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US-Congo (1959-1997)


Project: History of US Interventions

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Welsh Bor - “John Rowland's B_stard” as reads on his birth certificate. Abandoned by his mother, and never knew who his real father was, was born in Wales on January 28, 1841. A perpetual liar, and Fame Hunter who would later “Discover” the Congo Basin under the flag of both the “Union Jack” and the “Star Spangled Banner,” was an inmate of the St. Asaph Union Workhouse until his release at age eighteen. [Adam Hochschild, "King Leopold's Ghost" (First Mariner Books edition, 1999) pp. 21-30]

Henry Morton Stanley - In February 1859 he would emigrate to New Orleans, where continuously plagued by his low birth he is desperate to establish a name for himself, so he takes without permission the New Name of Henry Morton Stanley, the name of his self proclaimed “Father” and employee. [Adam Hochschild, "King Leopold's Ghost" (First Mariner Books edition, 1999) pp. 21-30]

In Search of Livingston - He is numbered as the few who fought on both sides of the Civil war and his correspondence of the war attracts the attention of James Gordon Bennett, editor of the New York Herald. In 1971, he is sent to Africa as a Corespondent for the New York Herald to find Livingston and write about it. [Adam Hochschild, "King Leopold's Ghost" (First Mariner Books edition, 1999) pp. 21-30]



       The young Duke of Brabant, who will be crowned King Leopold II of Belgium in 1865 (see 1865), dreams of making Belgium wealthy through the acquisition of a colony. At the age of 27, he travels to Seville to study Spain's history as a colonizer. In a letter to a friend, he writes: “I am very busy here going through the Indies archives and calculating the profit which Spain made then and makes now out of her colonies.” Two years later, he tours the British possessions of Ceylon, India, and Burma and explores investment potential in South America and even the American Pacific. There is little support among Belgians at this time for establishing colonies. But the duke is undeterred. “Belgium doesn't exploit the world,” he complains to one of his advisor. “It's a taste we have got to make her learn.” The duke's father, King Leopold I, had at one time considered acquiring a colony, but was discouraged after his investment at St. Thomas de Guatemala ended with the imprisonment, bankruptcy, and death of the settlers and main promoter. A few years later, the family suffers from another ill-fated venture, this time in Mexico. In 1964, Leopold's youngest sister, Charlotte, and her husband Archduke Maximilian are installed by Napoleon III of France as the country's figurehead Emperor and Empress. But Mexican rebels quickly put an end to Maximilian's rule. In June 1967, two years after the duke is crowned King Leopold II, the emperor is killed by firing squad. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 37-38, 40-42; Pakenham 1992, pp 12-13]


       The young Duke of Brabant is crowned King Leopold II of Belgium. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 37-38, 40-42]

September 12-14, 1876

       King Leopold II of Belgium hosts the Geographical Conference on West Africa at the Royal Palace in Brussels to discuss his plan to establish a Belgian colony in Central Africa. Attending the affair are a number of notable explorers and geographers. Leopold explains that his plans are “in no way motivated by selfish designs.” He speaks only of science, philanthropy, and ending the slave trade. Though the major European powers officially ended their trade in slaves from West Africa almost a half century before, it is still being practiced by the Arab and Swahili people in East Africa. By the end of the conference, a new international body named the International African Association is established to publicize and seek funds for the project. [Pakenham 1992, pp 20-23; Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 37-8, 42-44]

(Late 1876)

       King Leopold II of Belgium writes in a letter to his ambassador in London, “I do not want to miss a good chance of getting us a slice of this magnificent African cake.” [Pakenham 1992, pp 22]

June 10, 1878

       King Leopold II of Belgium agrees to pay British adventurer Henry Morton Stanley to lead an expeditionary force to the Congo. Under the terms of their five-year contract, Stanley will return to the Congo as an employee of the king. He will receive a stipend of 25,000 francs a year for time spent in Europe and 50,000 a year for time spent in Africa. Once he has reached the navigable portion of the river, Stanley will assemble a steamboat and work his way into the interior, setting up trading posts along the way. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 61, 63]

June 10, 1878

       Henry Morton Stanley has his first meeting with King Leopold II of Belgium. The king has been paying close attention to Stanley's exploits in the African Congo and is hoping that Stanley will help him establish a colony there. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 61, 63]

(Late 1879)

       King Leopold II of Belgium instructs Colonel Maximilien Strauch to send a telegram to Henry Morton Stanley that he has instructed Messrs. Rothschild & Sons to set aside £2000 for Stanley, to be used at his disposal. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 64; African Museum, n.d.]

Fall 1883-Spring 1884

       King Leopold II of Belgium sends General Henry Sanford, a former US Ambassador to Belgium under Lincoln, to lobby Congress and US officials to recognize the International Association of the Congo. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 79-80; Pakenham 1992, pp 242-243]

December 4, 1883

       President Arthur sends a message to Congress: “The objectives of the society are philanthropic. It does not aim at permanent political control, but seeks the neutrality of the valley. The United States cannot be indifferent to this work, nor to the interests of their citizens involved in it...It may become advisable for us to cooperate with other commercial powers: protecting the rights of trade and residence in the Kongo [sic] valley free from interference or political control of any one nation.” [Pakenham 1992, pp 244]


       Congo Conference of Berlin (1884-85) to establish some limitations on British imperial power but also to reach an equitable means of partitioning Africa. Bismarck also negotiated the Reinsurance Treaty. [Bartleby, The Encyclopedia of World History. 2001.]

April 10, 1884

       The US Senate votes in favor of recognizing the International Association of the Congo. [Pakenham 1992, pp 246] The senate resolution, introduced by Senator John Tyler Morgan of Alabama, is followed by the publishing of a thousand copies of a report on the Congo. Attributed to Morgan, the document was written primarily by Sanford, who lobbied for the bill on behalf of Belgian King Leopold II (see Fall 1883-Spring 1884). Sanford asserts in the report “that no barbarous people have ever so readily adopted the fostering care of benevolent enterprise as have the tribes of the Congo, and never was there a more honest and practical effort to ... secure their welfare.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 80]

April 22, 1884

       The US Secretary of State issues a letter recognizing “the flag of the International African Association [he meant the International Association of the Congo] as the flag of a friendly government.” [Pakenham 1992, pp 246]

October 22, 1884

       The Daily Telegraph says that the International Association of the Congo's work is being led by “knit adventurers, traders, and missionaries of many races ... under the most illustrious modern travelers.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 75-77; Pakenham 1992, pp 246]

December 1884

       Campaigning to win recognition of the “Congo Free State,” King Leopold II of Belgium assures the United States there will be “complete freedom from duties on all American goods exported to the Congo.” [Pakenham 1992, pp 224]

April 1885

       The USS Lancaster, at the mouth of the Congo river, fires a twenty-one-gun salute in honor of King Leopold's “Congo Free State.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 86-87]

July 1890

       George Washington Williams writes an open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium charging his government with a lengthy list of human rights violations. Williams, a black American, came to the Congo early that year interested in establishing a program through which African Americans could come to Africa to work. He had hoped that working in Africa would offer them a better chance for advancement than in the US. His hopes were quickly diminished shortly after arriving in the Congo. His letter to Leopold makes the following charges:
Henry Morton Stanley and his men have been tricking African chiefs into signing over their land to the king. He explains: “A number of electric batteries had been purchased in London, and when attached to the arm under the coat, communicated with a band of ribbon which passed over the palm of the white brother's hand, and when he gave the black brother a cordial grasp of the hand, the black brother was greatly surprised to find his white brother so strong, that he nearly knocked him off his feet. ... When the native inquired about the disparity of strength between himself and his white brother, he was told that the white man could pull trees and perform the most prodigious feats of strength.” Another ploy commonly utilized by Stanley's men, according to Washington, was to claim that white men have “an intimate relationship to the sun,” so intimate in fact that if a white man were to request that the sun “burn up his black brother's village, it would be done.” According to Williams, through the use of these tactics “and a few boxes of gin, whole villages have been signed away to your Majesty.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 109-110]

Stanley is widely feared in the Congo as a tyrant. His name “produces a shudder among simple folk. When mentioned; they remember his broken promises, his copious profanity, his hot temper, his heavy blows, his severe and rigorous measures, by which they were mulcted of their lands.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 110]

Leopold's officers force the natives to provide Belgium's military bases in the Congo with provisions. When the natives resist, “white officers come with an expeditionary force and burn away the homes of the natives.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 110]

The king's men treat their prisoner's inhumanely and subject them to harsh punishments for the slightest infractions. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 110]

Despite Leopold's claims to the contrary, his subjects in the Congo Free State are not being provided with government services. The only schools and hospitals that have been built, Williams argues, are “not fit to be occupied by a horse.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 110-111]

Leopold's men have been kidnapping local women and using them as concubines. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 111]

Belgium officers have shot villagers for sport, in order to steal their wives, or in order to intimidate others into forced labor. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 111]

Despite Leopold's alleged abhorrence of slavery, his government in the Congo “is engaged in the slave-trade, wholesale and retail,” according to Williams. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 111]
Williams's open letter causes a stir in both the US and Europe. Leopold denies the charges. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 112] Ironically, Williams was the first American to propose official recognition of the Congo Free State by the United States. [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 106]

October 1890

       Three months after George Washington Williams writes his open letter to King Leopold II of Belgium complaining of the atrocities he witnessed being committed by Belgium forces against natives in the Congo, Williams writes a report to US President Harrison. Williams argues that the Unites States has a special responsibility since it “introduced this African government into the sisterhood of states.” In another letter, addressed to the US secretary of state, Williams accuses the Belgium government of having committed “crimes against humanity.” [Adam Hochschild 1999, pp 112]

After January 1, 1900

       Over the next few months, the CIA works with and makes payments to eight top Congolese, including Kasavubu (who would replace Lumumba) and Mobutu (then army chief of staff). All eight play roles in Lumumba's downfall. [TODO; Washington Post]


       Popular revolts and demands for independence from Belgium force the Belgian government to negotiate with the rebellious parties. [rticle]

June 1960

       Lumumba, already recognized as one of Africa's most vociferous leaders of anti-colonial liberation movements, is elected prime minister of the Congo Republic immediately before the country's independence. [rticle]

Aug 1960

       The CIA establishes Project Wizard, a CIA covert action program aimed at removing Lumumba. Not to be outdone, the Belgians also initiate to kill Lumumba later in October, entitled 'Operation Barracuda'. [TODO; Washington Post]

Aug 1960

       The US is concerned that Lumumba will be the new Castro. Eisenhower tells CIA chief Allen Dulles to 'eliminate' Lumumba at a National Security Council meeting. [rticle; TODO] The Church committee hearings of 1975-1976 would later confirm that Eisenhower gave the order to assassinate Lumumba, as well as revealing several CIA plots to assassinate Lumumba. [Church report; article; TODO]

Sept 5, 1960

       Lumumba is ousted and placed in captivity. [Washington Post]

Sept 19, 1960

       The British foreign minister meets with Kissinger, pressing him to kill Lumumba. During the meeting, Kissinger expresses his wish that 'Lumumba would fall into a river full of crocodiles'. [Telegraph; TODO]

Oct 1960

       The CIA provides Mobutu with $250,000 to win parliamentary support for a Mobutu government. However, when legislators balk at approving any prime minister other than Lumumba, the CIA prevents the parliament from reopening. The following month the CIA is authorized to provide arms, ammunition, sabotage materials and training to Mobutu's military in the event it has to resist pro-Lumumba forces. [Washington Post; TODO]

Jan 1961

       Lumumba and two of his comrades are killed, allegedy while attempting to escape confinement. It is recently revealed that he was actually executed by a firing squad commanded by a Belgian. [article; TODO; TODO; UN report; TODO]

Jan 1961

       Barely three weeks after his death, the US authorizes new funds to be given to the people who arranged Lumumba's murder. [Washington Post]


       Mobutu seizes full power and reigns as a despot for 35 years with US support. In 1980 he bans all political parties except his own. He personally controls 70% of the country's wealth, valued at $5 billion. At his death in 1997, he is personally responsible for 80% of his country's debts. [rticle; TODO]


       “On his two trips to the continent [Africa] President Clinton told his hosts repeatedly that the U.S, due to its pre occupation with the cold war, was responsible for one-party governments in many parts of Africa. But it is difficult to think of Any African Country, other than possibly, Congo, in which the U.S played a dominant role in establishing the post-colonial government.” [Henry Kissinger, "Diplomacy" (First Stone Edition, 1995) p. 207]

Before 1992

       During this period (up till 1991 when the US cuts aid), Mobutu receives over $1.5 billion in economic and military aid from the US while US companies increase their share of Congo's fabulous mineral wealth. [TODO; Article]


       Operation Guardian Assistance troops/marines doing ? at Rwandan Hutu Refugee camps, in area where revolution begins. [TODO; TODO]


       Laurent-Denise Kabila forces a dissipated Mobutu from power. He inherits a country in ruins which soon finds itself in a brutal civil war in which to date an estimated 3 million people have been killed. The resource rich Congo, once the most promising of the liberated central African countries, after 35 years of US involvement in its affairs, is an economically, politically and socially bankrupt nation. [TODO; TODO; TODO; TODO; BBC; article]

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