Colonial Belgian Congo: A Slave Father Gazing at His Daughter's Severed Hand and Foot, 1904


The photo was taken by Alice Seely Harris, the person's name is Nsala. Here is an excerpt from her account (from the book "Don't Call Me Lady: The Journey of Lady Alice Seely Harris"): She had not made her rubber quota for the day, so Belgian-appointed overseers cut her daughter's quota. Was. Hands and feet. His name was Boali. She was five years old. Then they killed him. But they were not finished. Then they killed his wife also.

And because he did not seem cruel enough, did not seem strong enough to stand his ground, they turned both Bolali and his mother into cannibals.

And he presented Nsala with the scars left from the once living body of his beloved child, whom he loved so much. His life was destroyed.

They had partially destroyed it anyway by forcing him into slavery but this act ended it for him. All this mess happened because a man, a man who lived thousands of miles across the ocean, a man who couldn't get rich enough, decided that this land was his and these people should satisfy his greed.

Leopold had given no thought to the idea that these African children, these men and women, were our full human brothers, equally created by the same hand that had created his lineage of European royalty.

The Congo Free State was a corporate state in Central Africa, privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium, established and recognized by the Berlin Conference of 1885.

In the 23 years (1885–1908) that Leopold II ruled the Congo, he massacred 10 million Africans, cutting off their hands and genitals, flogging them to death, starving them for forced labour, killing children, Demanded ransom and burnt villages.

The ironic part of this story is that Leopold II committed these atrocities without even setting foot in the Congo. Under the administration of Leopold II, the Congo Free State became one of the largest international scandals of the early 20th century.

The ABIR Congo Company (established as the Anglo-Belgian India Rubber Company and later known as the Compagnie du Congo Belge) was a company appointed to exploit natural rubber in the Congo Free State.

ABIR enjoyed a boom in the late 1890s, selling for up to 10 FR a kilogram of rubber in Europe that had cost them only 1.35 FR.

However, this came at the cost of the human rights of those who could not pay taxes with imprisonment, flogging, and other corporal punishment.

Failure to meet rubber collection quotas was punishable by death. Meanwhile, the Force Publique (Gendarmerie/Military Force) were required to provide the hands of their victims as evidence when they shot and killed someone, as it was believed that they would otherwise be able to obtain munitions (at considerable cost. Imported from Europe). hunt for.

As a result, the rubber quota was partially paid with severed hands. Sometimes the hands were collected by soldiers of the Force Publique, sometimes by the villages themselves.

There were even small wars where villages attacked neighboring villages to fill their rubber quotas, making it unrealistic.

A Catholic priest quoted a man, Tswambe, talking about the despised state official Leon Fieves, who ran a district along the river 500 kilometers (300 mi) north of Stanley Pools: All the blacks in this The man was seen as the devil of the equator…the hands of the bodies that were killed in the fields had to be cut off on behalf of everyone.

He wanted to see how many hands each soldier had cut off, which they had to bring in baskets... Any village that refused to provide rubber was completely wiped out.

As a young man, I saw the [Fievaz] soldier Molili, who was guarding the village of Boyeka, take a net, put ten arrested natives in it, add large stones to the net, and lower it into the river. Drops...

Rubber causes these sufferings; That's why we don't want to hear its name spoken anymore. The soldiers made the young men kill or rape their own mothers and sisters.

A junior European officer described the raid as being carried out to punish a village that had resisted. The European command officer "ordered us to cut off the heads of the men and hang them on planks in the village... and to hang the women and children on planks in the shape of a cross".

After seeing a Congolese man killed for the first time, a Danish missionary wrote: “The soldier said, 'Don't take this to heart. If we don't bring rubber they kill us. The Commissioner has promised us that if we have our hands full, he will reduce our service.”

In Forbath's words: Baskets of severed hands, placed at the feet of European post commanders, became a symbol of the Congo Free State...

The collection of hands became an end in itself. The soldiers of the Force Publique brought them to the stations instead of rubber; They even set out to harvest them instead of rubber...

They became a type of currency. They began to be used to fill the shortfall in rubber quotas, replacing those who were requisitioned for forced labor gangs; And the soldiers of the Force Publique were paid their bonuses based on the number of hands they mustered.

In theory, every right hand was proven to be a murder. In practice, soldiers sometimes "betray" by simply cutting off the hand and leaving the victim to live or die.

More than a few survivors later said that they had survived the massacre by pretending to be dead, not moving even when their hands were cut off, and waiting until the soldiers had left before asking for help.

In some instances, a soldier may shorten his service period by enlisting more hands than other soldiers, leading to mass amputations and amputations.

Congo's population decline has been noted by all who have compared the country at the beginning of Leopold's control with the beginning of Belgian state rule in 1908, but estimates of the death toll vary considerably.

Estimates by contemporary observers suggest that the population halved during this period and these are also supported by some modern scholars such as Jan Vancina.

Others dispute this. Scholars at the Royal Museum of Central Africa argue that there has been a 15 percent decline in the first forty years of colonial rule (up to the 1924 census).

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