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Special Issue

2004-04-06

Massacres and colonialism in Africa

Rome (Fides Service) - European colonialism in Africa was responsible for genocide in events many of which were unknown to the general public. The most well known was that in the Free State of Congo (former Zaire and today Democratic Republic of Congo), at the time a private territory belonging to King Leopold II of Belgium. In this vast area rich in resources then as today, the entire population was reduced to slavery with inhuman methods to produce riches to send to Europe. Moreover it is estimated that at least 10 million were killed between 1885 (the year the Free State of Congo was internationally recognised Congo) to 1908, when the status of Congo changed from a royal possession to a Belgian colony. Some say the estimated total of 10 million dead could be double the number.
At the time various personalities of the world of culture and politics denounced the brutal methods used within King Leopold II's private territory including authors such as Mark Twain and Joseph Conrad. One Belgian customs officer said that while diamonds, gold and other riches came from Congo to Belgium, all that Belgium sent back to Congo were only more rods, guns and ammunition.
Another African genocide long forgotten by history was that of the Herero people in Namibia, by German colonisers. Namibia, a vast territory of South West Africa on the Atlantic Ocean was a German colony at the time. Between 1904 and 1915 more than 80,000 Herero were massacred with great cruelty by troops led by General Lothar von Trotha. The Herero were pushed towards the Omaheke desert where the water holes had been poisoned. The soldiers were given order to shoot any man, woman or child seeking to escape death in the desert.
These are only two examples of how “civilised Europe” committed genocide in Africa. So racism first used abroad was later used to enact tragedies such as the Shoah in which at least 6 million Jews perished.
European colonialism is also responsible for slave trade from Africa to America. There are no precise figures with regard to the number of people torn from their land and taken in chains to the New World. Some sources say that from 1550 to 1850, no less than 100 million Africans were made slaves; more prudent estimates put the number between 20 to 30 million and it is estimated that only 30% of the slaves reached their destination alive.
The slaves served to replace natives people exterminated earlier: the real Americans. For example in 4 centuries in the lands which are now the United States and Canada, the local population was reduced from 10 million to about 237,000, mostly living in special “reserves”. This was another genocide conducted by European colonialism under circumstances of general indifference. The voice of the Catholic Church was the only one raised to denounce those crimes. The Jesuits and the Dominicans even founded new states where the native Americans could live as freemen. The story was told by the film «Mission». Unfortunately colonialism could not tolerate such an “anomaly”. Those free states found by missionaries in the spirit of the gospel were soon destroyed. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, righe 42 parole 553)

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