HM Stanley, the imperialist explorer, become one of the most famous names of the late 19th century. Yet in his later years he spent much energy trying to defend himself against charges that African expeditions had been marked by violence and brutality.
Recent biographers have concentrated on Stanley’s personality and exploits, however the racist ideas of the day led to hundreds of thousands of Africans being killed or mistreated - Europeans believing that their supremacy entitled them to confiscate land and exploit natives and resources. It is impossible to disconnect Stanley, or any other imperialist of the period, from that suffering. Stanley's opinion was that "the savage only respects force, power, boldness, and decision."
Stanley’s was no Indiana Jones! His travels in Africa were part of the scramble to grab land and exploit resources. He worked for the King of Belgium who's brutal forces severred hands to punish Congolese who did not deliver enough rubber.
HM Stanley is often sighted as one of the influences for the character of Kurtz in Joseph Conrad’s classic “The Heart of Darkness”. The most famous adaptation of the book is the film ‘Apocalypse Now’, which moves the story from the Congo to the Vietnam War.
In the 19th century vast sums were to be made from exploiting the Congo’s rubber and Ivory. Today we want gold, diamonds, uranium & coltan.
Coltan is used in things like cell phones and game consoles. The greed for coltan from eastern Congo finances present-day conflicts. An estimated 6.9 million people have died since 1998 in the war in the Congo
Find out more about how you can do a bit to make up for Stanley and his ilk.
New Directions for Congo A Cardiff based charity that was established to provide support to Congolese victims of conflict; especially women and children.
Christian Aid, Wales With projects in numerous African countries, including the Congo. From rehabilitating former child soldiers in Uganda to supporting people living with HIV in South Africa, support for Christian Aid translates into lives transformed.
Medecins Sans Frontieres is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.
Friends of the Congo Based in Washington DC, established in 2004 to work in partnership with Congolese to bring about peaceful and lasting change in the Democratic Republic of Congo.