Leopold II’s rule over the Congo was a horror story with a body count on par with Hitler’s, so why haven’t more people heard of him?
King Leopold II ran a personal empire so vast and cruel, it rivaled – and even exceeded – the crimes of even the worst 20th century dictators.
This empire was known as the Congo Free State and Leopold II stood as its undisputed slave master. For almost 30 years, rather than being a regular colony of a European government, Congo was administered as the private property of leopold II for his personal enrichment.
Leopold II was a very cruel person, he ordered for people to be killed without any apparent reason and used brutal means of punishment which included chopping off the limbs of the slaves and their young children. He mercilessly exploited the natural resources of Congo and amassed a massive personal fortune.
He was the second son of the Belgian monarch, Leopold I. Despite being the second son Leopold II was the heir to his father’s throne from the time of his birth as his elder brother had died prior to his birth. He became king after his father died.
From the very beginning he envisioned making Belgium a strong and prosperous nation and started implementing several reforms in the country to achieve this objective.
He also decided to acquire African colonies and solicited the help of the famous explorer Henry Stanley to explore and establish a colony in the Congo region.
Soon the Congo Free State was established under his rule. He brutally exploited the region and unleashed unspeakable terror on the natives during his reign.
There was a rapidly increasing global demand for rubber and Leopold wanted to make the most of it. The collection of sap from the rubber plants was a labor intensive process, and in order to increase the rubber production, Leopold’s army started using the Congo natives.
The enslaved Africans were made to work under the harshest conditions and were given impossible high targets to achieve.
Leopold’s army even held the women hostage, while forcing the men to work, and often resorted to cutting off the limbs of the workers who did not meet their set target.
Terror was unleashed in Congo during his reign which resulted in the deaths of 10 -15 million Congolese Natives..
Eventually the stories of his atrocities drew the attention of the world and International Pressure began to mount on him to Relinquish control over Congo.
Finally in 1908, the Congo Free State was transformed into a Belgian Colony known as the “Belgian Congo” under the parliamentary Control..