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100 years ago: The Belgians and the Congo

25 November 2009

November 26th, 1909.

FOR full particulars relating to the great meeting in the Albert Hall to protest against the Congo atro­cities, we refer our readers to the account supplied us by an eye-witness. The Primate’s speech was admirable for its restraint, and was in pleasing contrast with some wild and tasteless remarks which fell from some speakers who shall be nameless. The point for the meet­ing’s consideration was, not whether the King of the Belgians is or is not a “millionaire libertine”, but whether, with our knowledge of a shameful misrule in the past, we can as a Christian people sanction the annexation of the Congo by Belgium without having first received an assurance that cruelty and slavery shall be suppressed. When we concurred in the Berlin Convention of 1885, we became jointly responsible to “watch over the preservation of the native tribes, and to care for the improve­ment of the conditions of their moral and material well-being”. But, in spite of our benevolent intentions, the Congo Free State has been suffered to sink to the lowest level of oppression and degradation. Now that it is about to be annexed by Belgium, the oppor­tunity is given us of making an effective protest against the con­tinuance of the old bad state of things. Sir Edward Grey’s hands should be strengthened by the proof afforded by last week’s meeting of the deep sense of national responsibility which the spectacle of all that misery in the Congo territory has aroused in us.

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