The Scramble for Africa was essentially driven by the idea of “New Imperialism.” “New Imperialism” started the era of colonialism amongst the European powers – specifically Great Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Spain, and Portugal. It was driven by the idea of Social Darwinism, to aid the “dark people” on the “dark continent” of Africa because they were in need of “saving.” Imperialism became the primary focus through the late nineteenth century, and into the twentieth century; dividing the African continent into areas to be colonized under European rule. Although the countries primary focus was to spread Western religions and culture to the African continent, violence was used amongst the native peoples to further successful developments of the new European colonies. One of these colonies was the Belgian Congo, ruled by the Belgian King Leopold II. Under The King’s rule, acts of violence against the African people occurred regularly. Violence was believed to be a necessary component in the process of building a successful Belgian state.
King Leopold II had set intentions for the Belgian Congo before the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. His desires were to fight slavery and explore Central Africa:
“To open to civilization - the only part of our globe where it has not yet penetrated, and to enlighten the darkness which envelops it, is this not, if I may say so, a crusade worthy of our century of progress?”
To carry out these plans, he requested a meeting in 1876, known as the Brussels Geographical Conference, amongst representatives of major European powers – Great Britain, Russia, France, Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary and Belgium to discuss the exploration and civilization of Africa. To accomplish this, an International Commission was agreed upon after careful consideration and discussion. The Commission approved of the idea of National Committees “to collect subscriptions for the common object, and send delegates to Commission.” As a result, a National Committee for Belgium was created: the International African Association. In 1878, Leopold asked British explorer Henry Morton Stanley to navigate along the Congo River and negotiate with chiefs of native tribes to grant permission to build a 200-mile railroad over their land. A second Conference was held in 1878 at the Royal Palace of Brussels to discuss the plans in detail, and decide what type of expedition it was to be – whether it be strictly geographical, explorative, commercial, or philanthropic. The final decision was an expedition to obtain further information of the country, and to establish steam-communication where able. The investors (subscribers) funded under the title of “Comité d’Études du Haut Congo,” which would later be known as the International Association of the Congo in 1879.
The International Association of the Congo would be replaced by the Congo Free State, but not until after the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885. German Prince Otto von Bismarck summoned the...