Leopold's agents held the wives and children of these men hostage until they returned with their rubber quota. Those who refused or failed to supply enough rubber had their villages burned down, children murdered, and hands cut off.
Mutilated Congolese child, a victim of King Leopold’s colonial policiesAlthough local chiefs organized tribal resistance, the FP brutally crushed these uprisings. These rebellions often included Congolese fleeing their villages to hide in the wilderness, ambushing army units, and setting fire to rubber vine forests. In retribution, the FP burned villages and FP officers sent their soldiers into the forest to find and kill rebels hiding there. To prove the success of their patrols, soldiers were ordered to cut off and bring back a dead victim's right hand for proof that they had not wasted their bullets. If they missed, or used cartridges on big game, they would cut off the hands of living people to make up the necessary number.
Hochschild tells it better: "True, with a population loss estimated at 10 million people, what happened in the Congo could reasonably be called the most murderous part of the European Scramble for Africa. But that is so only if you look at sub-Saharan Africa as the arbitrary checkerboard formed by colonial boundaries.
"With a decade of [Leopold's] head start [in the Congo], similar forced labour systems for extracting rubber were in place in the French territories west and north of the Congo River, in Portuguese-ruled Angola, and in the nearby Cameroon under the Germans.
"In France's equatorial African territories, where the region's history is best documented, the amount of rubber-bearing land was far less than what Leopold controlled, but the rape was just as brutal. Almost all exploitable land was divided among concession companies. Forced labour, hostages, slave chains, starving porters, burned villages, paramilitary company 'sentries', and the chicotte were the order of the day. [The chicotte was a vicous whip made out of raw, sun-dried hippopotamus hide, cut into a long sharp-edged cork-screw strip. It was applied to bare buttocks, and left permanent scars. Twenty strokes of it sent victims into unconsciousness; and a 100 or more strokes were often fatal. The chicotte was freely used by both Leopold's men and the French].
"Thousands of refugees who had fled across the Congo River to escape Leopold's regime eventually fled back to escape the French [in Congo-Brazzaville]. The population loss in the rubber-rich equatorial rainforest owned by France is estimated, just as in Leopold's Congo, at roughly 50%."
Tintin in the Congo has often been criticised as having racist and colonialist views, as well as several scenes of violence against animals. Hergé later said that he was portraying the naïve, colonialist views of the time. Later on in his life, Hergé regretted this album and regarded it as "the sin of his youth."
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