Imperialism in Central Africa

By Trevor Arteaga, Tyler Ramberg, and Kyran Jamison

Vocabulary Terms

Unequal Treaty: A treaty forced upon a country being dominated by another during Imperialism. These treaties often gave the imperialistic nation the ability to do whatever they needed to do in pursuit of profit.

ABAKO: a rebel group who promoted the Congo’s independence

Monopoly: the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.

King Leopold ll: the second king of Belgium who founded the Congo free state in Central


Colonialism- The policy of maintaining colonies as a source of raw materials and new markets. Practiced during old and new imperialism.

Berlin Conference in 1884

At the Berlin Conference in 1884, the major European nations met to determine their spheres of influence and colonial regions in Africa and this was when Leopold’s colony was formally recognized as the Congo Free State. Under Leopold’s rule the colonies were exploited tremendously, as working conditions were brutal, taxes were high and numerous Africans, from four to eight million, died, while the lives of those Belgian colonists were more luxurious.

Leopold's Monopoly

King Leopold's II main motives were gaining economic success as the Congo region had a large supply of raw materials such as rubber and a labor force that could be easily exploited. By 1892 the Congo Free State, under control of Leopold II, claimed a monopoly on rubber production for the whole colony, which caused even more problems for the natives of the region. This allowed the Belgians to pay the native farmers even less money and they even used military force to make villages meet high quotas for resources like rubber.

Leopold's Departure

In 1908, the Belgian government realized how cruelly Leopold was treating the colony and they took control away from him and decided to rule it directly. This decision was largely influenced by the humanitarians who put pressure on the government to end Leopold’s exploitation of the Congo.

Henry Stanley's Treaties

Henry Morton Stanley (an explorer), as a representative of the International Africa Association (a front organization for King Leopold II), and the king and chiefs of Ngombi and Mafela- Stanley traveled through the Congo in the early 1880s in King Leopold’s employ to gain territory for him. All treaties made by Stanley had the same demands, basically saying that the Belgium's may firmly establish their country, use and trade most all of their resources, and that the Belgians may use them as "workers". Stanley came back to Leopold with over 450 signed treaties.


When the Belgian government took over the administration in 1908, the situation in the Congo improved in certain respects. The brutal exploitation and arbitrary use of violence, in which some of the concessionary companies had excelled, were curbed. The tragedy of “red rubber” was put to a stop. Article 3 of the new Colonial Charter of 18 October 1908 established that: “Nobody can be forced to work on behalf of and for the profit of companies or privates”. In reality, forced labour, in differing forms and degrees, would not disappear entirely until the end of the colonial period.

Nearing the End

By the mid-1950s, there were at best a few thousand Congolese who had successfully obtained the civil merit diploma or been granted "immatriculation". The supposed benefits attached to it—including equal legal status with the white population. It became increasingly evident that the Belgian government lacked a strategic long-term vision in relation to the Congo. This was due partly to the fact that ‘colonial affairs’ did not generate much interest or political debate in Belgium, so long as the colony seemed to be thriving and calm. In 1960, Belgians abandoned the Congo because the citizens of the Congo finally goy their independence.
Congo-The Brutal History
Belgium in the Congo Genocide

Impact on Central Africa

One problem with Belgium imperialism in Central Africa was when they left, the people of central Africa had no idea how to run a government. Belgium's influenced their culture and customs on the people of Central Africa, making it more European.