King Leopold II of Belgium, he killed and mutilated an estimated 10 million africans, while making them work as slaves to harvest rubber from the plants over there. If they didn’t harvest the rubber fast enough, he would have their hands or feet chopped off. Most of the time this happened to children who couldn’t keep pace with the adults that were harvesting the rubber.His regime forced Africans, at gunpoint, to work brutally hard at the tasks of empire: collecting ivory, tapping rubber, mining copper, building railroads, and carrying raw materials on their backs along narrow paths for miles. People who tried to avoid slavery were whipped, starved, and shot. Families were held hostage. People were raped and held as sex slaves. Crops were burned. Villages were leveled.
A Belgian officer named Rene de Permentier was not untypical in his conduct. Hochschild writes, “If he found a leaf in a courtyard that women prisoners had swept, he ordered a dozen of them beheaded. If he found a path in the forest not well-maintained, he ordered a child killed in the nearest village.” And, if he wanted an afternoon of target practice, he used live human beings.
Tens of thousands of natives were murdered in cold blood. Many thousands more were worked to death. Large numbers of people became refugees, stripped of lands and crops, fleeing in terror at the approach of Leopold’s men. Many died from famines caused by Leopold’s army. Millions of people succumbed to diseases brought by Belgians, or illnesses that they might have survived had they not been under the Belgian fist. It was, says writer Algis Valiunas, “wickedness triumphant….Leopold merits a place among the great modern enemies of civilization.”