* scramble for Africa European colonialism Belgium post-War era

Belgium Congo: Post-World War II Period (1945-60)

Figure 1.--Here Belgians living in the Congo Lake Bakivu (Lake Kivu) are waiting on the arrival of Prince Régent Charles. Lake Kivu was in the eastern Cingo on the border with Rawanda and Burundi. The Prince was making an official visit to the Congo after World War II. The photograph was taken July 29, 1947. Put your cursor on the image to see the rest of the group. Lake Kivu would several decades later become infamous as the place where many of the victims of the Rawanda Genocide were dumped.

The post-War period was a period of relative prosperity in the Belgian Congo. The Belgians developed an economy based on developing the colony's mineral resources. The colony thus suffered economically when the Depression reduced demand for raw materials during the 1930s. This changed with the advent of World War II. War production created a huge demand for minerals and the Congo had mines producing several critical metals. There were even uranium mines. The Congo which was loyal to the Government-in-exile mas=de an important contribution to the allied war effort. The resulting boom created prosperous economic conditions abd this continued into the pot-War era. The prosperity drew increased immigration, mosdtly from Belgium. The European population tripeled in the post-War era from a mere 34,000 people in 1945 to 113,000 in 1958. There was also a pronounccon of the population to the expanding cities. Thriough World war II, the Congolese primarily lived in rural areas. The urban population began growing rapidly after the War. The population of the capital, Léopoldville, quadruples from 100,000 to almost 400,000 in that same period. The colony shared a serious problem common with other European colonies--extremne social stratification based on race. The Europeand prospered, enjoying a life style usually above that which could be expected in Belgium itself. The Congolese native population in contrast lived in abject poverty. The Belgian officials made almost no effort to educate the Congolese and prepare them for good paying jobs. Christian missionaries did contruct a system of primary schools. Nor was there any effort to prepare the Congolese for self-government. In this regard, the Belgians have a worse record than the other European colonial powers. The Belgians pusued a very paternalistic system--direct rule from Brussels. There was no effort to set up a political structure in the Congo, even among the European settlers. A reader has provided us some of his boyhood experiences from the Belgian Congo. The clothese the childre wear here seem similar to those worn in Belgium at this time, at least during the summer. This includes the rompers the younger boys wear.


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Created: 5:43 AM 4/21/2012
Last updated: 5:17 PM 11/4/2012