Former place names in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
This is a list of place names of towns and cities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo which were subsequently changed after the end of Belgian colonial rule. Place names of the colonial era tended to have two versions, one in French and one in Dutch, reflecting the two main languages of Belgium. Many of these place names were chosen after local geography or eponymous colonial figures. Many of the place name changes occurred under the authenticité programme in the 1970s during the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko. Mobutu changed the country's name from Congo to Zaire. Today, European speakers of both Dutch use the modern Congolese place names. Authenticité Belgian colonial empire Mount Stanley
History of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The region, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo was first settled about 80,000 years ago. The Kingdom of Congo remained present in the region between the early 19th centuries. Belgian colonization began when King Leopold II founded the Congo Free State, a corporate state run by King Leopold. Reports of widespread murder and torture in the rubber plantations led the Belgian government to seize the Congo from Leopold II and establish the Belgian Congo. Under Belgian rule numerous Christian organizations attempted to Westernize the Congolese people. After an uprising by the Congolese people, Belgium surrendered to the independence of the Congo in 1960. However, the Congo remained unstable because tribal leaders had more power than the central government. Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba tried to restore order with the aid of the Soviet Union as part of the Cold War, causing the United States to support a coup led by Colonel Joseph Mobutu in 1965. Mobutu seized complete power of the Congo and renamed the country Zaire.
He sought to Africanize the country, changing his own name to Mobutu Sese Seko, demanded that African citizens change their Western names to traditional African names. Mobutu sought to repress any opposition to his rule, which he did throughout the 1980s. However, with his regime weakened in the 1990s, Mobutu was forced to agree to a power-sharing government with the opposition party. Mobutu remained the head of state and promised elections within the next two years that never took place. In the First Congo War, Rwanda invaded Zaire. Laurent-Desire Kabila renamed the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After a disappointing rule under Kabila, the Second Congo War broke out, resulting in a regional war in which different African nations took part. Kabila was assassinated by his bodyguard in 2001, his son, succeeded him and was elected president by the Congolese government in 2006. Kabila sought peace. Foreign soldiers remained in the Congo for a few years and a power-sharing government between Kabila and the opposition party was set up.
Kabila resumed complete control over the Congo and was re-elected in a disputed election in 2011. Today, the Congo remains dangerously unstable; the area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 80,000 years ago, as shown by the 1988 discovery of the Semliki harpoon at Katanda, one of the oldest barbed harpoons found, believed to have been used to catch giant river catfish. During its recorded history, the area has been known as Congo, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Zaire; the Kingdom of Kongo existed from the 14th to the early 19th century. Until the arrival of the Portuguese it was the dominant force in the region along with the Kingdom of Luba, the Kingdom of Lunda, the Mongo people and the Anziku Kingdom; the Congo Free State was a corporate state controlled by Leopold II of Belgium through the Association internationale africaine, a non-governmental organization. Leopold was chairman; the state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Under Leopold II, the Congo Free State became one of the most infamous international scandals of the turn of the twentieth century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials, responsible for cold-blooded killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1900, including a Belgian national who caused the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives. Estimates of the total death toll vary considerably; the first census was only done in 1924, so it is more difficult to quantify the population loss of the period. Roger Casement's famous 1904 report estimated ten million people. According to Casement's report, indiscriminate "war", reduction of births and tropical diseases caused the country's depopulation. European and U. S. press agencies exposed the conditions in the Congo Free State to the public in 1900. By 1908 public and diplomatic pressure had led Leopold II to annex the Congo as the Belgian Congo colony. On 15 November 1908 King Leopold II of Belgium formally relinquished personal control of the Congo Free State.
The renamed Belgian Congo was put under the direct administration of the Belgian government and its Ministry of Colonies. Belgian rule in the Congo was based around the "colonial trinity" of state and private company interests; the privileging of Belgian commercial interests meant that large amounts of capital flowed into the Congo and that individual regions became specialised. The interests of the government and private enterprise became tied; the country was split into nesting, hierarchically organised administrative subdivisions, run uniformly according to a set "native policy" —in contrast to the British and the French, who favoured the system of indirect rule whereby traditional leaders were retained in positions of authority under colonial oversight. There was a high degree of racial segregation. Large numbers of white immigrants who moved to the Congo after the end of World War II came from across the social spectrum, but were nonetheless always treated as superior to blacks. During the 1940s and 1950s, the Congo experienced an unprecedented level of urbanisation and the colonial administration began various development programmes aimed at making the territory into a "model colony".
Notable advances were made in treating diseases such as African trypanosomiasis. One of the results of these measures was the development of a new middle class of Europe
Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the state organisation responsible for defending the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The FARDC was rebuilt patchily as part of the peace process which followed the end of the Second Congo War in July 2003; the majority of FARDC members are land forces, but it has a small air force and an smaller navy. In 2010 -- 11 the three services may have numbered between 159,000 personnel. In addition, there is a presidential force called the Republican Guard, but it and the Congolese National Police are not part of the Armed Forces; the government in the capital city Kinshasa, the United Nations, the European Union, bilateral partners which include Angola, South Africa, Belgium are attempting to create a viable force with the ability to provide the Democratic Republic of Congo with stability and security. However, this process is being hampered by corruption, inadequate donor coordination, competition between donors; the various military units now grouped under the FARDC banner are some of the most unstable in Africa after years of war and underfunding.
To assist the new government, since February 2000 the United Nations has had the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has a strength of over 16,000 peacekeepers in the country. Its principal tasks are to provide security in key areas, such as the South Kivu and North Kivu in the east, to assist the government in reconstruction. Foreign rebel groups are in the Congo, as they have been for most of the last half-century; the most important is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, against which Laurent Nkunda's troops were fighting, but other smaller groups such as the anti-Ugandan Lord's Resistance Army are present. The legal standing of the FARDC was laid down in the Transitional Constitution, articles 118 and 188; this was superseded by provisions in the 2006 Constitution, articles 187 to 192. Law 04/023 of 12 November 2004 establishes the General Organisation of the Armed Forces. In mid-2010, the Congolese Parliament was debating a new defence law, provisionally designated Organic Law 130.
The first organised Congolese troops, known as the Force Publique, were created in 1888 when King Leopold II of Belgium, who held the Congo Free State as his private property, ordered his Secretary of the Interior to create military and police forces for the state. In 1908, under international pressure, Leopold ceded administration of the colony to the government of Belgium as the Belgian Congo, it remained under the command of a Belgian officer corps through to the independence of the colony in 1960. The Force Publique saw combat in Cameroun, invaded and conquered areas of German East Africa, notably present day Rwanda, during World War I. Elements of the Force Publique were used to form Belgian colonial units that fought in the East African Campaign during World War II. At independence on 30 June 1960, the army suffered from a dramatic deficit of trained leaders in the officer corps; this was because the Force Publique had always only been officered by Belgian or other expatriate whites. The Belgian Government made no effort to train Congolese commissioned officers until the end of the colonial period, in 1958, only 23 African cadets had been admitted to the military secondary school.
The highest rank available to Congolese was adjutant, which only four soldiers achieved before independence. Though 14 Congolese cadets were enrolled in the Royal Military Academy in Brussels in May, they were not scheduled to graduate as second lieutenants until 1963. Ill-advised actions by Belgian officers led to an enlisted ranks' rebellion on 5 July 1960, which helped spark the Congo Crisis. Lieutenant General Émile Janssens, the Force Publique commander, wrote during a meeting of soldiers that'Before independence=After Independence', pouring cold water on the soldiers' desires for an immediate raise in their status. Vanderstraeten says that on the morning of 8 July 1960, following a night during which all control had been lost over the soldiers, numerous ministers arrived at Camp Leopold with the aim of calming the situation. Both Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu arrived, the soldiers listened to Kasa-Vubu "religiously." After his speech, Kasa-Vubu and the ministers present retired into the camp canteen to hear a delegation from the soldiers.
Vanderstraeten says that, according to Joseph Ileo, their demands included the following: that the defence portfolio not be given to the Prime Minister that the name Force Publique be changed to Armée Nationale Congolaise and that the commander-in-chief and chief of staff should not be BelgiansThe "laborious" discussions which followed were retrospectively given the label of an "extraordinary ministerial council." Gérald-Libois writes that'..the special meeting of the council of ministers took steps for the immediate Africanisation of the officer corps and named Victor Lundula, born in Kasai and was burgomaster of Jadotville, as Commander-in-Chief of the ANC. Thus General Janssens was dismissed. Both Lundula and Mobutu were former sergeants of the Force Publique. On 8–9 July 1960, the soldiers were invited to appoint black officers, and'command of the army passed securely into the hands of former sergeants,' as the soldiers in general chose the most-educated and highest-ranked Congolese army soldiers as their new officers.
Most of the Belgian officers were retained as advisors to the new Congolese hier
The Belgian Congo was a Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960. The former colony adopted its present-day name, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in 1964. Colonial rule in the Congo began in the late 19th century. King Leopold II of Belgium attempted to persuade the Belgian government to support colonial expansion around the then-largely unexplored Congo Basin, their ambivalence resulted in Leopold's establishing a colony himself. With support from a number of Western countries, Leopold achieved international recognition for a personal colony, the Congo Free State, in 1885. By the turn of the century, the violence used by Free State officials against indigenous Congolese and a ruthless system of economic exploitation led to intense diplomatic pressure on Belgium to take official control of the country, which it did by creating the Belgian Congo in 1908. Belgian rule in the Congo was based on the "colonial trinity" of state and private-company interests; the privileging of Belgian commercial interests meant that large amounts of capital flowed into the Congo and that individual regions became specialised.
On many occasions, the interests of the government and of private enterprise became linked, the state helped companies to break strikes and to remove other barriers raised by the indigenous population. The colony was divided into hierarchically organised administrative subdivisions, run uniformly according to a set "native policy"; this contrasted the practice of British and French colonial policy, which favoured systems of indirect rule, retaining traditional leaders in positions of authority under colonial oversight. During the 1940s and 1950s the Belgian Congo experienced extensive urbanisation, the colonial administration began various development programmes aimed at making the territory into a "model colony". One result saw the development of a new middle-class of Europeanised African "évolués" in the cities. By the 1950s the Congo had a wage labour force twice as large as that in any other African colony. In 1960, as the result of a widespread and radical pro-independence movement, the Congo achieved independence, becoming the Republic of Congo-Léopoldville under Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba and President Joseph Kasa-Vubu.
Poor relations between political factions within the Congo, the continued involvement of Belgium in Congolese affairs, the intervention by major parties during the Cold War led to a five-year-long period of war and political instability, known as the Congo Crisis, from 1960 to 1965. This ended with the seizure of power by Joseph-Désiré Mobutu in November 1965; until the part of the 19th century, few Europeans had ventured into the Congo basin. The rainforest and accompanying malaria and other tropical diseases, such as sleeping sickness, made it a difficult environment for European exploration and exploitation. In 1876, King Leopold II of Belgium organized the International African Association with the cooperation of the leading African explorers and the support of several European governments for the promotion of African exploration and colonization. After Henry Morton Stanley had explored the region in a journey that ended in 1878, Leopold courted the explorer and hired him to help his interests in the region.
Leopold II had been keen to acquire a colony for Belgium before he ascended to the throne in 1865. The Belgian civil government showed little interest in its monarch's dreams of empire-building. Ambitious and stubborn, Leopold decided to pursue the matter on his own account. European rivalry in Central Africa led to diplomatic tensions, in particular with regard to the unclaimed Congo River basin. In November 1884 Otto von Bismarck convened a 14-nation conference to find a peaceful resolution to the Congo crisis. Though the Berlin Conference did not formally approve the territorial claims of the European powers in Central Africa, it did agree on a set of rules to ensure a conflict-free partitioning of the region; the rules recognised the Congo basin as a free-trade zone. But Leopold II emerged triumphant from the Berlin Conference and his single-shareholder "philanthropic" organization received a large share of territory to be organized as the Congo Free State; the Congo Free State operated as a corporate state controlled by Leopold II through a non-governmental organization, the Association Internationale Africaine.
The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo and existed from 1885 to 1908, when the government of Belgium reluctantly annexed the area. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became a humanitarian disaster; the lack of accurate records makes it difficult to quantify the number of deaths caused by the ruthless exploitation and the lack of immunity to new diseases introduced by contact with European colonists – like the 1889–90 flu pandemic, which caused millions of deaths on the European continent, including Prince Baudouin of Belgium, who succumbed to the deadly virus in 1891. William Rubinstein wrote: "More it appears certain that the population figures given by Hochschild are inaccurate. There is, of course, no way of ascertaining the population of the Congo before the twentieth century, estimates like 20 million are purely guesses. Most of the interior of the Congo was unexplored if not inaccessible." Leopold's Force Publique, a private army that terrorized natives to work as forced labour for resource extraction, disrupted their societies and killed and abused natives indiscrimina
Economy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Sparsely populated in relation to its area, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is home to a vast potential of natural resources and mineral wealth. Despite this, the economy has declined drastically since the mid-1980s. At the time of its independence in 1960, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was the second most industrialized country in Africa after South Africa, it boasted a thriving mining sector and its agriculture sector was productive. Since corruption and political instability have been a severe detriment to further growth, today leaving DRC with a GDP per capita among the world's lowest. Despite this the DRC is modernizing having tied with Malaysia for the largest positive change in HDI development in 2016, and projects which include strengthening the health system for maternal and child health, expansion of electricity access, water supply reconstructions, urban and social rehabilitation programs. The two recent conflicts, which began in 1996, have reduced national output and government revenue, have increased external debt, have resulted in deaths of more than five million people from war, associated famine and disease.
Malnutrition affects two thirds of the country's population. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, accounting for 57.9% of GDP in 1997. In 1996, agriculture employed 66% of the work force. Rich in minerals, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has a difficult history of predatory mineral extraction, at the heart of many struggles within the country for many decades, but in the 1990s; the economy of the third largest country in Africa relies on mining. However, much economic activity is not reflected in GDP data. In 2006 Transparency International ranked the Democratic Republic of the Congo 156 out of 163 countries in the Corruption Perception Index, tying Bangladesh and Sudan with a 2.0 rating. President Joseph Kabila established the Commission of Repression of Economic Crimes upon his ascension to power in 2001; the conflicts in the DRC were over water and other resources. Political agendas have worsened the economy, as in times of crisis, the elite benefit while the general populace suffers.
This is worsened as a result of corrupt international corporations. The corporations allow the fighting for resources because they benefit from it. A large proportion of fatalities in the country are attributed to a lack of basic services; the influx of refugees since the war in 1998 only serves to worsen the issue of poverty. Money of the taxpayers in the DRC is misappropriated by the corrupt leaders of the country, who use the money to benefit themselves instead of the citizens of the DRC; the DRC is rated the lowest on the UN Human Development Index. Forced labor was important for the rural sector; the corporations that dominated the economy were owned by Belgium, but British capital played an important role. The 1950s were a period of expectations. Congo was said to have the best public health system in Africa, but there was a huge wealth disparity. Belgian companies favored workers in certain areas more and exported them to work in different areas, restricting opportunities for others. Favored groups received better education and were able to secure jobs for people in the same ethnic group which increased tensions.
In 1960 there were only 16 university graduates out of a population of 20 million. Belgium still had economic independence gave little opportunity for improvement. Common refrains included "no elite, no trouble" and "before independence = after independence"; when the Belgians left, most of the government officials and educated residents left with them. Before independence there were just 3 out of 5000 government jobs held by Congolese people; the resulting loss of institutional knowledge and human capital crippled the government. After the Congo crisis, Mobutu arose as the country's sole ruler and stabilized the country politically. Economically, the situation continued to decline, by 1979, the purchasing power was only 4% of that from 1960. Starting in 1976 the IMF provided stabilizing loans to the dictatorship. Much of the money was embezzled by his circle; this was not a secret as the 1982 report by IMF's envoy Erwin Blumenthal documented. He stated, it is "alarmingly clear that the corruptive system in Zaire with all its wicked and ugly manifestations, its mismanagement and fraud will destroy all endeavors of international institutions, of friendly governments, of the commercial banks towards recovery and rehabilitation of Zaire’s economy".
Blumenthal indicated that there was "no chance" that creditors would recover their loans. Yet the IMF and the World Bank continued to lend money, either embezzled, stolen, or "wasted on elephant projects". "Structural adjustment programmes" implemented as a condition of IMF loans cut support for health care and infrastructure. International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Trust Fund for the Congo. Poor infrastructure, an uncertain legal framework and lack of openness in government economic policy and financial operations remain a brake on investment and growth. A number of International Monetary Fund and World Bank missions have met with the new government to help it develop a coherent economic plan but associated reforms are on hold. Faced with continued currency depreciation, the government resorted to more drastic measures and in January 1999 banned the widespread use of U. S. dollars for all domestic commercial transactions, a position it adjusted. The government has been unable to provide foreign exchange for economic transact
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters are at Broadcasting House in Westminster, it is the world's oldest national broadcasting organisation and the largest broadcaster in the world by number of employees, it employs over 20,950 staff in total. The total number of staff is 35,402 when part-time and fixed-contract staff are included; the BBC is established under a Royal Charter and operates under its Agreement with the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture and Sport. Its work is funded principally by an annual television licence fee, charged to all British households and organisations using any type of equipment to receive or record live television broadcasts and iPlayer catch-up; the fee is set by the British Government, agreed by Parliament, used to fund the BBC's radio, TV, online services covering the nations and regions of the UK. Since 1 April 2014, it has funded the BBC World Service, which broadcasts in 28 languages and provides comprehensive TV, online services in Arabic and Persian.
Around a quarter of BBC revenues come from its commercial arm BBC Studios Ltd, which sells BBC programmes and services internationally and distributes the BBC's international 24-hour English-language news services BBC World News, from BBC.com, provided by BBC Global News Ltd. From its inception, through the Second World War, to the 21st century, the BBC has played a prominent role in British culture, it is known colloquially as "The Beeb", "Auntie", or a combination of both. Britain's first live public broadcast from the Marconi factory in Chelmsford took place in June 1920, it was sponsored by the Daily Mail's Lord Northcliffe and featured the famous Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba. The Melba broadcast caught the people's imagination and marked a turning point in the British public's attitude to radio. However, this public enthusiasm was not shared in official circles where such broadcasts were held to interfere with important military and civil communications. By late 1920, pressure from these quarters and uneasiness among the staff of the licensing authority, the General Post Office, was sufficient to lead to a ban on further Chelmsford broadcasts.
But by 1922, the GPO had received nearly 100 broadcast licence requests and moved to rescind its ban in the wake of a petition by 63 wireless societies with over 3,000 members. Anxious to avoid the same chaotic expansion experienced in the United States, the GPO proposed that it would issue a single broadcasting licence to a company jointly owned by a consortium of leading wireless receiver manufactures, to be known as the British Broadcasting Company Ltd. John Reith, a Scottish Calvinist, was appointed its General Manager in December 1922 a few weeks after the company made its first official broadcast; the company was to be financed by a royalty on the sale of BBC wireless receiving sets from approved domestic manufacturers. To this day, the BBC aims to follow the Reithian directive to "inform and entertain"; the financial arrangements soon proved inadequate. Set sales were disappointing as amateurs made their own receivers and listeners bought rival unlicensed sets. By mid-1923, discussions between the GPO and the BBC had become deadlocked and the Postmaster-General commissioned a review of broadcasting by the Sykes Committee.
The Committee recommended a short term reorganisation of licence fees with improved enforcement in order to address the BBC's immediate financial distress, an increased share of the licence revenue split between it and the GPO. This was to be followed by a simple 10 shillings licence fee with no royalty once the wireless manufactures protection expired; the BBC's broadcasting monopoly was made explicit for the duration of its current broadcast licence, as was the prohibition on advertising. The BBC was banned from presenting news bulletins before 19.00 and was required to source all news from external wire services. Mid-1925 found the future of broadcasting under further consideration, this time by the Crawford committee. By now, the BBC, under Reith's leadership, had forged a consensus favouring a continuation of the unified broadcasting service, but more money was still required to finance rapid expansion. Wireless manufacturers were anxious to exit the loss making consortium with Reith keen that the BBC be seen as a public service rather than a commercial enterprise.
The recommendations of the Crawford Committee were published in March the following year and were still under consideration by the GPO when the 1926 general strike broke out in May. The strike temporarily interrupted newspaper production, with restrictions on news bulletins waived, the BBC became the primary source of news for the duration of the crisis; the crisis placed the BBC in a delicate position. On one hand Reith was acutely aware that the Government might exercise its right to commandeer the BBC at any time as a mouthpiece of the Government if the BBC were to step out of line, but on the other he was anxious to maintain public trust by appearing to be acting independently; the Government was divided on how to handle the BBC but ended up trusting Reith, whose opposition to the strike mirrored the PM's own. Thus the BBC was granted sufficient leeway to pursue the Government's objectives in a manner of its own choosing; the resulting coverage of both striker and government viewpoints impressed millions of listeners who were unaware that the PM had broadcast to the nation from Reith's home, using one of Reith's sound bites inserted at the last moment
Colonization of the Congo
Colonization of the Congo refers to the European colonization of the Congo region of tropical Africa. It was the last part of the continent to be colonized. By the end of the 19th century, the Congo Basin had been carved up by European colonial powers, into the Congo free state, the French Congo and the Portuguese Congo. One by one the other great mysteries had been explored: The coasts by Prince Henry the Navigator's Portuguese sailors in the 15th century; the Blue Nile by James Bruce in 1773. The remote upper Niger by Mungo Park in 1796; the vast Sahara by competitors Laing, Caillié, Clapperton in the 1820s. The fever-ridden mangroves of the lower Niger by the brothers Richard and John Lander in 1830. Southern Africa and the Zambezi by Livingstone and John Clafton in the 1850s; the upper Nile by Burton and Baker in a succession of expeditions between 1857 and 1868. Though the Congo had been one of the first to be attempted, it remained a mystery. Since the 15th century, European explorers had sailed into the broad Congo estuary, planning to fight their way up the falls and rapids that begin only 100 miles inland, travel up the river to its unknown source.
All failed. The rapids and falls, had they known it, extended for 220 miles inland, the terrain close by the river was impassable, remains so to this day. Repeated attempts to travel overland were repulsed with heavy casualties, conflicts with natives, above all, disease saw large and well-equipped expeditions got no further than 40 miles or so past the western-most rapid, the legendary Cauldron of Hell, it was not until 1867 that the Congo was explored by Europeans, then it was not from the sea, but from the other side of the African continent. Setting out from Zanzibar, Henry Morton Stanley, a British-born American journalist and explorer aimed to find the famous Dr. Livingstone. Livingstone had not been heard from in several years and was, in fact, exploring the upper reaches of a great navigable inland river called the Lualaba, which Livingstone hoped was connected to the Nile, but which turned out to be the upper Congo. After leaving Livingstone, Stanley sailed for 1,000 miles down the Lualaba to the large lake he named Stanley Pool.
Rather than perish in the impenetrable country of the cascades, Stanley took a wide detour overland to come within striking distance of the Portuguese trading station at Boma on the Congo estuary. When Stanley returned to Europe in 1878, he had not only found Dr. Livingstone, resolved the last great mystery of African exploration, ruined his health: he had opened the heart of tropical Africa up to the outside world; this was to be his most enduring legacy. Stanley was lionised across Europe, he wrote articles, appeared at public meetings, lobbied the powerful tirelessly. "There are 40,000,000 nude people" on the other side of the rapids, Stanley wrote, "and the cotton-spinners of Manchester are waiting to clothe them... Birmingham's factories are glowing with the red metal that shall presently be made into ironwork in every fashion and shape for them... and the ministers of Christ are zealous to bring them, the poor benighted heathen, into the Christian fold." Europe was less than keen on the idea: the great European scramble for Africa had not yet begun.
Outside of the Cape of Good Hope and the Mediterranean coast, Europe had no African colonies of any significance. The focus of the great powers was still on the lands that had made Europe's fortune: the Americas, the East Indies, India and Australasia. There seemed no economic sense to investing energy in Africa when the returns from other colonies were to be both richer and more immediate. Nor was there a strong humanitarian interest in the continent now that the American slave trade had been extinguished. Stanley was applauded, decorated—and ignored, it is at this point. In Peter Forbath's words, Leopold was:A tall, imposing man... enjoying a reputation for hedonistic sensuality, cunning intelligence, overweening ambition, personal ruthlessness. He was an minor monarch in the realpolitik of the times, ruling a insignificant nation, a nation in fact that had come into existence four decades before and lived under the constant threat of losing its precarious independence to the great European powers around it.
He was a figure who, one might have had every reason to expect, would devote himself to maintaining his country's strict neutrality, avoiding giving offence to any of his powerful neighbours, indulging his keenly developed tastes for the pleasures of the flesh, rather than one who would make a profound impact on history. Yet, in the most astonishing and improbable way imaginable, he managed single-handedly to upset the balance of power in Africa and usher in the terrible age of European colonialism on the black continent; as a constitutional monarch, Leopold was charged with the usual constitutional duties of opening parliaments, greeting diplomats, attending state funerals. He had no power to decide policy, but for over 20 years he had been agitating for Belgium to take its place among the great colonial powers of Europe. Leopold noted, "Our frontiers can never be extended into Europe." However, he added, "since history teaches that colonies are useful, that they play a great part in that which makes up the power and prosperity of states, let us strive to get one in our turn