Throughout the book, King Leopold is depicted as a grotesque figure that combined his brutality with charisma. Under his administration, the Congo Free State was under extreme terror. Both mass carnage and maiming were used to overpower the native tribes of the region and to acquire slave labor (Hochschild, 1998). In many ways, he cleverly manipulated his image and established a reputation as a great philanthropist amid brutality as well as atrocities. King Leopold II set an atrocious colonial government that was meant to take full advantage of productivity (Hochschild, 1998).
In order to succeed in his endeavors, he first launched the concept of ‘vacant land’ (Hochschild, 1998). This denoted every land that no European was dwelling at. According to him, such lands were considered to belong to the state, as well as the servants of the state. Servants of the state denoted Europeans employed by King Leopold II. These servants were encouraged to exploit the land under their jurisdiction (Hochschild, 1998).
The Congo Free State was then divided into two economic zones. The Free Trade Zone was open to business people, from any European country. In this regard, they were permitted to purchase 10 to 15 monopoly leases on anything that was valuable (Hochschild, 1998). This included ivory from particular districts and the rubber concession. The rest of the zones, which were approximately two thirds of the Congo Free State, were the exclusive private possession of the State belonged to King Leopold II.
Many people who went to Africa had a firsthand experience of his holocaust. Many Africans died being beaten or fluffed up to death. This took place even as they worked on the farms. Some of the male rubber tappers and porters were ruthlessly browbeaten and murdered (Hochschild, 1998). Wives and children of the rubber tappers were held hostage until their men returned with the rubber quota. If someone repudiated or was not able to produce an adequate amount of rubber, their villages could be set on fire and children put to death (Hochschild, 1998). Some of them had their hands chopped off.
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Once in a while, there appeared pockets of resistance in which the local chiefs organized tribal against the king. However, such rebellions were crushed by the Force Publique (FP) officers (Hochschild, 1998). This was an army whose main objective was to terrorize the natives. Officers, in this case, were white agents of the state. Black soldiers were mainly cannibals from some of the fiercest ethnic group of the Congo.
Some soldiers were kidnapped being children during the incursions on their villages and transported to Catholic missions. They received military training in conditions akin to slavery. Armed with up-to-date arms, as well as the chicotte, a bull whip made from hippopotamus hide, the FP regularly tortured hostages. Some of them were flogged and raped. Rebels included Congolese escaped from their villages to take cover in the backwoods. Some of them were organizing unexpected attacks on army units and burn down the rubber vine forests. In response, the FP set villages on fire, while some of the FP soldiers being sent into the forests to locate and slay rebels.
The brutality was so severe that soldiers were ordered to cut off and bring right hands of their victims as a proof that the bullets were not wasted. In case their shots failed to spot their targets, the soldiers were forced to cut off the hands of the living or wounded people in order to meet their quotas.