This betrayal by a power figure indelibly remains in the hearts and minds of the Congolese when interacting with other nations, even African neighbors (like Rwanda, with whom the DROC has had long-term and bloody conflicts).
A more empirical measure of the lasting effects that Belgian colonization has had on the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in the damage that has been done to the latter's natural resources. Almost every individual who comes into contact with the natural resources of the DNOR, either through study, travel to the area, or prospecting in the mines and locations of other resources themselves has responded with, at the least, shock at the manner in which the Congo's vast natural reserves of precious metal, stones, and everyday resources like rubber have been depleted. Human Rights Watch has issued a report stating that not only are these resources being depleted in a manner that is exploitive and only benefits the corporations extracting the resources, but that the presence of these foreign corporations who do not have a business rationale for preserving the DROC or its citizens is detrimental to the safety and well-being of the citizens as well as the environment. Said a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, "Efforts to make peace in Congo risk failure unless the issue of natural resource exploitation and its link to human rights abuses are put at the top of the agenda."
These first two detrimental phenomena (the psychological scars of genocide and the physical damage to the environment) can be directly traced back to the days of Belgian colonization; the discovery and exploitation of natural resources in the Congo as well as the perpetration of atrocities there was an exclusively Belgian event. Gold, although prevalent, was not utilized by the Congolese for everyday life and as such, was not mined in large quantities. The Belgians changed that, seeing the profit that could be made from extracting the natural resources in the area. They also began intense rubber- and ivory-harvesting efforts, demanding that natives work in what amounted to labor camps or risk losing a hand for not performing well enough to satisfy the Belgian landlords' expectations of production.
During this era of forced labor, another lasting detriment to the DROC was enacted by the colonial power: the stereotype, passed on to other nations and assuredly embedded within the psyche of the Congolese, that "Africans were by nature idle and would never respond to economic incentives alone." Not only did rhetoric like this prejudice international opinion toward the African, but the (untrue) stereotype became a stigma that still exists about work ethics of Africans. Again, this stereotype, initiated and perpetrated by the Belgian colonials, is a prejudice that has survived decades and still affects the perception and prejudice of Africans in certain situations.
Yet another lasting effect that Belgian colonization had on the Congolese was the harm done to the developing nation's economic and political identities. The economic identity was damaged in a manner similar to the ways that Latin America's economies were crippled during their formative years, by the establishment of an import substitution economy. The DROC, rich in raw materials like rubber, gold, and minerals, leaned heavily toward exporting resources for cash and then buying processed necessities, or agricultural products like grain and other consumables. The result of this emphasis on exports while a nation is flush with natural resources, such as when the Belgian Congo was harvesting a staggering amount of rubber, is that the manufacturing apparatus is never fully developed so that the nation may function without such a high degree of dependence on not only the supplies and products of other nations, but on the supply of its own raw materials-in the case of the Congo, when the rubber supply began to wane, the ability of the Congolese economy to trade was significantly diminished. This "coercive economy," with its forced labor and lack of development, has continued to be a detriment to the Congolese economy. Years after the Belgians have left, the Congolese, like so many nations which are recovering from colonization and having an import substitution economy forced on them, still lag behind in means of production and self-sufficiency.
OTHER FACTORS INFLUENCING DROC TODAY
In spite of all the empirical and implied evidence regarding the detrimental effects of colonialism, to assign blame for all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo's modern ills to Belgian colonization would be unfair. There are factors other than the lasting effects of colonialism that contribute to the current situation in the DROC. These factors include the fact that agricultural production is almost impossible, since only 3% of the land is arable, regional tensions that are not a result of colonialism that result in an unstable environment militarily and in terms of genocide and other human rights violations, and finally because of the refugee situation from the Rwandan genocide during the late 1990s. All of these factors bear heavily on the conditions in the DROC today, and prevent colonialism from being the only affecting phenomenon of the nation.
The effects of Belgian colonialism on the Democratic Republic of the Congo are a significant obstacle, both in the psychological sense of dealing with atrocities and genocide as well as in the physical sense of depleted resources and lessened self-sufficiency. Despite small positive implementations of colonialism, like infrastructure, the disadvantages as evidenced in the genocide and other atrocities, the economic difficulties, and the ravaging of natural resources far outweigh the benefits obtained from the colonial occupation.
International opinion is divided on the best way to heal the wounds in west Africa; that is a subject for another paper (or perhaps more appropriately, for several volumes of work!). What can be ascertained here, however, is the fact that Belgian colonialism was far more damaging to the Democratic Republic of the Congo than it was helpful, and that the damage lingers today and affects life decades after the Congolese were declared "independent" of Belgium. Foreign influences shaped DROC life during the time of colonialism and they continue to do so now.
Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold's Ghost. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, p. 304
Congo, Democratic Republic of the," Columbia Encyclopedia, online edition in Academic Search Premiere at 2005.
Democratic Republic of Congo, Civilians Attacked in North Kivu," published online 07/13/05 by Human Rights Watch at http://hrw.org/reports/2005/drc0705/4.htm#_Toc107835223and "DR Congo: Prominent Human Rights Leader Assassinated," published 08/01/05 by Human Rights Watch at http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/08/01/congo11549.htm
Columbia, 2005, "DROC: Rebellion and Civil War," at Scherrer, Christian, Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War. Westport: Praeger, 2002. For a first-person account of this period of UN peacekeeping, see Hoyt, Michael, Captive in the Congo. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 2000.
Tender into Tinder," Time, 02/08/93.
Mundala, Bienvenu "Looting Congo's Natural Resources," published 10/14/99 on Namibian, posted online at http://www.namibian.com.na/Netstories/Econ10-99/natural.html
Ibid., quoting Kwame Kimpele.
O'Reilly, Finbarr "Rush for Natural Resources Still Fuels War In Congo" in Global Policy Forum, 08/09/04, published online at http://www.globalpolicy.org/security/natres/minerals/2004/0809rush.htm
Slade, Ruth. King Leopold's Congo. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1962.
Discussion of the urban potential of the DROC and neighboring countries can be found in the introduction to Tarver, James, Urbanization in Africa. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994, pp. xxi-xxxii.
Hochschild, Adam. "Leopold's Congo: A Holocaust we have yet to Comprehend," in Chronicle of Higher Education, 05/12/2000, 46(36), p. B4. Another scholar who has acknowledged the genocide in the Belgian Congo as a holocaust is Richard Hamilton, who did so in the article, "A Neglected Holocaust," in Human Rights Review, 1(3), p. 119.
Human Rights Watch, "DR Congo: Gold Fuels Massive Human Rights Atrocities," 06/02/05 online at Hochschild, 1998, p. 159-162.
Gann, L.H. And Duignan, Peter. The Rulers of Belgian Africa, 1884-1914. New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1979, p. 122.
Weeks, John, "Economic Aspects of Rural-Urban Migration," in Tarver, James, Urbanization in Africa. Westport: Greenwood Press, 1994, pp. 388-407. For a list of raw goods commonly mined and harvested in the DROC, see the Columbia encyclopedia article, "Congo, Democratic Republic of the, Economy," online at Hochschild, 1998, p. 151, 190
Gann, p. 141.
Columbia, 2005. "Congo, Democratic Republic of the," online at The Regional Crisis and Human Rights Abuses in West Africa," published by Human Rights Watch, 06/20/03, online at http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/africa/wafrica/wafrica-humanrights.htm
Columbia, 2005. "Congo, Democratic Republic of the," online at