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The Congo

The Congo. Background Information for Reading The Poisonwood Bible. Quick Overview. What you should know: Geography- Including location, natural resources and natural features of the area Pre-Colonial History- Life before Europe’s takeover

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The Congo

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  1. The Congo Background Information for Reading The Poisonwood Bible

  2. Quick Overview What you should know: • Geography- Including location, natural resources and natural features of the area • Pre-Colonial History- Life before Europe’s takeover • The Congo Free State- What King Leopold and his agents did to make his personal colony profitable • Human Rights Movement- How a backlash against Leopold’s methods helped the Congo became a colony of Belgium • Missionaries- The role and background philosophy of missionaries in the Congo • Independence- Congo’s transition from Belgian colony to troubled independent nation

  3. The main geographic feature is the Congo River Fifth longest river in the world 1. Geography

  4. Geography • The river was of vital interest to European powers because it and its tributaries represented a 7,000 mile series of connected waterways, a highway to the African interior • Two of the tributaries are longer than any river in Europe

  5. Geography Congo River Village

  6. 2. Pre-Colonial Congo Ne Vunda, Kongolese ambassador to the Vatican, 1608 The Kingdom of the Congo (Kongo) • According to Portuguese explorers the kingdom was a sophisticated and well run state, an imperial federation • Known for advanced working in copper and iron

  7. Pre-Colonial Congo Slavery • Slavery was part of the culture of the Congo. • Originally slaves were captured during warfare, were criminals, or were debtors who could earn back their freedom • Eventually, Muslim slave traders began to sell their slaves to European traders for export to the Americas.

  8. 3. The Congo Free State Leopold II (1835-1909), king of Belgium from 1865 to 1909, infamous founder of the Congo Free State

  9. The Congo Free State • The ability to use the river to gain access to the ivory and rubber rich interior made the Congo a coveted area for colonization. • As European nations negotiated and agreed to respect each others’ claims to African territory, Leopold made his claim for the Congo. The Berlin Conference, 1884-1885

  10. The Congo Free State • Leopold sent the famous explorer of Africa, Henry Morton Stanley, to negotiate treaties with the natives. • Native chiefs were offered trinkets or cloth if they would place an X on a document in foreign tongue.

  11. The Congo Free State • These treaties, along with Leopold’s assurances that his goal was to end the practice of slavery, and a promise that the Congo would remain a free trade area, led the European countries to recognize Leopold’s claim to the territory in 1885. (The United States was the first country to recognize the claim) • The colony belonged not to Belgium, but to Leopold personally, making him the only individual to ever colonize a country.

  12. The Congo Free State :“The Profit Imperative” • For the first few years of Leopold’s rule his colony did not turn a profit. • Soon the idea of free trade went out the window. The natives could only trade with Leopold’s representatives, with 50% of the profits going to Leopold himself. • In order to up the profits it became necessary to make use of cheap labor (gathering rubber is very labor intensive.)

  13. The Congo Free State :“The Profit Imperative” • Leopold drove the slave traders out of the country, which he portrayed as a great humanitarian act. In reality, however, he did it to gain control of the region. • He then paid his ‘agents’ in the country a percentage of the profits, encouraging them to make the trade more and more profitable. • He also authorized the use of as much force as was deemed necessary.

  14. The Congo Free State • Agents ‘encouraged’ young men to work by holding their wives and children captive until each man’s quota was met. • Many who resisted were killed on the spot. • Others were beaten with cruel whips called chicotte, made from dried hippo hide with sharp edges. • 20 lashes resulted in unconsciousness • 100 lashes resulted in death.

  15. The Congo Free State • Soon a revolt broke out due to the cruel conditions and slave labor. • Leopold sent his troops into the villages to exterminate the young men. • To make sure bullets weren’t wasted the soldiers were expected to return with the severed right hands of those they killed.

  16. The Congo Free State • Often, however, the soldiers could not meet quotas, or had to justify bullets spent on hunting, and so would cut the hands off of living women and children. • During the years from 1895-1908 it is estimated that 8-10 million people died due to murder, mistreatment and starvation.

  17. 4. The Human Rights Movement • American Historian • He attended a major antislavery conference in Brussels in 1889. Belgium then sent him to Congo to study conditions there. • The country's abysmal poverty so distressed him that he wrote An Open Letter to His Serene Majesty, Leopold II, King of Belgium. This was the first public critique of King Leopold for his savage oppression of the Congo. George Washington Williams

  18. The Human Rights Movement • Edmund Morel- worked as a shipping clerk. He noticed that while a fortune in rubber and ivory was being exported, the only imports were guns and bullets. • Morel and a British diplomat named Sir Roger Casement set up the Congo Reform Association.

  19. The Human Rights Movement • Mark Twain- American Writer and Celebrity • Wrote “King Leopold's Soliloquy,” a satirical critique of Leopold and his treatment of the Congo. • Met with president Theodore Roosevelt several times to express his concerns over the treatment of the Congolese people • Accompanied Morel on a speaking tour, where he harshly criticized Leopold’s rule.

  20. The Human Rights Movement • Public pressure forced Leopold to sell the Congo Free State to the Belgian government. It became The Belgian Congo in 1908 • The Belgian Government ended the worst of the atrocities, but still controlled the fate of the African natives “For their own good.” • The African natives were never consulted about their future

  21. The Human Rights Movement:Unresolved Question: Why did public opinion only turn against Leopold? Why not other colonies? • Many natives fled the Congo free state into the bordering French Congo, only to find the conditions worse. • The German colonies were also worse, with up to 50% native causality rate, and a standing extermination order (genocide) for the native population. • At this time the British were committing similar atrocities in India. • The U.S. at this time was in the process of quelling rebellion in the Philippines with similarly brutal methods, and was in the midst of its campaign resettle the Native Americans, causing innumerable deaths.

  22. The Human Rights Movement:Unresolved Question Maybe… • Leopold failed to open the Congo's markets as promised. Would the world have protested if they too were profiting? • The movement against Leopold coincided with the crash of the rubber market. Could it be it was easy to protest atrocities when they weren’t profitable? • Because Leopold was an individual, not a state? • The sheer size of the Congo made the problem more obvious?

  23. 5. Missionaries Belgium encouraged missionary work in order to "civilize and Christianize" the African peoples. Missionaries converted Africans to Christianity and also built schools that became the primary source of formal education available to Africans, especially at the secondary and higher levels. Many of the missionary school graduates subsequently became teachers or employees at other mission-run enterprises

  24. Missionaries • Missionaries, like the Price family in The Poisonwood Bible, traveled to non-Christian areas in order to convert locals to the Christian faith. • This was based on the belief that those who do not convert will spend their eternal afterlife in Hell. • “Church planting is not easy. The missionary labors in an alien culture, controlled by Satan, whose government and citizens often are not friendly to the Gospel. “ - baptistworldmission.org

  25. Missionaries • Biblical authority for missions begins quite early in Genesis, 12:1-3, in which Abraham is blessed so that through him and his descendants, all the "peoples" of the world would be blessed. Others point to God's wish, often expressed in the Bible, that all peoples of the earth would worship Him. • The first, and most famous missionary was St. Paul. He contextualized the Gospel for the Greek and Roman cultures, permitting it to leave its Hebrew and Jewish context. This cultural fluidity was then, as it is now, a source of friction between he and some members of the sending church. In such contextualization, the object is to take the essential seed of the Gospel, and plant it in the soil of the foreign culture, so that every practice not essential to the gospel is indigenous. • As you read, consider how well, if at all, Nathan Price contextualizes his beliefs, and his level of ‘cultural fluidity.’

  26. 6. Independence • In 1959, riots broke out. The Congolese, led by those educated in mission schools, demanded independence. • In May 1960 the first national elections were held in the Belgian Congo. Joseph Kasavubu was named president and Patrice Lumumba was named prime minister. On June 30, 1960, King Baudouin I of Belgium declared the Republic of Congo independent. Kasavubu Lumumba

  27. Independence • Chaos broke out almost immediately. Violence ensued between Belgians and Congolese as well as between Congolese ethnic groups, fighting over animosities fostered during colonialism. • In July, Katanga, the mineral rich southern province, seceded from the Congo. This was secretly backed by the Belgian government and a Belgian Mining Company. In August, South Kasai also declared independence. • In order to ensure the safety of Belgian citizens, Belgium sent troops into the Congo. Many Congolese saw this as Belgium’s attempt to return to power there.

  28. Independence:Lumumba- An Enemy of the West? • At Prime Minister Lumumba’s request, the U.N. deployed a force of mainly African soldiers to the Congo to stabilize the area and oversee Belgium’s withdrawal. They were unable to move the Belgian forces out. • Increasingly frustrated with western powers’ lack of help, Lumumba asked the Soviet Union for assistance. • This angered the American government, and the CIA especially. • CIA chief Allan Dulles warned of a “communist takeover of the Congo,” and President Eisenhower claimed Lumumba was “dangerous to the peace and safety of the world.” • The CIA worked actively in the Congo to ensure a “pro-western government.”

  29. Independence:The Rise of Mobutu • Lumumba's actions angered President Kasavubu, who fired Lumumba- a move of questionable legality. • Almost immediately, a coup led by Col. Joseph Mobutu took place, and Lumumba was arrested. • In 1961, the imprisoned Lumumba died under mysterious circumstances. He was beaten several times, and then transferred to the southern province of Katanga, where he was beaten again and killed by firing squad. • In 2002, the Belgian government was proven to have been involved in Lumumba’s death. • Mobutu returned power to President Kasavubu, and became head of the military. In 1965, however, he seized power again. He would rule for over thirty years.

  30. Independence:Zaire: Authenticity and Kleptocracy • Mobutu developed an ideology called Authenticité, which demanded a return to more authentic African traditions. He changed his name from Joseph Mobutu to Mobutu SeseSeko, renamed the Congo Zaire, and demanded citizens stop using western names or clothing. • His government is often referred to as a kleptocracy, or rule of thieves. In 1984, his personal fortune was estimated at almost four billion dollars, nearly the same amount as Zaire’s debt. • Despite his infamous corruption and brutality, the anti- communist Mobutu received generous financial and military support from Western powers, especially France and the United States. Western banks were equally eager to help Mobutu realize his elaborate development plans, such as the Inga dam, which was projected to generate one-third of the world's hydroelectricity. The dam and many other projects failed, as Mobutu and his friends pocketed the funds.

  31. Independence:Mobutu Overthrown • As the cold war ended, western nations began to demand more accountability from the Mobutu government. Eventually, he was forced to share power and allow multiple political parties. • In 1994, Mobutu showed open support for the Hutu genocide of Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda. In 1996, he ordered all Tutsis to leave Zaire or face death. • This prompted rebellion and Rwandan-backed Zairean Tutsis, along with other anti-Mobutu groups, took over the country. • Mobutu fled to Morocco, where he died of prostate cancer in 1997.

  32. IndependenceCurrently the Democratic Republic of Congo • Today, theD.R.O.C. is rich in copper, diamonds, oil, and uranium • Like many African nations, these natural resources have done little to help the impoverished Congolese. • The country has been plagued by civil war and conflict between different ethnic groups and militias. Approximately 3 million have died since 1998. • On a more positive note, on June 30, 2006, Congo had its first free presidential elections in 45 years. Elections took place again in 2011, but the authenticity of the results has been challenged.

  33. Homework Paragraph • The title of this unit is “Identity.” Using your new knowledge of the Congo, choose three events from the PowerPoint and in a 7-10 sentence paragraph, explain what effect each of these events might have on developing the identity of the Congolese people.

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