Kale, Caroline

In the late 1980’s, Edmund D. Morel was just a shipping clerk who was sent to a Belgian port in Antwerp to supervise shipments arriving from the Belgian Congo. During his duties, he discovered that enormous amounts of raw rubber were being shipped to Belgium, but the only packages shipped back were guns and bullets. Morel ultimately discovered that the “free” Congolese were being forced to harvest the rubber at gunpoint via the Belgian colonialists. Morel immediately quit his job in 1901 and commenced his campaign to expose and halt King Leopold’s atrocities against the Congo as a result of the Belgian colonialism.

Morel launched his campaign against what he deemed the “secret society of murderers,” by becoming a newspaper reporter in West Africa, also releasing pamphlets, books, and giving speeches all bringing to light the barbarity of Leopold’s actions against the Congolese for his own personal wealth. The evidence of the politics of the situation, or the lack of fair policies, were so effectively presented my Morel, the British government sent diplomat Roger Casement to the Congo to investigate the conditions of the people, based on Morels relentless effort to shed light on the situation. After the investigation, along with one of Morel’s reports in 1904, the British diplomat joined Morel’s organization, the Congo Reform Association, bringing to life the first major human rights movement of the 20th century.

The Belgian king Leopold hastily began releasing propaganda promoting the effective and good things arising in the Congo due to the Belgian colonialism, but Morel’s movement was too secure and vigorous for anything Leopold could produce; as a result, the public opinion of human rights for the Congo turned against Leopold. Due to Morel’s hasty, yet completely effective movement, the Belgian government eliminated the worst abuses against the native Congolese, emphasizing how politics can enact considerable social change anywhere in the world.

The colonialism in the Congo by Belgium resulted in major social changes for the Congolese, most of the changes horrific and detrimental to their well-being. However, the effective political forces used by Morel’s relentless campaign aided in reducing the harmful effects of colonialism, Morel’s actions of eliminating the “secret society of murderers” resulted in the political change of the release of the Congolese from the destructive grip of King Leopold, restoring the basic, yet deserved human rights of the Congolese.

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Photo courtesy of The Comment Factory

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