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November 9, 2022

The Hacked Hands of the Belgian Congo: Horrifying Photos of Mutilated Congolese People in the Congo Free State

The worst colonial crime ever, occurred at the turning point of the 20th century when the king of the Belgians Leopold II carried out during 20 years a policy of enslavement and extermination of half of the DR Congo population; it is to say 10 million dead people according to estimations. That was a hellish period, during which an emblematic practice of hacking off hands was established and affected the country.

King Leopold II of Belgium, like any other European power seeking new territory in Africa, carved for himself and took control of the vast un-exploited land on the banks of the River Congo in the present day Democratic Republic of Congo. He set out to carry out plunder, loot and severely brutalize the Congolese people.

It is estimated that 10-15 million people were killed as a result of actions or inactions of King Leopold. The people of Congo were “bought” like any merchandise and “owned “ by the king making the entire Congolese population slaves to King Leopold.

To exert his influence and not seem cruel, he created a philanthropy and a humanitarian guise called International African Society, which was used as a vehicle to extract rich resources through use of forced labor, torture, mutilation, and executions by the king’s private army. This is one of the least advanced genocides and slavery to have taken place on the Africa continent and yet utterly ignored or conveniently forgotten.

On the orders of King Leopold, thousands of Congolese were either hung, their hands amputated for failure to meet the daily ratio of sap collection for rubber making.

King Leopold took over about 905,000 square miles of African rain forest with the vast mineral resources for his personal use. What is often today described in international criminal justice discourse, as the “Command and Responsibility” fell squarely on King Leopold. For example, he commanded his generals to: “Cut off the heads of the men and hang them in the villages, have sexual intercourse with the native women and hang children and women on crosses.”

He ordered the cutting off of heads and hands, flogging them to death, starvation, burning villages and severe punishment for those who did not meet the quota for rubber production.

The sad part though is that despite the overwhelming evidence of such brutality, King Leopold was never held criminally liable for the genocide and ills in Congo.


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