The Congo Reform Association essay

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In 1904, Dr. Henry Guinness, Roger Casement and Edmund Dene Morel founded the Congo Reform Association. This was a movement whose main objective was to assist the impoverished workforce in the Congo. They did this by drawing attention to their plight. Prior to this, a Swedish missionary, Mr. Sjoblom, together with Rev. J. Murphy of the American Baptist Mission, had reported the cases on the abuses to Dr. Guinness in 1895 (Hochschild, 1998). As a result, a Congo-Balolo mission was sent out with the aim of gathering information about all that horrors and murders.

Fortunately, out of 35 missionaries, six were able to survive the endemic diseases. Thereafter, Casement, a British consul, was ordered to prepare a Report in 1903. This resulted in him being honored with an Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) decoration for a job well done (Hochschild, 1998). In essence, the group was effective in questioning the imperialist regime of King Leopold II. All these came as a result of campaigns against the alleged atrocities in the Congo, which were spearheaded by Aborigines’ Protection Society (Hochschild, 1998).

According to Hochschild, Morel was sent to Belgium as he understood French. Consequently, he was able to examine the inner records of the Congo Free State held by Elder Dempster. Morel noticed that ships leaving Belgium for Congo were mainly carrying guns, chains and explosives without any trace of commercial goods (Hochschild, 1998). On the other hand, ships arriving from the Congo Free State were loaded with precious goods like ivory and rubber. As a result, he realized that King Leopold’s regime was abusive. The enormous gains made by King Leopold II, worth billions of dollars, were from exploitation of rubber through the state as well as other companies (Hochschild, 1998).

According to Morel’s estimations, these gains resulted from atrocious exploitations that he portrayed as slavery. In his view, the scope of exploitation must have killed almost half of the indigenous population of the Congo Free State (Hochschild, 1998). Under the auspices of the Congo Reform Association, Morel launched a campaign against the misrule in the Congo.

The Congo Reform Association enjoyed the support of renowned writers like Joseph Conrad whose Heart of Darkness was motivated by an expedition to the Congo (Hochschild, 1998). A number of the Christian missionaries were instrumental in furnishing Morel with eyewitness accounts as well as documented pictures of the atrocities. One of the backers of Morel was an American Quaker, William Cadbury, the chocolate millionaire (Hochschild, 1998). Additionally, Morel wrote a book with Pierre Mille, a French journalist. He also developed secret connections with some agents within the Congo Free State, who supplied him with relevant information (Hochschild, 1998).

In 1905, the CRA was successful in winning a victory for the establishment of a Commission of Enquiry. This was instituted as a result of the external pressure. The enquiries confirmed the allegations made about the colonial administration. Although Leopold had the idea of reforming his atrocious regime, very few nations took his intentions seriously (Hochschild, 1998). Most nations had come to a consensus that Leopold’s rule had to come to an end as soon as possible. There was no nation that was ready to take on the responsibility of governing the Congo. At the same time, there were no considerations as to whether it was wise to return control of the land back to the indigenous population. It was, therefore, concluded that Belgium was the appropriate candidate to govern the Congo Free State (Hochschild, 1998).

As a result, the Congo Free State was taken over by the Belgian government and established under its control. However, Morel still refused to stop his campaign until 1913 since he wanted to witness real changes on the situation in the Congo.

In essence, the CRA was not concerned with the question of abolishing colonialism. Rather, it was only after reforming it. As a matter of fact, though it was effective in launching a strong campaign against the atrocious regime, it merely dealt with the symptoms of the Congo problem. In as much as it was mainly formed for the purpose of protesting the brutality in the Free Congo State, the Association was basically not an anti-imperialist organization. It was, however, successful in proposing solutions to the crisis in the Congo (Hochschild, 1998). This included various forms of unilateral as well as international interventions that involved the partition of the Congo among other European powers. At the start of the twentieth century, the Congo reform movement was instrumental in raising serious concerns on matters bordering on international responsibility with regards to addressing the atrocities; however, the issues are still on debate today (Hochschild, 1998).


All in all, Hochschild brings out the story of the Congo in a way that it cannot just slip away into the space that separates centuries. The book is very well written and accessible. It researches history that is not easy to come by. In many ways, Adam Hochschild has by far succeeded in permitting all and sundry to understand that the ghost still haunts not only the Democratic Republic of Congo, but also the continent of Africa at large.

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