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European Colonialism and Genocide ………   [Copy link] 中文

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This post was edited by expatter at 2012-12-25 23:26

European Colonialism and Genocide  ………

This is my own personal opinion ………

Since Columbus and other Europeans first plied their trade of claiming inhabited lands around the world for their sponsors, monarchs or for the greater glory of God, the world has witnessed the death of millions of innocents by the spread of infectious diseases, which were admittedly an unknown quantity to those explorers, and worse than that, the deliberate subjugation, murder or even genocide visited on less technologically advanced people’s of the world.  These brutal and savage deaths were often stated as ‘enlightenment’ and ‘education’, but the real underlying cause was more often just basic subjugation and profiteering.  Resources were harvested out of colonized areas and shipped to Europe and often the indigenous people’s were used as corvee labour and enslaved to the greed of Europeans.  Evidence shows that some or many of these subjugated people’s were often exposed to starvation, rape, beatings, disfigurement and murder and were considered as nothing more than ‘animals’ to be used for the purposes of pure exploitation.

Some might argue that these people were brought to both civilization and spirituality and that these countries have benefitted financially. If they did then it was often at the expense of many lives and the theft of many times the resources that were used to construct the odd urbanized enclave, which were built not for the indigenous population, but rather the masters and their merchants. They also might argue that much water has passed under the bridge since then and modern countries cannot be slated by history and to some extent Iwould agree with that.

However, the fact that this dark past remains out of the main education sphere and only historical matters which represent ‘nationalistic’ elements remain, are I feel a dark stain and a matter of shame.

Future generations have the right to know about the dark past or these so-called modern and enlightened European countries are no better than any dictatorship or communist country that they vilify at will.  It is called hypocrisy ………    !

I will follow this light introduction with a couple of articles as support for my comments ……..

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Belgian Congo
(Yale University)

In 1876, Belgium’s King Leopold II (1835-1909) convened a geographical conference in Brussels. Leopold proposed establishing an international benevolent committee for the propagation of civilization among the peoples of Central Africa (the Congo region). Originally conceived as a multi-national, scientific, and humanitarian assembly, the Association Internationale Africaine (AIA, African International Association) eventually became a development company controlled by Leopold.

[1,2,3] He subsequently organized the Comité d'Études du Haut-Congo (CEHC, Study Committee of the Upper Congo), an international commercial, scientific, and humanitarian committee, and sometime between 1879 and 1882, the Association Internationale du Congo (AIC, International Congo Society) emerged.[1,2,3] From 1878 to 1884, Leopold used these organizations to establish influence and eventually Belgian sovereignty, in the Congo Basin. His primary objective was to exploit the lucrative ivory market in Central Africa by establishing a secure trade route between the Upper and Lower Congo.[1,2,3] The region was reported to be rich in other commodities as well, such as mineral resources.[3] Rubber exports began as early as 1890,[4] and by the mid-1890s rubber extraction would become the colony’s most profitable industry.

In 1884, the Conference of Berlin (1884-1885) convened to finalize the colonial partitioning of the African continent. Conference participants included Austria-Hungary, Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, and the United States. In 1885, Leopold’s efforts to establish Belgian influence in the Congo Basin were awarded with the État Indépendant du Congo (CFS, Congo Free State). By a resolution passed in the Belgian parliament, Leopold became Roi-Souverain of the newly formed CFS, over which he enjoyed nearly absolute control.[3] The CFS (today the Democratic Republic of the Congo), a country of over two million square kilometers, became Leopold’s personal property, the Domaine Privé.[5]

Under terms of the General Act of the Berlin Conference, Leopold pledged to suppress the East African slave trade; promote humanitarian policies; guarantee free trade within the colony; impose no import duties for twenty years; and encourage philanthropic and scientific enterprises.[5] Contrary to his pledge, beginning in the mid-1880s Leopold issued a series of decrees that eventually violated these conditions. Leopold first decreed that the State asserted rights of proprietorship over all vacant lands throughout the Congo territory.[1,2,3,5] By three successive decrees, Leopold reduced the rights of the Congolese in their land to native villages and farms, essentially making nearly all of the CFS terres domainales.[5] Leopold further decreed that merchants limit their commercial operations in rubber to bartering with the natives.[3,5]  

By this time, Leopold had also established the Force Publique (FP) to campaign against the Arab slave trade in the Upper Congo, protect his economic interests, and suppress uprisings within the CFS, which were common. The FP's officer corps comprised only whites—Belgian regular soldiers and mercenaries from other countries.[1] On arriving in the CFS, these officers recruited men from Zanzibar and West Africa, and eventually from the Congo itself.[3] In addition, Leopold had been actually encouraging the slave trade among Arabs in the Upper Congo in return for slaves to fill the ranks of the FP.[3,5] During the 1890s, the FP’s primary role was to exploit the natives as corvée laborers to promote the rubber trade.[1,2,3]

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So you say its Anglos

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Belgian Congo 2

By 1890, facing considerable financial difficulty, Leopold applied for permission to levy import duties.[5] However, in direct violation of his promises of free trade within the CFS under the terms of the Berlin Treaty, not only had the State become a commercial entity directly or indirectly trading within its dominion,[5] but also, Leopold had been slowly monopolizing a considerable amount of the ivory and rubber trade by imposing export duties on the resources traded by other merchants within the CFS.[5]  

By the final decade of the 19th century, J. B. Dunlop’s 1887 invention of inflatable, rubber bicycle tubes and the growing popularity of the automobile dramatically increased the global demand for rubber. To monopolize the resources of the entire CFS, Leopold issued three decrees in 1891 and 1892 that reduced the native population to serfs.[5] Collectively, these forced the natives to deliver all ivory and rubber, harvested or found, to State officers thus nearly completing Leopold’s monopoly of the ivory and rubber trade.[3]

An additional decree in 1892 divided the terres vacantes into a domainal system, which privatized extraction rights over rubber for the State in certain private domains, allowing Leopold to grant lucrative concessions to private companies.[3] In other areas, private companies could continue to trade but were highly restricted and taxed. The domainal system destroyed the traditional economy of the Congo basin and enforced a labor tax on Leopold’s Congolese subjects requiring local chiefs to supply men to collect rubber and other resources.[3] It essentially obliged natives to supply these products without payment.

Genocide scholar Adam Jones comments, “The result was one of the most brutal and all-encompassing corvée institutions the world has known . . . Male rubber tappers and porters were mercilessly exploited and driven to death.”[6] Leopold's agents held the wives and children of these men hostage until they returned with their rubber quota.[5] Those who refused or failed to supply enough rubber often had their villages burned down, children murdered, and their hands cut off.[1,3]

Although local chiefs organized tribal resistance, the FP brutally crushed these uprisings. Rebellions often included Congolese fleeing their villages to hide in the wilderness, ambushing army units, and setting fire to rubber vine forests.[2] In retribution, the FP burned villages and FP officers sent their soldiers into the forest to find and kill hiding rebels. To prove the success of their patrols, soldiers were ordered to cut off and bring back dead victims’ right hands as proof that they had not wasted their bullets.[3]  If their shots missed their targets or if they used cartridges on big game, soldiers would cut off the hands of the living and wounded to meet their quotas.[3]

“Everywhere I hear the same news of the Congo Free State – rubber and murder, slavery in its worst form.” This account was published in Century Magazine (1897) by E. J. Glave, a former CFS administrator.[3] Inspired by works such as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (1902), originally published as a three-part series in Blackwood’s Magazine (1899), organized international criticism of Leopold’s genocidal activities mobilized. In 1900, Edmund Dene Morel, a part-time journalist and head of trade with Congo for the Liverpool shipping firm Elder Dempster, began writing articles describing conditions in the CFS.  In 1902, Morel retired from his position at Elder Dempster and launched a full-time campaign to expose the human rights abuses occurring in the CFS. He founded his own magazine, The West African Mail, and conducted speaking tours in Britain.

Increasing public outcry over the atrocities in the CFS moved the British government to launch an official investigation. The diplomat, Sir Roger Casement, was sent to the CFS as British Consul. Reporting to the Foreign Office in 1900, Casement wrote, “The root of the evil lies in the fact that the government of the Congo is above all a commercial trust, that everything else is orientated towards commercial gain . . .”[3] The establishment of the Congo Reform Association (CRA) in Great Britain was a direct result of Casement’s 1904Congo Report. The CRA, whose members included Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and inspired Mark Twain among others, provided a foundation for one of the 20th century’s first human rights movements.

Yielding to international pressure, in 1908 the Belgian parliament annexed the CFS as the Belgian Congo, effectively removing Leopold from power. Just prior to releasing sovereignty over the CFS, Leopold destroyed all evidence of his activities in the CFS, including the archives of its Departments of Finance and the Interior.[3] The Belgian parliament refused to hold any formal commission of inquiry into the human rights abuses that had occurred in the CFS. Over the next few decades, inhumane practices in the Belgian Congo continued and a huge number of Congolese remained enslaved.[4] By 1959, Belgium power began to erode due to a series of riots in Leopoldville (today Kinshasa). The Congo was emancipated from Belgium on June 30, 1960, and the modern Democratic Republic of the Congo was established.

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left  -   Oscar Levant

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Belgian Congo 3

From 1885 to 1908, it is estimated that the Congolese native population decreased by about ten million people.[2] Historian Adam Hochshild identifies a number of causes for this loss under Leopold’s reign—murder, starvation, exhaustion and exposure, disease, and plummeting birth rates. Congolese historian Ndaywel e Nziem estimates the death toll at thirteen million.[7]  Leopold capitalized on the vast wealth extracted in ivory and rubber during his twenty-three year reign of terror in the CFS. He spent some of this wealth by constructing grand palaces and monuments including the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren. Ironically, Leopold never visited the kingdom in which he committed such atrocities, to witness the tragedy of his greed.

Russell Schimmer, GSP, Yale University

Dean Pavlakis adds: There is some debate over whether the Congo catastrophe qualifies as genocide, because the Congo state did not act with the intent of eliminating one or more ethnic groups.[2] However, the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide includes deliberate killings, for whatever motive, of members of an ethnic group with the intent to destroy them as such, “in whole or in part.” This suggests that the Congo Free State, in deciding to wipe out particular ethnic groups that resisted its inhuman practices, did indeed practice genocide.[8]

Dean Pavlakis, Department of History, University of Buffalo

What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left  -   Oscar Levant

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Britain's Brutal Colonial Past

Remember all that national soul-searching and self-flagellation over Empire and all the horrors committed in its name?

No, me neither.

But this is the fictional Britain that has been conjured up by our Foreign Secretary, William Hague. “We have to get out of this post-colonial guilt,” he declared in the Evening Standard. “Be confident in ourselves.

Here is an echo of Gordon Brown’s assertion in 2005 that “the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over”.

It was a straw man argument, because there has never been an apology for British imperialism. The British Empire has been virtually erased by collective amnesia; like an embarrassing, sordid secret that should never be mentioned in polite company. A foreign country such as Turkey can rightly be berated for failing to come to terms with an atrocity like the Armenian genocide, but the darkest moments of our own history are intentionally forgotten.

India a cash cow

Consider India, the “jewel in the crown” of the British Empire. At the beginning of the 18th-century – before it was conquered – its share of the world economy was well over a fifth, nearly as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the country won independence, it had dropped to less than 4 per cent. India was treated as a cash cow; the revenues that flowed into London’s Treasury were described by the Earl of Chatham as “the redemption of a nation … a kind of gift from heaven”. By the end of the 19th-century, India was the world’s biggest buyer of British exports and provided highly paid work for British civil servants – all at India’s expense.

As India became increasingly crucial to British prosperity, millions of Indians died completely unnecessary deaths. Over a decade ago, Mike Davis wrote a seminal book entitled Late Victorian Holocausts: the title is far from hyperbole.

As a result of laissez-faire economic policies ruthlessly enforced by Britain, between 12 and 29 million Indians died of starvation needlessly. Millions of tons of wheat were exported to Britain even as famine raged. When relief camps were set up, the inhabitants were barely fed and nearly all died.

Famine victims’ fault

The last large-scale famine to take place in India was under British rule; none has taken place since. Up to four million Bengalis starved to death in 1943 after Winston Churchill diverted food to well-fed British soldiers and countries such as Greece.

“The starvation of anyway underfed Bengalis is less serious” than that of “sturdy Greeks”, he argued. “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion,” he said to his Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. In any case, the famine was their fault for “breeding like rabbits”. Churchill had form: back in 1919, he declared himself “strongly in favour of using poisoned gas against uncivilised tribes”, arguing that it would “spread a lively terror”.

We normally associate “concentration camps” with the Nazis, but the term entered into general circulation because of the British.

During the Boer War at the turn of the 20th-century, up to a sixth of the Boer population – mainly women and children – perished after the British imprisoned them in camps. Their homes, farms and crops were burned, their sheep and cattle butchered in a scorched earth policy.

Mau Mau uprising

Elsewhere in Africa, British rule could be just as cruel. Two decades before helping to send hundreds of thousands of British Tommies to their deaths, Lord Kitchener led a brutal campaign to seize the Sudan. As historian Piers Brendon put it his The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, “British punitive expeditions in the Sudan” were extremely brutal, “at times amounting almost to genocide”.
These sorts of atrocities are not all part of some distant past. In July, three survivors of the 1950s Mau Mau uprising against British rule in Kenya demanded reparations from the Government for alleged torture. In the brutal crackdown of the insurgency, thousands of members of the Kikuyu tribe were driven into detention camps, described by Harvard historian Caroline Elkins as “Britain’s gulag”.

Estimates of deaths vary widely; historian David Anderson puts the death toll at 20,000, but Elkins believes up to 100,000 could have died. Despite courageous opposition from Labour’s Barbara Castle and – oddly enough – Tory right-winger Enoch Powell, British crimes were hidden from the population back home in favour of a daily diet of Mau Mau atrocities.

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Britain's Brutal Colonial Past 2

European excesses

None of this is to single out Britain: a conspiracy of silence remains over European colonialism as a whole. Most have never heard of Belgium’s King Leopold II, but he should be regarded as a tyrant up there with Hitler and Stalin. Under his tyrannical rule over the modern-day Democratic Republic of Congo, about 10 million people – or half the population – died horrible deaths.

Millions were forced to collect sap from rubber plants; those that missed their quotas had their hands chopped off. It is difficult to know where to start with other European horrors, like the forgotten German genocide against the Herero and Nama people in South-West Africa in the early 1900s, or the post-war French slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Indochina and Algeria.
European moral superiority is often asserted, despite the fact that the greatest atrocities in human history – colonialism, two catastrophic wars, Nazism, the Holocaust – were all committed by Europeans, and within living memory. But it is all too tempting to airbrush the colonial era from history. As Hague says, “it’s a long time ago, the retreat from empire.”

Common and terrible legacy

Yet it is all too easy for an aggressor to say “let bygones be bygones”. Hundreds of millions still suffer from the consequences of colonialism. As the then-South Africa President Thabo Mbeki put it in 2005, colonialism left a “common and terrible legacy of countries deeply divided on the basis of race, colour, culture and religion”. Across Africa, the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent, conflicts and divisions created or exacerbated by colonialism remain.

Learn from the past

We could learn from our colonial past, too. The siren voices of armchair bombers, loudly demanding intervention in foreign lands, would be far less appealing if we were aware of past horrors. In the 19th century, Britain was bogged down in an unwinnable war in Afghanistan; and so history repeats itself.

Both William Hague and Gordon Brown would have us believe that we have tortured ourselves enough over Empire, and that it is time to move on. But a national debate over this largely ignored – and crucial – part of our history has not even begun. It is desperately overdue.

The Independent

Before it was conquered, India’s share of the world economy was well over 20 per cent, nearly as large as all of Europe put together. By the time the country won independence, it had dropped to less than 4 per cent.

Historical vignettes

Great Famine of 1876–1878

The Madras famine, or more accurately, the Great Famine of 1876–78 was a result of successive crop failures in various parts of India, especially Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, Bombay, as well as parts of Central Provinces, United Provinces, and Punjab. Mishandling by the British Administrators like Sir Richard Temple, who had, ironically handled an earlier famine well, acerbated the woes of hundreds of thousands of Indians and led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Boer Wars

The Boers (farmers) of the Transvaal, South Africa, revolted against the British annexation of their territory in 1877. This led to the first Boer War of 1899-1902.

The second Boer War broke out on October 11, 1899. The British won the war, but with high number of casualties, and an outrage at their policy of scorched earth and for using concentration camps to imprison Boer women and children, as well as a number of black people. Mahatama Gandhi, who was a practising lawyer in South Africa at that time, served in the Red Cross under the command of British forces during this war.

Concentration camps

Long been used to intern local populations, concentration camps are associated with large-scale causalities of those interned in them. In 1896, over 100,000 Cubans died in the concentration camps set up by General Valeriano Weyler, a Spaniard, when he crushed a rebellion there.

In 1899, the United States authorities set up concentration camps to stifle revolt in the Philippines.

During the Second Boer War, the British set up concentration camps where the Boer civilians, especially the wives and children of farmers whose houses had been burnt were detained. Some black people were also interned. Apathy and inefficiency led to the death of an estimated 28,000 Boer women and children and at least 20,000 black people.

The most notorious are the Nazi concentration camps, like Auschwitz , set up with the express purpose of killing their inmates. The number of people who died in these camps is disputed, but an estimated 58 lakh Jews and 5 million people of other races were killed by the Nazis.

[Courtesy: Tribune. Edited for]
September 7, 2012
What the world needs is more geniuses with humility, there are so few of us left  -   Oscar Levant

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