WERE THERE ANY CRIMES COMMITED IN THE CONGO BY OR UNDER LEOPOLD II?
Serious historians critical of Leopold II, such as Jean Stengers; Belgian politicians who at the time of Leopold II were virulent against him, such as the great socialist leader Emile Vandervelde, all agreed that, throughout the years of his absolute reign over the Independent State of Congo (EIC), Leopold II had wanted to protect and ensure the well-being of the "indigenous" (as the Congolese were called at the time). Successive decrees and instructions to this effect are there to bear witness to this.
The reality on the ground proved to be quite different for a whole series of reasons: the field men sent to establish the authority of the EIC were made up of a heterogeneous group: civil servants, real soldiers, missionaries, traders, but also shameless adventurers.
Added to this were the pressures to quickly succeed in setting up the colonial system, which thus represented 'revolutionary' cultural, factual and physical constraints for the tribes where the organization of life was so totally different.
To this was added the enormous isolation in which the measures enacted from Brussels were practically implemented, far inside the vast country which was still not easily accessible and where, as a result, the risk of sanctions for abuses could be considered practically nil for the executioners, while the hope of promotion could be increased on the basis of 'positive production results' obtained without any control of methods or human cost.
It was here that missionaries and others played a decisive role as 'whistle-blowers'.
It was also at that time that King Leopold II, from Brussels, set in motion all the machinery to correct excesses and to punish abusers.
The Nazi crimes were committed BY HITLER between 1933 and 1945 because it was his deliberate policy to create an anti-Jewish genocide.
The crimes in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 were committed BY Pol POT because he ordered them to be carried out.
The massive crimes against Armenians in Turkey in May-June 1915 were committed BY the Turkish Youth Junta which deliberately wanted to destroy the economic and financial superiority of Armenians in what was the Ottoman Empire.
The mass assassinations targeting the Tutsis in Rwanda from April to July 1994 were committed BY Juvenal HABYARIMANA and his associates.
The crimes and abuses perpetrated in the CIS were the work of a whole series of uncontrolled agents, believing that they were immune from prosecution because they were isolated, far away, and producing 'results'. When these crimes were documented, sanctions were taken and control measures were intensified, and the rights of the Congolese people were strengthened. On the contrary, the Congolese population was considered to be in need of protection and full participation in its development. All the texts are marked by this will and all the reforms have been made in this direction.
In our opinion, the correct way to debate the possible responsibility of Leopold II for the abuses of the EIC should be formulated as follows: "the crimes committed in the Independent State of Congo UNDER Leopold II".