King's College London
Online Exhibitions
I speak of Africa

The Belgian Congo

A rickshaw or pousse-pousse in Stanleyville, from Louis Franck. Le Congo belge. Bruxelles: La Renaissance du livre, [1930] [FCO Historical Collection FOL. DT644 FRA]A rickshaw or pousse-pousse in Stanleyville, from Louis Franck. Le Congo belge. Bruxelles: La Renaissance du livre, [1930] [FCO Historical Collection FOL. DT644 FRA]The Belgian Congo (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) was established in 1908, when the Conge Free State was annexed by the Belgium government after public outrage at the treatment and abuse suffered by the native population at the hands of the private administration of Leopold II, King of the Belgians (1835-1909).

Belgium suddenly found itself in charge of a colony whose area was ninety times that of the mother country. The Congo Free State had practically been Leopold’s personal property, as he controlled the International Association of the Congo, officially in charge of the administration of the territory. Ironically, Leopold apparently never visited the colony and thus avoided having to witness personally the brutal regime he had set up.

On display are several photographs depicting different parts of Stanleyville, including a local mode of transport, namely the rickshaw or pousse-pousse. Stanleyville, founded in 1883, was named after Sir Henry Morton Stanley, famous for his rescue of David Livingstone. While in the service of Leopold II, Stanley had arranged several treaties with local chiefs, which had formed the basis of the Congo Free State. The town was renamed Kisangani in 1966.

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