The Congo Question

Improved Essays
In John Daniels’ article titled, The Congo Question and the “Belgian Solution” the argument is made for the best way to administer the Belgians newly acquired colony, known as the Congo Free State, after its recent annexation from King Leopold II in 1908. The article was written after nearly ten years of ever increasing humanitarian outcries against the atrocities committed by King Leopold II. The “Congo question” for Daniels and the Western world was how best to reform and govern the colony in the wake of such deplorable abuses of human rights? How to reform is certainly an excellent question in the face of so much horror, but operating from this colonial template ignores perhaps a more fundamental and important question which will be explored …show more content…
The “Belgian Solution” was for the government to essentially buy the region and all its inhabitants and resources from Leopold and his heirs. Daniels contends that by having the Belgians take over the region and maintain the same system of administration little will be done to change the state of affairs for the Congolese people. Daniels argues very few improvements will occur in the lives of the indigenous people in the region without binding international legislation on how the state is run. He argues the enterprise is so profitable for the elites in Belgium and any attempts at reform would be swiftly hampered without external pressure and binding agreements. Or as Daniels states, “the net result of this hearty accord between the business king and his business people is that Belgium, unforced, will not introduce reforms in the Congo”(p 11). Daniels’ solution to the inhumane activities being perpetrated was to force the Belgians to comply with American and British standards of conduct along with an international conference of Western Powers that could reappropriate the Congo if they didn’t comply. During his time Daniels was probably seen as quite progressive but in his argument we can easily discern a deep cultural bias from his Western …show more content…
The fundamental question that needs to be asked if one slips out of a colonizers mindset for a moment is what right do Western societies have to decide the fates of foreign peoples and their land at all? Although much high-minded talk of human rights is discussed in the article the desires of the Congolese people themselves are never mentioned. Nor are they allowed to represent themselves in conventions that are deciding their fates. They are treated like children in another room waiting for their parents to resolve a fight. Most of the discussion is focused on the reform of the current foreign regime they live under. Much is also said about the betterment of their lives, but all within the context of colonization and foreign rule. It seems that the Westerners can agree to certain human rights regarding treatment, but not go so far as to consider self-rule by any stretch of the imagination, a possibility. The Congolese are seen as savages incapable of governing their affairs. No one asks the question what right did the Berlin Conference of 1884 have to parcel out Africa to Europeans? This colonial thought process is quite evident in the Daniels’ article despite its well-meaning intentions. He highlights the absurdity of King Leopold II putting an entire country and all its inhabitants in his will. Yet, sees it as perfectly reasonable to divide up the Congo between other European nations if

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