Belgium and the Congo, 1885-1980 by Guy Vanthemsche. 2018.
Reviewer: Mr. Jan Peczkis / My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Lesson for Polonophobe Guy Verhofstadt: Belgian-Caused Genocide in Congo
Author Guy Vanthemsche is professor of contemporary history at Free University Brusses (Vrjie Universiteit Brussel). It is packed with information.
INTRODUCTION: CURRENT EVENTS IN THE LIGHT OF THE CONGOLESE GENOCIDE
Some books acquire a significance not intended by the author, and this is one of them. In November 2017, Belgian Europarliament leader Guy Verhofstadt (allegedly funded by George Soros) has leveled the false and scurrilous accusation that Polish Independence Day marchers are Nazis. Ironic to his vile calumny, it is his Belgium, and not Poland, that is sullied by Nazi collaboration (Leon Degrelle and the Belgian Waffen SS), and it is his Belgium, and not Poland, that has a history stained with the crime of genocide. This book, though mostly focusing on economics, makes the latter clear.
As a further irony, the reader can see the temporal continuity of Belgian imperialism and colonialism.
In the 19th century, Belgian imperialism was manifested as the genocidal exploitation of native Congolese peoples. Now, in the 21st century, Belgian (and German) imperialism manifests itself in the form of neo-colonialism directed at Poland (as per Brussels and the European Union). It shows up as the “soft” economic exploitation of Poland and includes the drive to eliminate Poland’s sovereignty. It also features the defamation and hoped-for eventual destruction of Poland’s religious and patriotic traditions. Enter Guy Verhofstadt and George Soros.
MILLIONS OF CONGOLESE DIED BECAUSE OF DIRECT AND INDIRECT BELGIAN ACTIONS
By way of introduction, Vanthemsche focuses on Belgian King Leopold II (1835-1909), while also calling attention to the broad-based character of the Belgian colonialist drive that became the “Congo Horrors”. He quips, “Since the 1840s, other Belgians had been dreaming of Belgian overseas expansion via either scientific exploration or commercial activity.” (p. 17).
Although precise numbers are hard to come by, there is no question about the fact that millions of native Congolese lost their lives under Belgian rule. (pp. 24-25: “an incontestable dramatic decrease in the Congolese population”.)
Here is how it came to pass (quotes from Vanthemsche):
“In order to maximize profit, both the Congo Free State authorities and the concessionary companies set up a particularly harsh system of exploitation. The Congolese were not only subjected to a merciless work regime, but also to acts of violence aimed at breaking any vague ideas of resistance. The destruction of villages, summary executions, hostage taking and various types of corporal punishment were common practice in many parts of the Congo Free State”. (p. 23).
“…they were not simply the uncontrolled actions of a few brutal individuals.” (p. 23).
“…there is absolutely no doubt that there were ‘widespread’ massacres in the Leopoldian Congo.” (p. 24).
“Similarly, in the case of central Africa in the period from 1880 to 1920, numerous factors apart from the compulsory work regime combined to provoke the dramatic de-population: military operations, the ‘maintenance of law and order’, porterage, the decline in fertility and malnutrition (each partially linked to the rubber regime) and, last but not least, epidemics (caused or facilitated by all the previous elements) that wiped out entire regions either through the introduction of new bacteria or through the increase and spread of endemic diseases.” (p. 25).
ANTICS WITH SEMANTICS: IS THE CONGOLESE GENOCIDE ACTUALLY A GENOCIDE?
Vanthemsche (p. 24) quotes historian Robert Weisbord [JOURNAL OF GENOCIDE RESEARCH
5(1)35] who points out that, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide, the applicability of the term genocide does not require the attempt to kill every single person of a given population. (p. 24, footnote 27). [Note that this means that the Nazi German extermination of Poles (Polonocaust) qualifies as a genocide, even though “only” a part of the Polish population was actually put to death. Not all Jews were killed either!]
But were the Congolese targeted for death as a group (for who they were)? This question is irrelevant. What does it matter to the millions of dead Congolese that the murderous Belgian actions may or may not meet some kind of technical definition of genocide?
Actions speak louder than words. What does it matter that Hitler is not known to have ever ordered the destruction of Europe’s Jews? What does it matter that there were no Belgian WORDS affirming the destruction of the Congolese peoples, when there were unmistakable and deliberate Belgian ACTIONS doing exactly that?
Finally, the failure of Belgians to murder all the Congolese owed to utilitarian, and not humanitarian, reasons. Vanthemsche quips, “No one sought to systematically exterminate the native population; who, then, would have provided the labor on which the exploitation is based?” (pp.23-24). The informed reader realizes that the Nazi Germans did not kill ALL Poles, or even ALL Jews, for precisely the same reason!
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Published with the author’s permission.
The title image: „Belgium and the Congo, 1885-1980 by Guy Vanthemsche. 2018” – part of the cover. / selected by wg.pco