2 May 1885

On 2 May 1885, the Congo Free State was established by King Leopold II of Belgium. Congo was a large region in central Africa that had been able to resist European penetration. It occupies most of the Congo River basin and was controlled by the Belgian King. The region’s workers were ordered to use a small percentage of land that was not farmed as state property and the population could only sell its developed products. The Congolese were forced to meet quotas of rubber and ivory; when they failed to do so they were tortured and killed by the Belgium guards. Estimates of the number of people that were killed during the rule of Leopold range from 5 million to 22 million.

In 1908, the Belgian parliament eventually annexed the Congo, as a colony of Belgium to be run by state rather than the King. In 1960 the region gained its independence.  It was renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo.