Tuesday, June 05, 2007

King Leopold's Congo...

So after a three hour delay and a horrible flight I am back home in one piece - I guess here it's the end result that is important and not the process per se. I have come back to a very cool and rainy Accra - can only hope that the water is finding it's way into the dam. Seems as if a number of persons got flooded out over the weekend, and even more unfortunate, seven persons died. There is now a call by the Minister of Local Government, Rural Development and Environment to clamp down on illegal buildings and dumping, all of which has contributed to the flooding. Let's see what will happen.

On the return journey from East Africa back to West Africa, we flew for two hours over the Congo forest. Made me think of the book I had just finished reading, ' King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Terror, Greed, Heroism in Colonial Africa' by Adam Hochschild. It's a well written book though it's hard to say I enjoyed it, as the story was quite gruesome. It was hard to put it down though once I started, never having recognised the extent to which the then Belgian King Leopold III had gone to in ensuring his own economic gain. It is said some ten million native inhabitants died through a combination of forced slavery (to harvest rubber), torture and murder. The extent to which Belgian officers carried out their gruesome duties in keeping resistance in check has been described as sociopaths by some. Records revealed the fact that officers/soldiers would often times 'harvest' the hands and feet of men, women and even children as proof of the number of people killed. One report told of an officer collecting the severed heads to border his garden!

Unfortunately just before he died King Leopold III gave orders for many of the detailed records to be destroyed. One can't help but wonder what those would have revealed.

Sad how many times history repeats itself.

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