before that, the turn of the century.

Well, a new book is out called King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. It’s about the Congo, about how in the 1880s as the European powers were carving up Africa, King Leopold II of Belgium seized for himself the vast and mostly unexplored territory surrounding the Congo River. Carrying out a genocidal plundering of the Congo, he looted its rubber, brutalized its people, and ultimately slashed its population by 10 million, all the while shrewdly cultivating his reputation as a great humanitarian. Heroic efforts to expose these crimes eventually led to the first great human rights movement of the 20th century, in which everyone from Mark Twain to the Archbishop of Canterbury participated.

Well, Adam Hochschild wrote this book, King Leopold’s Ghost, and he joins us in the studio now.

How did you discover this story that has gotten almost no attention outside of Africa?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: I first learned of this because about eight or 10 years ago I was reading something. And you know how it is when you read something, it really sticks in your mind. You remember exactly where you were. I was traveling on an airplane, very tired, across the U.S., from New York to San Francisco, and I was stuck way in the back of the plane. I was reading a stupid book on media theory. And somewhere embedded in this book, there was a quotation from Mark Twain, and a footnote at the bottom of the page said, “Twain said this when he was part of the worldwide campaign against the atrocities that took place during the conquest of the Congo around the turn of the century, events which historians believe took 5 to 8 million lives.”

And I was quite startled. I thought, “You know, five to 8 million lives, that’s the size of the Holocaust. How come I don’t know anything about this? And especially, how come I don’t know anything about this, because I’ve been to Africa seven or eight times as a journalist, I wrote a book on South Africa, even been to the Congo many, many years ago?” So I made a mental note that this is something I’ve got to look into.

I was in the middle of writing another book at that point. But when I had some time, I went to the library, and I found that most historians today who are willing to make an estimate about this don’t say 5 to 8 million lives; they say a population loss of about 10 million. And we’re talking about the turn of the century, the time of the European conquest of Africa. Ten million people was half the population of this territory, the territory that is today the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is, you know, a death toll of Holocaust proportions. And I was flabbergasted not just that it’s not generally known about, but that I didn’t know anything about this. And I wanted to learn about it.

And I initially thought this was going to be a book about a forgotten Holocaust and how terrible it was and how terrible the world has forgotten it and so forth. Then, the farther I got into the story, I realized more and more that it was also the story of a forgotten human rights movement, really the first great international human rights movement of this century, and that it was a story with some extraordinary heroes and villains.

And so, I begin the story at the point where the greatest of the heroes in it comes on stage. And, to me, this is a very dramatic scene, which still sends chills up and down my spine when I try to imagine it.

The year is about 1897, 1898. At that time, the Congo is not a Belgian colony, which it subsequently became. It is the personal private possession of King Leopold II of Belgium, an enormously shrewd and greedy man who was very impatient and frustrated at being king of such a small country and being king of a time when it wasn’t so much fun to be a king anymore because he had to mess around with voters and parliaments and cabinets and so forth. He didn’t have absolute power. And he wanted a colony that he could rule absolutely.

And he had hired in the 1880s the explorer Henry Morton Stanley, the man who found Livingstone, to stake out this vast territory of his in Africa, the Congo. And through a series of very shrewd diplomatic maneuvering, he had managed to get first the United States and then all the major nations of Europe to recognize this as his private colony. He actually referred to himself in speaking as the proprietor of this territory.

Starting in the 1890s, he began to make a huge amount of money from the ivory and the rubber in the Congo, under a very brutal regime, which we’ll talk about in a second. But the key point for me is that at this time — the 1890s, we’re talking about — the rest of the world didn’t know what a horror show this was. They didn’t know that this was a regime that was founded on some unbelievable series of atrocities.

In about 1897, there was a British shipping line that had the monopoly on all the trade between the Congo and Europe. And they needed somebody to go over to the Belgian Port of Antwerp every couple of weeks and supervise ships that were loading and unloading on the Congo run. So they turned to a young, at the time about 25-year-old employee in their firm, a young Englishman named Edmund Morel. And because he spoke French, they sent Morel to Antwerp every couple of weeks to supervise this cargo loading. This is just about exactly a hundred years ago. And at this time, remember, young Morel and everybody else thought King Leopold was — yes, he did own this colony in Africa somewhere, but he was a good guy. He was a philanthropist. He was bringing Christianity and civilization to the Natives. There was nothing sinister going on here.

Morel got to Antwerp. And every time one of his company’s ships came in from the Congo, he realized that it was loaded to the hatch covers with very valuable cargoes of rubber and ivory. But when these ships turned around and sailed back to Africa, they carried absolutely nothing in the way of trading goods. Instead, they carried mostly army officers, arms and ammunition. And so, he reasoned, there was no trade that was the source of all these riches streaming to Europe that he was seeing every month, and therefore their source could only be slave labor. It was a brilliant deduction. And we know now that he was absolutely right. And it still gives me a thrill to think of this young guy standing on the docks in Antwerp, looking at these ships and realizing, “I am seeing firsthand evidence of a slave labor regime 6,000 miles away.” And as a matter of fact, I’m going to be in Antwerp this weekend, and I’m going to find the dock on Sunday where he stood. I’m very excited about that.

The great thing about Morel is that he immediately acted on his realization. He went to the head of the shipping line and said, “Something terrible is going on here. We can’t be a party to it.” The head of the shipping line told him to get lost. When that didn’t work, they tried to promote him to another job in another country. When that didn’t work, they tried to pay him some money to shut up. That didn’t work. He quit his job. And in the space of about three or four years, he became the great British investigative journalist of his time. He was a man of absolutely superhuman energy, enormous talent as a writer, as a speaker and as an organizer. He devoted himself, you know, 14, 16 hours a day for the next 10 years to putting this story on the world’s front pages. And in that, he succeeded. He wrote several books on the subject, hundreds of articles, dozens of pamphlets.

He stormed over to the United States, stormed into the White House, told President Theodore Roosevelt, “Your country has a special responsibility to do something about bringing this slave labor regime to an end, because you were the first to recognize the Congo as King Leopold’s private possession.” He met Mark Twain. He organized Mark Twain and Booker T. Washington, sent them off on a speaking tour together in the U.S. He went back to England. He and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote the Sherlock Holmes books, went on a speaking tour in England. He organized Conan Doyle to write a book called The Crime of the Congo. He got the Archbishop of Canterbury involved. He was a wonderful organizer, and he created a worldwide storm of outrage against King Leopold and his regime.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re listening to Adam Hochschild, who has just finished a book called King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. And we’re talking talking about the Congo at the turn of the century. You say that the United States was the first to recognize King Leopold’s private fiefdom. Why?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Because Leopold was an immensely shrewd lobbyist. This began to happen in 1883, when he started organizing this campaign. He very cleverly got a friend of his who was a former American ambassador to Belgium. In fact, Abraham Lincoln had appointed this guy ambassador to Belgium. Henry Shelton Sanford is his name. And he lived on in Brussels after his time as an ambassador came to end. He became — came to an end. He was a friend of Leopold’s.

Leopold got Sanford to return to the United States. Sanford was a very wealthy man who had a big estate in Florida. And President Chester A. Arthur, the president of the U.S. at that point, had been a guest at Sanford’s estate a few months earlier. So, when Sanford showed up in Washington as the personal emissary of the king of the Belgians, President Arthur received him at the White House.

Sanford virtually wrote for the president some language praising King Leopold’s great work of bringing civilization to Africa, which the president inserted into his State of the Union message a few weeks later. And then Sanford stayed in Washington and here in New York for another five or six months, passing out bribes to newspaper editors, wining and dining senators and congressmen, generating a lot of favorable publicity about the king and his great good works in Africa, and culminating in, April 1884, the United States declaring that it recognized the Congo as, essentially, belonging to King Leopold II of Belgium, but as the king’s personal protectorate, not as a Belgian colony. And then all the major countries in Europe followed suit during the next year or so.

AMY GOODMAN: That is astounding, his personal protectorate.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: That’s right. I mean, keep in mind, this was at a time when Europe was just beginning the big African land grab, which took place in a very short time historically. Between about 1870 and 1900 or 1910, zoop, about 80% of sub-Saharan Africa was gobbled up by Europe as colonies. So, the unusual thing at that point was not a colony being recognized, but a territory being recognized as a colony belonging privately to one man rather than to a country. But once Leopold had American recognition, then that sort of set a precedent, and the other countries in Europe followed suit.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about what was happening in the Congo, exactly how it was that King Leopold got the rubber out, got the rubber that he made his fortune off of, rubber and ivory, etc.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, at this time, we’re now talking late 1880s, beginning of the 1890s. They had just invented the inflatable bicycle tire. And then, of course, right around the same time, they invented the automobile, which also had an inflatable tire. And this set off a worldwide rubber boom. People could not get enough rubber. They wanted it for bicycle and car tires. They also wanted it for coatings for electrical wires, telegraph wires, which were spanning the world, you know, belts on machinery in factories and so forth. There was a tremendous demand for rubber.

Now, the natural rubber that we’re familiar with today comes from rubber trees. But these have to be planted in plantations. It takes 10, 15, 20 years for them to come to maturity. They require a lot of cultivation. And in Africa, in Equatorial Africa at that time, rubber grew wild, not as trees but as vines, rubber vines that started on the ground, twined their way around palm trees or other kinds of trees up to 100 feet off the ground, would leap to the next tree in search of sunlight, be extremely long. And you could just tap them and get the rubber out. Didn’t require any cultivation.

King Leopold, having seized for himself the largest single swath of this central African equatorial rainforest, had more of this wild rubber than anybody else. And he knew he had a fairly limited time window, only about 10 or 15 years, during which he needed to get all that rubber out of there while the price was high, because as soon as other tropical territories could bring their plantations of rubber trees online and start harvesting them, then the price of rubber would drop, which indeed it did about a decade into this century. But during those 15 years or so, there was this tremendous rubber boom. And Leopold made, it is estimated, the equivalent of at least 1.1 billion — that’s billion, not million — in today’s dollars in profits from the Congo during that time, the vast majority of it in rubber.

The way they gathered the rubber was this. Wild rubber, as I said, grows in these vines. They’re spread throughout the rainforest. Leopold had a private army of 19,000 officers and men, Black conscript soldiers under white officers, mostly European, but some Americans also in this army. They would march into village after village, seize the women, hold them hostage, until the men of the village would go into the rainforest and gather their quota of rubber. And this was a process that took usually days, and sometimes weeks, because as all the rubber vines near a village got tapped out, the men would have to go farther and farther into the forest to find vines that still had rubber in them. And then, some of them, you know, broke their backs climbing trees, trying to tap the upper parts of the vine, when the parts of the vine near the ground got tapped out and so forth.

This was a very murderous process. A lot of the women who were held hostage starved to death. A lot of the male rubber gatherers were, in effect, worked to death. Hundreds of thousands of additional people fled to avoid this draconian regime. But the only place they could flee to was still deeper into the rainforest, where there was no food and no shelter, and they died. And, of course, when you hold the women hostage and enslave the men, it completely disrupts the traditional economy, the, you know, harvesting of crops and gathering of food and hunting and so forth. So there was widespread famines. A lot of people died of starvation. And when large numbers of people are malnourished, severely malnourished, as we know from the experience of the Nazi concentration camps and the Soviet Gulag, diseases that people otherwise would have survived take an enormous toll. So, a lot of people died of disease, as well.

Today, you know, some royalist apologists in Belgium will tell you, well, a lot of people did die then, but it was mostly of sleeping sickness or mostly of, you know, other diseases. And this is, literally speaking, true. But epidemiologists know very well that, you know, these diseases would not have taken the toll that they did if the population were not including large numbers of people who were refugees, huge numbers of people who were traumatized, and almost everybody malnourished.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the story of the hands of the Congolese?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, this is something that became, with some reason, I think, a kind of international symbol of this particular — you know, the atrocities of this regime.

One of the procedures that King Leopold’s private army had was this. When these European officers sent their soldiers into a village to shoot everybody because the village hadn’t gathered its quota of rubber, say, or to put down an insurrection or rebellion or mutiny of some sort — and these happened all the time — they would make the African soldiers bring back the severed right hands of their victims as proof of their kills, as proofs that they hadn’t, quote, “wasted” their bullets, because the officers were very concerned that the bullets not be spent on, you know, such a wasteful target as hunting an animal for food, for example, or, worse yet, that the bullets hadn’t been saved for use in a possible mutiny. So they demanded a severed hand for each cartridge that had been issued to a soldier. And they got them.

And witnesses who were there at the time, outside witnesses, principally missionaries, began noticing this. There is a Black American missionary named William Sheppard who plays a very important role in the story. He knew that the slave labor regime was going on. He knew that it was decimating his parishioners in the district where he works — where he worked. But he didn’t know about the hands, until one day, in 1897, he found himself in a clearing in the rainforest in an area where he’d gone to, you know, see what the army was doing, and he found an African chief who was allied with the regime, who had 87 severed hands and who was smoking them over a fire to preserve them, because, this guy explained to Sheppard, “It’s going to be a week or two before we can, you know, get back to army headquarters, where the officer is, and give him the hands and get credit for our kills. And we want to preserve them.” And Sheppard was deeply shocked by this, wrote about it in missionary magazines, was one of the first witnesses to go on record in talking about this. But until Edmund Morel and his human rights campaign came along a few years later, there was no means by which testimony like that could really be brought to large audiences around the world. But that changed when Morel came.

AMY GOODMAN: Adam Hochschild, we’re going to continue this discussion after stations identify themselves. Adam Hochschild, the author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa. You are listening to Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: You are listening to Pacific Radio’s Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman.

President Laurent Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo plans to hold presidential elections next year, this according to state-controlled radio this week. Kabila’s recent success in fighting a six-week rebellion in the Central African nation has boosted his popularity and may have influenced his decision to allow elections in April.

That’s the news in the headlines today, and it’s also why we’re talking about the history of the Congo, particularly at the turn of the century, a killing on the scale of the Holocaust, a killing on the scale of what went on in Stalin’s Soviet Union. We’re talking to Adam Hochschild. He’s author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa.

Adam, before we went to the break, you were talking about the practice of cutting the hands off bodies, of proof of a kill. But it’s not only the hands of dead people; you have photographs of men and women who had their hands cut off and still survived.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Right, because sometimes when the soldiers wanted to claim credit for a kill — maybe they had saved the bullet for use in a mutiny, or they had used it in hunting, or they had lost it or shot at somebody and missed — they would just go chop off a hand from somebody who was alive, so that they could bring one of these hands back to their officers.

AMY GOODMAN: And Congo is in the news, which is unusual. There’s a period of time now it has been unusual, but for the 32 years of the Mobutu regime, a very brutal regime in Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people died, it wasn’t in the news. And certainly the story of King Leopold’s private fiefdom, the story has — is not a story that is known around the world. And Adam Hochschild researched it and wrote this really remarkable book about this period at the turn of the century. Well, what does what King Leopold — what is the legacy that King Leopold left, and how did it shape modern Congo?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Well, there are some eerie and quite fascinating parallels between King Leopold, who controlled this territory single-handedly from 1885 to 1908, and Mobutu Sese Seko, who controlled it from 1965 until his overthrow and death last year. Both men were really sole rulers of this enormous territory. It’s essentially the same territory; the borders are pretty much the same. They both made vast fortunes from it. Leopold’s, as I mentioned, I think, is estimated at about 1.1 billion in today’s dollars. Mobutu, who had a few more years to work with, is estimated to have stashed away about $4 billion. Both of them had a personal stake in virtually every private business operating in the territory. Both of them treated state assets as their own.

Both of them printed money when they needed it. Mobutu would just rev up the printing press and print more currency when he ran out. King Leopold actually didn’t print currency, but he printed bonds, which he sold in huge numbers, and these were long-term bonds, the principal of which would have to be paid back decades after his death, so it was somebody else’s problem to worry about, not his.

Both of them lived on yachts much of the time — Leopold in the Mediterranean, Mobutu on the Congo River. Both of them had palatial homes in many different countries. Both were particularly fond of the French Riviera. And Mobutu’s villa at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin on the French Riviera, where he spent some of his last days, is a mere 12 miles away from Leopold’s palatial villa at Cap-Ferrat, and actually from one cape, you can see the other. So, there’s some eerie parallels there.

And rumor has it — I didn’t mention this in the book because, you know, I didn’t have a firsthand source for it. But rumor has it that Mobutu’s courtiers used to flatter him by saying, “Oh, you’re just as great a king as Leopold was.” I think the larger point is that when, anywhere in the world, a heritage that a country has to work with is one of ruthless exploitation and a long period of authoritarian rule, it’s no surprise when that continues in different form.

I think Americans are often very naive in thinking that democracy is going to take root somewhere suddenly and magically and easily whenever an authoritarian regime is overthrown. It didn’t happen when Mobutu fell in the Congo. It didn’t happen, you know, at the end of communism in the Soviet Union. Both of these are countries which really never in their lifetime had known anything except highly authoritarian regimes of varying degrees of brutality. And democracy is a pretty fragile plant that takes a long time to nourish and doesn’t come easily.

The heritage in the Congo is not just that of the Leopold regime that I write about in the book at the turn of the century, but, subsequently, after Leopold, they were 52 years as a Belgian colony, also a fairly exploitative regime, similar to those of the other European colonial regimes in Africa, and then this long period of Mobutu’s dictatorship, 32 years.

And let’s not forget that Mobutu was supported, lock, stock and barrel, by the United States and, to a lesser degree, by Belgium and France, as well. This was during the Cold War. Mobutu was solidly anti-communist, and he made it clear that he was going to protect the quite substantial Western investments in the Congo, principally in mining. And he did this, and, in return, the U.S. gave him more than a billion dollars’ worth of aid, helped him, you know, eliminate his political enemies, left and right. By the time the Cold War ended, there was some talk from Washington about, well, maybe it’s time to introduce some democratic reforms and so forth. But when you’ve been supporting a quite ruthless tyrant for all these years, it’s pretty hard to make him change course that way, and they were unsuccessful in doing so.

AMY GOODMAN: And you mention in your book, Adam Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost, that, in fact, you had gone to the Congo before, in 1961, and had spent time talking to an old CIA agent.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Yeah, I happened to be there shortly after Lumumba’s death and at one point ran into a fellow who was a CIA man there, who had a little bit too much to drink at a party and was telling me, with great pleasure and in some detail, about how Lumumba met his end.

AMY GOODMAN: Patrice Lumumba, the founding president of the Congo.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Right, who, let us not forget, was the first and last democratically chosen leader of that territory. When Belgium, quite reluctantly and rather suddenly, was pressured into giving the Congo independence in 1960, Lumumba was a coalition government prime minister. And he was a very forceful advocate of the idea that Africa had to be economically, as well as politically, independent of Europe. It couldn’t continue — you know, political independence was not enough; it had to be economically independent, as well. And this was heresy as far as the Western corporations were concerned. And some two months after he became prime minister, the CIA decreed his assassination and gave support to the anti-Lumumba factions within the government, which carried it out a few months later.

You know, we have no way of knowing whether, if Lumumba had lived, he would have fulfilled the dreams that everybody had for him and fulfill the faith that everyone had in him as a, you know, Pan-African leader boldly speaking out for justice in all its forms. I hope he would have, but we have no way of knowing that. However, the U.S. saw to it that he was assassinated before we could see that.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do you think Laurent Kabila fits in? Do you think he compares to Patrice Lumumba?

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: I don’t think so. And, you know, it’s hard for me to tell. The current situation in the Congo is awfully confused. I have not been there during this recent period at all, and I was actually out of the United States most of the past year and had trouble getting news of what was happening there, so I’m really not up to date on what’s happening there now, except to say that even if Kabila were a brilliant politician or a saint — and it’s quite clear that he’s neither — he would have a very difficult time governing, in any kind of democratic fashion, a country that has this kind of heritage of terror and authoritarian rule under many different regimes behind it, in addition to which the country is itself — you know, has the borders that got drawn on a meeting room table in Berlin in 1885, when the European countries were beginning the process of dividing up Africa among them, and like all the colonial borders in Africa, they bear no relationship whatever to what ethnic groups lived in what places. The borders include people from many different groups within the same territory. Sometimes they slice right through the middle of one particular group, as they do with the Tutsis, where there are Tutsis both inside the Congo and in Rwanda and Burundi, as well. And if somebody else had superimposed totally illogically drawn borders like this on Europe, Europe would have a pretty — you know, pretty interesting and difficult time, you know, developing into separate nations with a sense of identity, if the borders didn’t coincide in any way with what the people who lived there had chosen. So, given that heritage, I’m not surprised he’s having trouble.

And, you know, we also have to be honest and realize that the heritage of sub-Saharan Africa before the European arrival is not entirely a pretty picture, either. These are pretty hierarchical regimes, the traditional ones, most of them. There was widespread Indigenous slavery, long before the slave traders from across the Atlantic arrived. And indeed, they were only able to buy their human cargoes because there were African chiefs and slave dealers who were willing to sell them. So, that, too, is part of the heritage, as well.

AMY GOODMAN: Why hasn’t this story of what King Leopold did in the Congo, this genocide of, what, 10 million people — why hasn’t it been written about more extensively? I mean, obvious comparisons are to the Holocaust. And, to say the least, we all know about it, perhaps because it’s closer in time. But this is not so far away.

ADAM HOCHSCHILD: Right. It’s true, I would make one correction: I think one shouldn’t use the word “genocide” in talking about it, because it was not an attempt to wipe out everybody who belonged to a particular ethnic group, as happened in the Holocaust. It was rather a slave labor regime. And to those who ran it, if millions of people died in the process, this was not a concern to them. But nonetheless, it was deaths on the scale of the Holocaust.

And it is amazing that not more is known about it, I think, for a number of reasons. One is that we forget all too quickly that the European conquest of Africa, in general, not just of the Congo but of the surrounding territories, particularly in Central Africa, particularly in what’s now Namibia, what used to be German South West Africa, what’s now Tanzania, used to be German East Africa, involved enormous massacres. This is not part of the history that people learn in school, because — people in the United States and Europe, I think, because it involves Africa. It’s simply not there in the history books.

But there are a couple of other interesting things that I think make it particularly forgotten as far as the Congo is concerned. One is that King Leopold himself burned all the documents — a really amazing story. In 1908, the protest movement against his regime had reached such a pitch of fervor that he was forced to give up this place as his private colony and turn it over to Belgium. In fact, he sold it to Belgium for quite a large amount of money. And just before this transfer happened, he ordered the furnace at the Royal Palace in Brussels lit in the middle of summer 1908, and it burned for eight days and nights. And he ordered every scrap of paper relating to the internal administration of the Congo under his rule for the preceding 23 years burned. And he made a remarkable statement to an aide-de-camp, saying, “I will give them my Congo, but they have no right to know what I did there.” So, the documents, a lot of the key documents, are gone. And there is, in fact, a lot more in the way of internal administrative documentation available about what Hitler did and what Stalin did. That’s one reason it got forgotten.

I think another reason is that immediately after this, World War I began, in 1914. And all of British and American war propaganda was based on coming to the aid of poor, helpless, little Belgium, which had been invaded cruelly and unprovokedly by the Germans. And Belgium was invaded by the Germans, and the Germans did kill a lot of innocent people and so forth. Well, since the British and the Americans were trying to whip up war fervor in their own populations, which had not been invaded by anybody, it wasn’t convenient to remember anything bad about the Belgians, who only so recently had been accused of doing all these terrible things in Africa. So I think that was another reason that helped it get forgotten.

AMY GOODMAN: Adam Hochschild, I want to thank you very much for being with us, author of King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, an absolutely critical story. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin. And as we wrap up the show, I want to let listeners know what is to come on Democracy Now!

ORONTO DOUGLAS: Chevron, just like Shell, uses the military to protect its oil activities.

STEVE LAUTERBACH: The policy for all embassies overseas to support American companies and their operations abroad and to, as far as possible, promote American exports.

ORONTO DOUGLAS: They drill. And they kill.

AMY GOODMAN: Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship.

JEREMY SCAHILL: An investigative report, next week on Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN: And we will also be going online to talk directly with you after that exposé, Drilling and Killing: Chevron and Nigeria’s Oil Dictatorship. Well, that does it for this week. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can call the Pacific Archives at 1-800-735-0230. That’s 1-800-735-0230. Democracy Now! is produced by Jeremy Scahill and María Carrión. Our technical director, Errol Maitland. Special thanks to Samori Marksman, executive producer Julie Drizin. Our email address is democracy@pacifica.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for listening to another edition of Pacifica Radio’s Democracy Now! here on WBAI in New York.

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