Colonialism & Imperialism in the Congo
Before delving into a discussion of the impact of colonialism and imperialism on the Congo, it is best to define the terms in order to understand the difference between them. Imperialism is the ôpractice by which nations or peoples seek to extend and maintain control or influence over weaker nations or peoplesö (Imperialism 1996). In contrast, even though imperialism is often used interchangeably with colonialism, there is a distinct difference between the two. Colonialism is that state that exists when a ôterritory, inhabited or not, acquired by conquest or settlement by a people or government previously alien to that territory; and, imposed foreign rule upon such a territoryö (Colonies 1996). The Congo has long been subjected to both colonialism and imperialism. However, because of the policies of King Leopold of Belgium, perhaps they have suffered through one of the most atrocious colonial regimes in modern record.
A decade after Anglo-African explorer Henry Stanley asked the question, Dr. Livingston I presume?, a series of conferences held in Berlin witnessed the division of Africa to European powers. StanleyÆs discovery of a route that could be navigated created what Hochschild (1999) refers to as a furor to exploit the riches of Africa: ôNow based in London, Stanley could hear around him the first rumblings of what would before long become known as the Scramble for Africaö (26). Leopold II, the King of the Belgians, had paid for Stanley to construct roads and river communications in the Congo, so the Congo became under his control. What happened over the next few decades represents one of the most heinous forms of brutality and exploitation of a native people in the pursuit of profits.
King Leopold II would own the Congo Free State from 1885-1908. During that time there was no attempt, not even a superficial one, to enact policy that portended to develop the regi...