1885 – The Congo Free State is established by King Léopold II of Belgium

The Congo Free State was founded by King Leopold II, basically transforming the entirety of this territory (encompassing all the land now claimed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo) into one huge raw material extraction area.

This being the 1880’s in colonial Africa, the extraction was performed by native slave labour under the aegis of the Association internationale africaine – a company of which Leopold was both the chairman and the sole shareholder. For 23 years, it was a private fief of the King, and the site of terrifying cruelties and deaths so numerous that they could reasonably be considered a genocide.

With the end of Leopold’s rule in 1908, the territory became known as Belgian Congo, a colonial territory held by the Belgian government until 1960. Humanitarian policies gradually gained in importance over the five decades of Belgian rule, although the rule of the Belgians remained exploitative and frequently brutal.

Referenced in:

Short Memory — Midnight Oil