White King, Red Rubber, Black Death (Video)
The story of King Leopold II of Belgium’s brutal colonisation of central Africa, turning it into a vast rubber-harvesting labour camp in which millions died.
Why Belgium Is Denouncing a BBC Documentary About the History of the Congo
Tonight, Belgian television will show the BBC documentary "White King, Red Rubber, Black Death," about Belgian King Leopold II’s reign of terror in his private Congo colony in 1885-1908. The documentary, hardly the stuff of controversy anywhere else, almost didn’t make it onto the airwaves here.
Louis Michel, the Belgian foreign minister, and the Royal Palace both pressured state television not to broadcast "White King." The Royal Palace expressed its "concern" about the documentary’s "historical accuracy." "This is a partisan work and its thesis is completely one-sided," Mr. Michel said. "The film is a biased diatribe."
As a compromise the state television documentary was "put into the right context" by Belgian "specialists." Jan Van den Berghe of Belgian television says: "We have had the facts qualified by Belgian specialists such as the curator of the Royal Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren."
The blood-stained history of the former Congo Free State isn’t much in dispute anywhere except in Belgium, where it is seldom mentioned. The CFS was a private colony of Leopold II’s until 1908 when he sold it to Belgium. He turned the CFS into a labor camp, laying the foundation of his immense personal fortune. His managers on the ground -- the king never set foot in the Congo himself -- used mutilation and killing to get the natives to bring in the rubber. Often, wives and children were taken hostage without food or water to speed up the work. In the 23 years of CFS rule, about half the Congo’s 20 million inhabitants perished.
But why should Belgians of today deny this history, or get upset about a BBC documentary? A major reason is the artificial nature of the Belgian state. Francophone Belgian newspapers suggested last week that by discrediting Leopold II’s record, the BBC tarnished the image of Belgium’s monarchy today, thereby undermining Belgian national unity. The Belgian state houses two peoples -- Dutch-speaking Flemings and French-speaking Walloons -- in an uneasy balance.
The monarchy is seen by many as the glue keeping a state together that lacks a unifying national identity. Leopold understood the problem. He thought a common project of colonization by Flemings and Walloons would bring the nation together. In his diary in 1861, he wrote it was "a patriotic duty" to create "a Belgian Empire." The Belgians, lacking in nationalist feelings, wanted nothing to do with Leopold’s dream. For years, until international indignation forced Belgium to take over in 1908, Belgian politicians kept their distance. Jules Malou, a late 19th century prime minister, said that he assumed it to be "not a bad thing that a King like ours should have a favorite hobby to drain off his surplus energy."
However, Leopold had his Belgian supporters, mostly among the French-speaking half of the country then more committed to building Belgium. Leon Hennebicq, in 1904, called Belgium "the laboratory of Europe." "Indeed," he wrote, "we are a nation under construction." The country is characterized by an identity of non-identity. Belgium is a post-national state and as such, according to some, the model for the future Federal Europe.
The central role is played by the king. Being neither Fleming nor Walloon, the king is an independent arbiter. No one may ever question his motives. Without the civic glue that binds countries with a national identity, Belgium would not have survived but for its social welfare system and its royal family. "The monarchy is the only way to keep an artificial country such as Belgium together. In a homogeneous country, I would be a republican, but not in Belgium," Belgium’s Socialist leader Louis Tobback said in 2001....
Article from: Why Belgium Is Denouncing a BBC Documentary About the History of the Congo
The Dark Roots of the EU
Belgium considers euthanasia law for terminally ill children
Latest News from our Front Page
Facebook’s New ‘Chinese-style’ Political Censorship System Goes Global
Last week 21WIRE reported on Facebook’s new communitarian policy whereby readers can ‘flag’ content as “fake news” if they believe it’s not real, or if they do not like it. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo False Flag event, the social media giant is now allowing governments to determine what is ‘good free speech’, and what is not.
“An article ...
"Cheerful" Dutch Financier Becomes 4th ABN Amro Banker Suicide
Following the deaths of 36 bankers last year, 2015 has got off to an inauspicious start with the reported suicide of Chris Van Eeghen - the 4th ABN Amro banker suicide in the last few years. As Quotenet reports, the death of Van Eghen - the head of ABN's corporate finance and capital markets -"startled" friends and colleagues as ...
West’s tributes to late Saudi King reveal hypocrisy not democracy
Hypocrisy is not usually regarded as a virtue of leadership, yet judging by the gushing tributes paid to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah by various Western governments and establishment figures on his death, there are those who believe it should be.
In the UK this hypocrisy has been stretched to breaking point with the decision to fly the flags over Downing ...
Millions of GMO insects could be set loose in Florida Keys
Millions of genetically modified mosquitoes could be released in the Florida Keys if British researchers win approval to use the bugs against two extremely painful viral diseases.
Never before have insects with modified DNA come so close to being set loose in a residential U.S. neighborhood.
"This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease," said Michael Doyle, executive ...
Furguson Scared The Super - Rich So Bad They're Planning Exits
According to a speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ferguson and Occupy absolutely terrified the world’s super-rich, and now they’re buying airstrips and farms in remote locations to escape to.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, which was held between January 21-24, over 2,500 leaders in the fields of business, international politics, academia and journalism met to discuss ...
|More News » |