Title: "A Report Upon the Congo-State and Country to the President of the Republic of the United States of America"

Journal: LSE Selected Pamphlets

Publisher: British Library of Political and Economic Science

Place of Publication: London

Date: 1890

Places: Banana (Congo); Bangala (Congo); Boma (Congo); Bosoko (Congo); Kasai River; Leopoldville (Congo); Lukunga (Congo); Lumani (Congo); Manyanga (Congo); Matadi (Congo); Stanley Falls

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A Report Upon the Congo-State and Country to the President of the Republic of the United States of America

Geo. W. Williams

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L'Etat Indépendant du Congo was created and became the successor of l'Association Internationale du Congo. The King of the Belgians was now requested, or rather became the natural chief of the new State, as he had been of the Association; but there was a constitutional obstacle in the way of his Majesty assuming the legal headship of this African State. Article LXII (62) of the Belgian Constitution provides, -- "The King cannot be at the same time chief of another State, without the consent of the two Chambers. Neither of the two Chambres can discuss this subject unless two-thirds at last of the members composing it be present, and the resolutions can only be passed providing it is supported by two-thirds of the votes." I translate and insert here the record of the proceeding by which Leopold II became the Sovereign of the Congo State. "The Belgian Legislative Chamber, by a resolution, adopted in the Chamber of Representatives the 28th of April 1885, and in the Senate April 30th 1885, authorized His Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians, to become the Chief of another State, in conformity with article 62 of the Belgian Constitution." The resolution is as follows: "His Majesty Leopold II, King of the Belgians, is authorized to become the Chief of the State founded in Africa by l'Association Internationale du Congo. The union between Belgium and the new State shall remain exclusively personal."

On the 1st of August 1885, His Majesty notified the Powers that the possessions of l'Association Internationale du Congo would in the future constitute l'Etat Indépendant du Congo; that he had assumed, in accord with the Association, the title of "Souverain de l'Etat Independant du Congo;" that the relation between Belgium and this State was exclusively personal, and that it was to remain perpetually neutral.

On the 30th of October 1885, His Majesty, as Sovereign of the Congo State, issued a Decree creating three Departments for his new State Government, and naming three chiefs, lst Department of Foreign Affairs, including Justice, with three Bureaux: a. Foreign Affairs, b. Postal and Maritime, c. Judicial affairs; 2nd Department of Finance; a. General taxes, b. Land Department, c. Pay and Auditor's Department; 3rd Departement of Interior: a. Administration, b. Roads and communications, c. Army and Navy.

The three heads of departments constituted a council, under the Presidency of the Sovereign, who is the absolute Ruler. His councelors may recommend but can never share his authority. He makes all the laws under the title of "Decrees," and from his decisions there is no appeal. His Government is denominated as local, the European portion of the Congo-State.

In the Congo there is a Governor-General, in charge of the State, who issues such laws as he feels are necessary under the title of "ordonnances," but except they are reissued as a "Decree" by the Sovereign within six months, they are null and void. There are an Inspector-General, Secretary- General, Procurer-General, Finance-General, Judges and Commissaires of Districts. There are postmasters, transport-officers and clerks of various kinds.

A small portion of the country, claimed by the Independant State of Congo, is divided into Military Districts; the rest is dominated by natives whose lawful possession it is. There are eleven Military Districts, viz: 1. Banana, 2. Boma, 3. Matadi, 4. Manyanga, 5. Lukunga, 6. Leopoldville, 7. The Kassai River, 8. Bangala, 9. Basoko, 10. Lumani, 11. Stanley Falls. There are two "Military and Commercial Expeditions" on the Itimberi and Welle Rivers, and a third has just started.

Each one of these military districts is commanded by an officer of the Belgian Army, supported by other officers and non-commissioned officers. The "Commissaire of District" is of one of three classes, and needs not always be an army officer, for he deals with civil affairs only. All disputes and native palavers are settled by the military commander, and sometimes by the commissaire of the district, and their decision is final. When an offence has been committed against the State, the native may be fined, emprisoned or enslaved. In the Upper-Congo the State officials generally demand slaves for settling natives palavers. They promise to liberate these people after seven years service. As far as I have been able to investigate, this system of Government is unjust, capricious and absolutely cruel. There is scarcely one percent of the State officials, military and civil, who know the native language; and frequently the interpreter, an uneducated negro from Zanzibar or the East-Coast, knows little French, and puts questions indistinctly, or translates the testimony of the natives indifferently. I have seen this in the Supreme Court at Boma also. I called the attention of the Clerk of the Court to the poor French of the Interpreter, and he told me that, if that were all, it would not be so bad; but that the fellow was a notorious liar into the bargain! And yet upon this stammering patois hangs the bondage or liberty, the peace and property of many a native.

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