From the beginning of colonialism in the 1880s following the 'scramble for Africa', the Congo had been regarded as Leopold II's personal fiefdom. Leopold's administration of the Congo is reputed to have been ruthless and brutal. The decision to transfer the Congo to the Belgian Government followed intense criticism of Leopold's policies toward the Congolese. Atrocities committed by colonial officials in the Congo were circulated in Europe, provoking widespread condemnation of Leopold's policies. These are chronicled in the book "The Heart of Darkness" , which was to be the most graphic account of the excesses committed by colonial officials on their subjects in Africa.
Belgium and Leopold's business interests in the Congo were in the rubber industry. Africans, employed as labourers by the company, were subjected to extreme levels of violence to ensure that they met the targets set for them by the officials. Failure to achieve the targets was followed by extreme levels of violence meted out to the workers. One of such incident, which occurred in early 1900s, was widely covered by the media across Europe. This helped persuade the Belgian Parliament demand that Leopold II hand over the colony to the government.
Boahen, A.Adu, (1990), "Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935", (Cape Town), p.87