Segments in this Video

"The Lion is that Fierce Intensity which Recognizes No Authority Except the Highest Truth" (03:14)


The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a vast land full of natural resources, which has motivated greed and violence for a century. Once called Zaire, Mobuto Sese Seko ruled the land and amassed great personal fortune at the country's expense— its citizens are some of the poorest in the world. King Leopold the Second of Belgium created a legacy of greed, violence and oppression.

Belgium "Small Country, Small People" King Leopold II 1862 (01:41)

King Leopold ascended to the throne during the rise of Industrialization and wanted Belgium to create its own colonies as Queen Victoria had. Annick de Ville discusses how he wanted to create cities that rival Paris and London. By 1870, most of the colonies around the world had been established, and only Africa remained viable.

Congo: "That Magnificent African Cake" King Leopold II 1877 (03:45)

King Leopold first became interested in colonizing Africa after reading newspaper articles on Henry Morton Stanley's crossing. During the exploration, his three white companions and over 240 Africans died from disease and exhaustion. Listen to a diary excerpt where Stanley describes destroying villages and towns.

"Ivory, They Sighed... You'd Think They Were Praying to It" Joseph Conrad (03:53)

Stanley created a private army that evolved into the Force Publique and sent as much ivory back to Belgium as he could steal or gather. Tribal chiefs signed away their lands in return for jewels, trinkets, and rum, not understanding the contract. King Leopold II insisted that his philanthropic venture had no commercial interest.

Independent State of the Congo (05:18)

King Leopold II used American newspapers to create a misinformation campaign, convincing the public he was stopping the slave trade— the Congo was recognized as his sole property in 1885. He received an interest free loan from the Belgium government to build a railroad in the Congo.

"Crimes Against Humanity" George Washington Williams (02:40)

George Washington Williams spent six months traveling in the Congo and was astonished at the murder, torture, and abuse he witnessed after reading the propaganda in the American newspapers. Listen to an excerpt of "Tyranny," where he first coins the phrase "crimes against humanity." King Leopold II dismissed the charges.

"Beasts of Burden with Monkey Legs" Edmond Picard (05:03)

Listen to excerpts written by King Leopold II and Edmond Picard, describing Congolese as less than human. The Chicotte was a whip made of hippopotamus and became a metaphor for the iron rule of the Force Publique. Separating orphans from their own communities, King Leopold created three schools where he trained soldiers for his private army.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part One (03:57)

King Leopold II financed his entire colony through rubber. Congolese would spread the rubber over their bodies, let it congeal, and then rip it away. The "Rubber Terror" is two decades of murder and torture, where villages were imposed rubber quotas— if the villages did not achieve the quota, children were kidnapped, animals killed, and wives raped.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Two (05:30)

William Sheppard and Samuel N. Lapsley created the first Presbyterian Church in Luebo Village. Reverend Etienne Mutshipayi and Mubanga Wa Beya describe how Sheppard helped the village prosper and advocated for human rights. Antwerp, Belgium is still known as "Hantwerpen" after a medieval folk tale.

"The Horror! The Horror!" Joseph Conrad (02:46)

The Congo inspired Joseph Conrad to write "Heart of Darkness." King Leopold II imported 267 Congolese and placed them in tableaus of villages for the World's Fair. Samples of products derived from the Congo were also on display.

"A Secret Society of Murderers" Edmund Dene Morel (03:18)

Edmund Dene Morel discovered that only military goods were shipped back to Congo and a Belgian was reaping profits from forced labor. The Anglo-Belgium India Rubber and Exploration Company (ABIR) sold raw rubber at a 700% profit. Congolese were forced to wear metal tags so company agents could keep track of their quotas.

"Infamous. Infamous. Shameful System" Roger Casement: Part One (04:17)

The British government sent Roger Casement to investigate the atrocities— listen to an excerpt of his findings. Edward Canisius recorded Ilanga of Waneido Village explaining how soldiers murdered her niece and husband on the way to Nyangwe.

"Infamous. Infamous. Shameful System" Roger Casement: Part Two (04:16)

King Leopold the II launched a counter campaign in the newspapers planting stories of peace and prosperity in the Congo and atrocities committed in other country's colonies. Morel continued to publish about the corruption. Listen to excerpts of Morel and Casement's writings.

"A Cry for Justice and Mercy Rises from the Congo" Edmund Dene Morel: Part One (04:55)

In 1904, The Congo Reform Association convinced the public of the atrocities committed. King Leopold II sent a group of judges to absolve him of any wrongdoing but the plan backfired. The sale of the Congo to Belgium looked like an act of generosity— King Leopold secreted away his profits and burned all paperwork relating to the Congo.

"That Magnificent African Cake" King Leopold II: Part One (04:01)

A recruiter would assign each village a quota of recruits. In 1919, The Permanent Commission for the Protection of the Natives estimated that half the Congolese population had died since the colony's inception. Father Edmond Boelaert traveled to the Congo and recorded the victims of the "Rubber Terror."

"That Magnificent African Cake" King Leopold II: Part Two (02:11)

Jules Marchal originally wanted to defend the honor of Belgium and requested to see documentation, but never received any evidence from the Foreign Office. When he was allowed to see a judicial record about the Congo, he wrote of the atrocities. Belgium did not introduce reforms or changes to the Congolese people.

"That Magnificent African Cake" King Leopold II: Part Three (01:48)

In the 1960s, Patrice Lumumba emerged as an advocate for a unified Congo. The Belgians grew nervous and imposed a five-year plan leading toward independence— the Congolese resisted, calling it a stalling tactic. The Congolese elected Lumumba Coalition Prime Minister in the only democratic election in the country's history.

"That Magnificent African Cake" King Leopold II: Part Four (03:40)

King Baudoin gives a condescending speech— Lumumba reacts angrily and clarifies that the Congo will cease to be an economic colony. Afraid that Lumumba was going to become a communist colony, Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered killing Lumumba and the Belgian Prime minister organized a coup d' etat.

"A Secret Society of Murderers" Edmund Dene Morel: Part One (03:44)

Worried that they will no longer be able to exploit Congo's natural resources, Belgium, the United States and the United Nations removed Lumumba from power. The CIA enlisted Joseph Désiré Mobutu. Lumumba was executed, cut up and his body parts were thrown in sulphuric acid.

"A Secret Society of Murderers" Edmund Dene Morel: Part Two (03:10)

Aided by United States mercenaries, Mobutu seized power with ruthless violence. In return for giving him a billion dollars, the U.S. received an anti-communist regime during the cold war with plentiful natural resources. De Witte explains why Western nations needed to look for a military dictator to maintain control of the country.

"A Secret Society of Murderers" Edmund Dene Morel: Part Three (03:10)

When Laurent Kabila declared himself head of state, Mobutu escaped. Lubamba Dibwe tours a plant in Shinkolobwe where the first atomic bomb was manufactured. The Belgians poured cement into uranium mines to ensure that the Congolese would not reap any of the mineral.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part One (02:34)

In Skinkolobwe, illegal miners gather Heterogenite to be smuggled over the borders and sold. Kabila promised that elections would occur, but it never took place. The "African World War" erupted and neighboring countries came to Congo's aid.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Two (03:02)

Vansina and Freedman discuss the militarization of the Congolese people. Kabila was assassinated in 2001. 73% of the world's supply of Coltan was discovered in the Congo.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Three (03:51)

In 2003, the United Nations appointed a panel to investigate abuse. The report dictates 156 companies complicit in the Congolese suffering. Freedman explains that unless the companies are held globally accountable, the atrocities will continue.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Three (02:16)

After Kabila was assassinated, his son rose to power and attempted to negotiate with enemies. Jean Pierre-Bemba and James Kazini collaborated on bankrupting the Congolaise Société of Coffee. Bemba instructs his soldiers to empty banks of towns he pillages.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Four (02:00)

Joseph Kabila appointed four rebel leaders as vice presidents to help end the country's civil war and sought debt relief from international organizations. De Witte explains that the Congo is so rich in natural resources it cannot be left alone.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Five (02:22)

Freedman thinks that more than four million people died from the conflict in the Congo. The Hague Criminal Court decided to focus on the Congo as its first investigation. Listen to a 9 year old boy discuss how he was raped.

"The Vilest Scramble for Loot that Ever Disfigured the History of Human Conscience" Joseph Conrad: Part Six (04:37)

Juliana does not know if the Belgian government apologized for the "Rubber Terror," but did for the assassination of Lumumba. De Ville describes how the royal family of Belgium hides from conflict. In 2006, Joseph Kabila won the first election since 1960.

Credits: King Leopold's Ghost (03:15)

Credits: King Leopold's Ghost

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King Leopold's Ghost

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The modern history of the Congo is a terrifying story of appalling brutality. Beginning with King Leopold II of Belgium's avaricious rape of the country and tracing the impact of this horrifying and often-forgotten crime through to the modern day, this immensely shocking doc is a heart-rending tale of a rich country destroyed by rapacious hands.

Length: 103 minutes

Item#: BVL118372

ISBN: 978-1-63521-486-4

Copyright date: ©2011

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