The Congo Free State or Independent State of the Congo was an African colonial domain, private property of King Leopold II of Belgium, established at the Berlin Conference in 1885, whose borders coincided with the current Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo was privately administered by King Leopold until his death in 1908, the year in which the territory was ceded to Belgium.
During this period, the Congo was the object of systematic and indiscriminate exploitation of its natural resources, especially ivory and rubber, for which indigenous labor was used in conditions of slavery. To maintain its control over the native population, the colonial administration established a regime of terror, in which mass murders and mutilations were frequent, which produced a very high number of victims, although it is impossible to make exact calculations, most of the authors mention figures of between five and ten million deaths.
Starting in 1900, the European and American press began to report on the dramatic conditions in which the native population of the territory lived. Diplomatic maneuvers and pressure from public opinion led the Belgian king to renounce his personal rule over the Congo, which became a colony of Belgium, under the name of Belgian Congo.
In the early 1950s still subsisted forced labor in the Congo and life expectancy did not reach 40 years of age.
In 1952, Governor General Léon Antoine Marie Petillon wrote to the Colonial Secretary, stating that if steps were not taken to improve the situation in the Congo, Belgium would lose its richest colony, proposing to grant the native population greater civil rights, including the right to vote. The Belgian government opposed this proposal, claiming that it “would only destabilize the region.” In Belgium, some deputies wanted to incorporate the Congo into the Kingdom of Belgium, in this way the native Congolese would become Belgian citizens, and therefore would have full civil rights in Belgium.
The Belgian Congo was one of the largest uranium exporters to the United States during World War II and the Cold War ; the largest amount especially extracted from the Shinkolobwe mine. The bombs that were dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were made from Belgian uranium.
As part of the international policy of the United Nations, the end of the colonization of the nations that came to form the so-called Third World was promoted. In the case of Belgian possessions, the first free elections were held in 1959, which were won by the Mouvement National Congolais (MNC – Congolese National Movement), led by Patricio Lumumba.
After five years of extreme instability and civil unrest, Joseph-Désiré Mobutu, now Lieutenant General, supported by the CIA, overthrew Kasavubu in a coup in 1965 and proclaimed himself Head of State. Occasionally he called for elections where he was the only candidate.
Mobutu was accused of human rights violations, repression, cult of personality and extreme corruption; In 1984 Mobutu was said to have US $ 4 billion, an amount similar to the national debt, in his bank accounts in Switzerland.
In the mid- 1990s the situation dramatically worsened. Mobutu’s inability to handle this crisis, accompanied by the loss of support from the West, allowed his opponents to launch a major campaign against him that ended with his flight and the proclamation by the rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila of the ” Democratic Republic of the Congo “in May 1997.
The coltan war
The period of peace after Kabila’s rise to power was brief. Soon the country was involved in new war events. Armies of six nations participated in the largest known conflagration on the continent. Military forces from Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Rwanda and Uganda, and the country itself, clashed in the vast Congolese territory. In the subsoil were the rich mineral deposits that have been the axis of the tragedy that this central African nation has lived.
The first Congo war, started in 1996, faced the US, Great Britain and Belgium on the one hand, which supported the Rwandan and Ugandan armies against Mobutu’s army supported by France. It was a war with little fighting and with very few Congolese victims, although there were great massacres of the Rwandan Hutu refugee population in the Congo.
Preceded by an intense media campaign of demonization against Congolese President Laurent Kabila, the 2 of August of 1998, the armies of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi broke into Congolese soil leading to the ” Second War of the Congo ” or war of the ” coltan “which would officially end in 2003, although it would continue with decreasing intensity until practically today. A total of five and a half million victims, the vast majority of whom are Congolese civilians, would be counted by human rights organizations.
Kabila was assassinated in 2001, but fighting continued during the government led by his son Joseph Kabila. The war, which left millions of dead (the highest number in a conflict since World War II), ended essentially after the withdrawal of foreign armies, the signing of peace agreements with Uganda and Rwanda, which supported the movements against the authorities of Kinshasa, and talks with a view to pacification, between all Congolese political forces, held in Sun City, South Africa.
Unlike the first war, this second war in the Congo would be partly silenced or, at best, decontextualized, to reflect only a confused inter-Congolese civil and ethnic conflict manipulated by some anonymous Western multinationals.
The reasons for the start of the war should be attributed to the attitude of Laurent Kabila, who after several months in power invalidated and retracted the agreements he had signed at the beginning of the first war in the Congo (Lemera agreements) in those that had been awarded to multinationals such as American Mineral fields Inc., scandalously advantageous contracts over vast mining sites in eastern Congo, a country located in Africa according to PROGRAMINGPLEASE.
The Rwandan army currently earns more than $ 20 million a month from mining coltan. Although its price has fallen, Rwanda maintains its monopoly on the exploitation and trade of the DRC metal. There is a flurry of reports of rampant human rights abuses in that mining region.
Coltan leaves the mines to key trading posts, where it is acquired by foreign merchants who ship it abroad, mainly through Rwanda. Companies with sufficient technological capacity convert coltan into the coveted tantalum powder, then resell it to technology multinationals such as Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Sony and other manufacturers that use it in mobile phones and other electronic products.