The cartoon at the left was published in 1902 in an English magazine Punch – and depicts the horror inflicted upon the Congolese people under the tyranny of King Leopold II of Belgium.
Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) is perhaps the most famous leader of the African independence movement. After his murder in 1961 he became an icon of the anti-imperialist struggles. His picture was carried in the 1960s across the world along with Che Guevera, Ho Chi Minh. His life and independence that he sought for the Congo made him a pivotal figure of the 20th century. Lumumba became a figure of resistance to Imperialism and its division of the world after revisionism took power in the Soviet Union.
Congo was a colony of Imperialist Belgium under the tyranny of Leopold II of Belgium and ruled and exploited this country for its riches and absolute slave labour. Land was give to white Belgian settlers and they were required to farm rubber. These businesses operated with impunity and slave labour. There were massive imperialist companies established.
When William Dunlop's invention in 1890 of bicycle tires made of rubber, this changed the Congo economy. Soon rubber was utilized in many industrial products. To meet these demands, Belgian imperialism together with US imperialism started forests to the cultivation of rubber – but in the Congo rubber trees grew in the wild. So Belgium forced the local population to work as slave labour.
But the despot King Leopold by 1890 had gone into killing elephants herds by the hundreds for their valuable ivory tusks for export. By 1981 King Leopold made all of the Congolese people to work and produce rubber and ivory elephant tusks. He forced whole villagers to send their men folk to work as slave labour. When the villagers were uncooperative Leopold Catholic mercenary army destroyed village homes, raped and killed at random. To prove to the white authorities that this was done, the hands of the male victims were chopped off for payment as a bounty. (Of course after the rape, the killing and chopping off hands, these white mercenaries and settlers went to church each Sunday, said their prayers, were forgiven, and on Monday started all over again. Editor)Native Congolese hold the severed hands of those punished by mutilation for failing to gather enough rubber while the White Belgian looks on.
Congolese people started to rebel, to fight back, to try and liberate their people. The struggle was ongoing and up this day it is still going on, with imperialist powers trying to outwit each other for this immensely rich country and its resources.
Like all white colonial powers, Belgium said that they are trying to "civilize the pagan Congolese people". But this was just an excuse for the absolute massive profits that were made by Belgium. International corporations got into the act and kept on exploiting the people, all in the name of God and immense profits.