Leopold II was a famous colonial leader of Belgium. Under the guise of his Congo Free State nearly 15 million Congolese were enslaved and killed. To improve life of inhabitants of the Congo, the territory was granted to him by other European powers. However, he exploited the Congo Free State brutally and committed history’s worst atrocities and used them for his personal gain instead while he reigned as second King of the Belgians from the year 1865 to 1909.
King Leopold II was born on 9th April 1835 in Brussels Belgium. He died on 17th December 1909 in Laeken, City of Brussels, Belgium.
- Rise to Power
The first heir to the Belgium throne was King Leopold II. King Leopold I his father was the King before him. The first king of Belgium was Leopold I and in 1865, the next king appointed was Leopold II. Ruling two countries was Leopold II’s dream once he became the King. Accordingly he sent Henry Mortin Stanley his explorer for an expedition to the Congo who reported back to Leopold II and briefed him about the rich resources of the Congo. Belgium troops in huge numbers were sent by Leopold II for conquering the Congo. Congo natives in millions were killed and the Congo was stripped of all its resources in the aftermath of the invasion. Leopold was the founder of the International African Association.
Leopold II a believer of colonialism was responsible for millions of deaths in the Congo. He forced Congo people into labor plants and enslaved them. He was always scheming to acquire colonies overseas which he thought was essential to a great country. However he went into the business himself, as Belgium didn’t take interest. By starting a company named International African Society, he traveled to Congo, and laid a claim for a land plot 14 times the size of Belgium. Once he got 14 countries to agree to this he use his own private militia to freely rule the Congo. He grievously abused workers, created a bustling rubber industry and forced indigenous populations of Congo into forced labor.
- End of Regime
Leopold II was not popular with his people in the Congo. He exploited rich natural resources of the Congo, after becoming its ruler. He took keen interest in the profitable ivory and rubber businesses for which he brutally exploited the natives and made them work in harshest conditions. If targets were not met by the workers, their limbs were cut off. Natives in millions died during his unspeakable terror reign. The outside world became aware of his atrocities, mounted international pressure on him after which his control over the Congo relinquished.
7.Short Term Impact
Leopold II desired to bring modernity and civilization to Africans but in many ways the results were devastating. People lost their land, were killed in huge numbers and they their previous identities had little regard in the process of a new nation being created.
- Long Term Impact
The Congo Free State was finally transformed in Belgium Congo, a Belgian Colony under the parliamentary control. Long term effects of imperialism are faced by Congo today. Many citizens live as farmers in the poor economy. Violence in the Congo created disadvantage to the poor, affected the agricultural industry and unleashed many conflicts. People of the Congo remain affected by imperialism.
Leopold II made reputation as a philanthropist.
To build his personal fortune and extract raw materials he tortured people and used slave labor.