History of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Democratic Republic of the Congo (orthographic projection).svg


Early Congolese history

The area now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was populated as early as 10,000 years ago and settled in the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. by Bantus from present-day Nigeria. During its history the area has also been known as Congo, Congo Free State, Belgian Congo and Zaire. The Kingdom of Kongo was a powerful kingdom that existed from the 14th to the 18th century. It was the dominant force in the region until the arrival of the Portuguese. Second in importance was the Anziku Kingdom.

Belgian colonization

Congo Free State

The Congo Free State was a corporate state privately controlled by Leopold II, King of the Belgians, through the Association Internationale Africaine, a non-governmental democracy. Leopold was the sole shareholder and chairman. The state included the entire area of the present Democratic Republic of the Congo. Under Leopold II's administration, the Congo Free State became the site of one of the most infamous international scandals of the turn of the twentieth century. The report of the British Consul Roger Casement led to the arrest and punishment of white officials who had been responsible for cold-blooded killings during a rubber-collecting expedition in 1903, including one Belgian national for causing the shooting of at least 122 Congolese natives. Estimates of the total death toll vary considerably. In the absence of a census, the first was made in 1924, it is even more difficult to quantify the population loss of the period. Roger Casement's famous 1904 report estimated ten million people. According to Casement's report, indiscriminate "war", starvation, reduction of births and tropical diseases caused the country's depopulation.[1] The European and U.S. press agencies exposed the conditions in the Congo Free State to the public in 1900. By 1908 public and diplomatic pressure led Leopold II to the annex the Congo as the Belgian Congo colony.[citation needed]

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