Tuesday, December 12, 2006

E.D. Morel: Hero of the Congo and, soon, your heart

Last March I read King Leopold's Ghost, a book about Belgium's ruinous colonization of the Congo. Belgium's King Leopold ran the vast territory as his private rubber and ivory farm, exploiting its environment and directly or indirectly causing 10 million deaths. For years the king and his agents operated under a mandate granted at the Berlin Conference (also where the Western Sahara was given to Spain), and no one thought to investigate the king's rule.

E.D. Morel changed that. Morel was a low-level shipping manager employed by a British company that handled some of Leopold's shipping to the Congo. Stationed in Belgium, Morel began to notice that his country's boats carried only rifles and ammunition to the colony, but returned loaded with ivory. He realized slavery was the only explanation for the trade imbalance. Soon after his epiphany, Morel quit his job and returned to England to start the Congo Reform Association in 1900.

With the help of Irish independence fighter Roger Casement, Morel win support for his campaign from politicians, churchmen, and ordinary people on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1908, partly because of Morel's efforts, Leopold was forced to give Congo to Belgium.

E.D. Morel is important to me because he shows what one man can do about a tremendous evil. When Morel began the Congo Reform Association few people outside of the Congo knew the horrors of Leopold's administration. By the end of the campaign, however, ending abuses in Leopold's fiefdom had become one of the most urgent human rights causes of its time. E.D. Morel demonstrates the success the Western Sahara can achieve if we organize, appeal to a wide range of people, and work tirelessly.


  1. Anonymous3:36 PM

    Hi Will

    It is very nice that you are thinking and writing „globally” about the human right
    Not only in Western Sahara but also in whole Africa and even Tibet

    A propos the human right issue. I have received a terrible reports from WS . a lot of injured saharawis activists. this happened when the Saharawi citizens celebrated the international day of human rights (10 December )

    Also a copy of press release from The Saharawi Committee for the defence of Human Rights in Smara ( occupied Western Sahara) denounced, on Friday, the abduction of its President, Mr Fekou Labouihi , on Thursday,
    This human right activist have been tortured by two Moroccan policemen ( photos can be found probably at official WS websites)

    and every day there are hundreds reports from there showing the violation of human rights in “occupied WS”

    hope some of the human rights ORGs or NGOs are hearing the “ low voice “ of sahrawis