Casement Report

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Roger Casement (right) and his friend Herbert Ward, whom he met in the Congo Free State
Leopold II of Belgium King sovereign of the Congo Free State from 1885 until 1908.
Joseph Chamberlain MP.
Théophile Wahis was Governor-General of the Congo Free State during Casements travels trough the Congo.

The Casement Report was a 1904 document written by Roger Casement (1864–1916) a diplomat and Irish independence fighter detailing the alleged abuses in the King's private territories, namely the "Domaine de la Couronne" (Crown domain) which was located in the Upper Western part of the Congo Basin Area of the Congo Free State, and which was under direct control of Leopold II of Belgium. The report was instrumental in Leopold relinquishing his private holdings in the Congo Free State.

Congolese whipped with a sjambok
Force Publique soldiers photographed in 1900


Quotes from the Report[edit]

  • It is a question (of native labour) which has engaged my most careful attention in connection with West Africa and other Colonies. To listen to the right honourable gentleman, you would almost think that it would be a good thing for the native to be idle. I think it is a good thing for him to be industrious ; and by every means in our power, we must teach him to work. No people ever have lived in the world's history. who would not work. In the interests of tbe natives all over Africa, we have to teach them to work.
  • Between July 1891 and February 1896, no fewer than 62 convictions admittedly representing a small proportion of offences actually committed were recorded against them for flogging, plundering, and generally maltreating the natives.
    • Casement Report, Page 4 Casement cites an example of difficulties he has seen previously in Sierra-Leone to compare this to the situation in the Congo Free State.
  • We are all of us taxed, and taxed heavily. Is that a system of forced labour? To say that because we put a tax on the native therefore he is reduced to a condition of servitude and of forced labour is, to my mind, absolutely ridiculous. It is perfectly fair to my mind that the native should contribute something towards the cost of administering the country.
  • If that really is the last word of civilization, if we are to proceed on the assumption that the nearer the native or any human being comes to a pig the more desirable is his condition, of course I have nothing to say I must continue to believe that, at all events, the progress of the native in civilization will not be secured until he has been convinced of the necessity and the dignity of labour. Therefore, I think that anything we reasonably can do to induce the native to labour is a desirable thing, the existence of the tax is an inducement to him to work.
  • This much i can speak of with certainty and emphasis: that from the British frontier hear Fort George to the limit of my journeys into the Mbuba country of the Congo Free State, up and down the Semliki, the natives appear to be prosperous and happy... The extent to which they were building their villages and cultivating their plantations within the precincts of Fort Mbeni showed that they had no fear of the Belgians.
  • Before having had the opportunity to meet several officers and to visit the stations of the State of Congo, I am convinced that the conduct of these gentlemen was very badly interpreted by the press. I have cited as proof my personal experience, which is in opposition to a version recently published by the English press, which accuses them of great cruelty.
  • The method of obtaining men for military service is often but little different from that formerly employed to obtain slaves, the men composing the armed force of the State were in many cases recruited from the most warlike and savage tribes, ompulsion is often exercised by irresponsible native soldiers uncontrolled by an European officer, no attempt at any administration of the natives is made, the officers of the Government do not apparently concern themselves with such work.
  • There was no doubt that the administration of the Congo Government had been marked by a very high degree of a certain kind of administrative development. There were railways, there were steamers upon the river, hospitals had been established, and all the machinery of elaborate judicial and police systems had been set up.
  • That the Congo State had done good work in excluding alcoholic liquors from the greater part of their domain, that they had established a certain number of hospitals, had diminished smallpox by means of vaccination, and had suppressed the Arab Slave Trade.
  • If The State has restricted the liquor trade it is scarcely possible to overestimate the service which is being rendered by the Congo Government to its; subjects in this matter Intertribal wars have been suppressed over a wide area, and, the imposition of European authority being steadily pursued, the boundaries of peace are constantly extending. The State must be congratulated upon the security it has created for all who live within the shslter of its flag and abide by its laws and regulations. Credit is also due to the Congo Government in respect of the diminution of cannibalism. The yoke of the notorious Arab Slave Traders has been broken, and traffic in human beings amongst the natives themselves has been diminished to a considerable degree.
  • The native is better housed, clothed, fed; he replaced his huts with more resistant and better dwellings. suitable for hygienic requirements; thanks to the transport facilities, he gets supplies of the products necessary for its new needs; workshops are open to him, where he learns manual trades - such as, those of blacksmith, carpenter, mechanic, macon; he spreads his plantations, and, following the example of the whites, is inspired by the modes of vational culture; medical care is provided to him; he sends his children to state school colonies and missionary schools.
    • Casement Report, Page 7. Since 1898 the improvement of the general condition of the native has further progressed, Pickersgil.
  • The individuals represented as composing a convoy of slaves were, the great majority of them (125), levies proceeding from the district of Lualaba-Kasai, Lake Leopold II, and the Bangalas to the camp in the Lower Congo. Annexed you wilt find lists of these persons. As regards the men in chains, they were certain individuals on whom sentence had been passed by the territorial Tribunal at Basoko, and who were on their way to undergo their sentence at the central prison at Boma. They are Nos. 3642 to 3649 on the prison register at Boma.
    • Casement Report, Page 11. The Governor-General when asked about three carriages of slaves, a dozen of whom were in chains and guarded by soldiers coming down from Leopoldville to Matadi.
  • I pray believe me when I express now, not only for myself, but for my fellow countrymen in this part of Africa, pur very sincere appreciation of your efforts on behalf of the general community efforts to promote goodwill among all and to bring together the various elements of our local life.
  • It is a question (of native labour) which has engaged my most careful attention in connection with West Africa and other Colonies. To listen to the right honourable gentleman, you would almost think that it would be a good thing for the native to be idle. I think it is a good thing for him to be industrious; and by every means in our power we must teach him to work No people ever have lived in the world's history who would not work. In the interests of the natives all over Africa, we have to teach them to work.
  • How can we possibly plant and weed our gardens, seek and prepare and boil the cassava, make it into portable shape, and then carry it nearly a day's journey to the post? Moreover, if the kwanga we make are a little small or not well-cooked, or if we complain that the rods given us in settlement are too short, as they sometimes are, then we are beaten by the wood-cutters, and sometimes we are detained several days to cut firewood as a punishment.
  • Our military program is very extensive and its achievement requires sustained attention and great effort, but without its execution, our situation will remain precarious. If necessary, but I do not think it is necessary, the Government will show itself willing to increase to a certain extent the contingent of poor in 1903.
    • Casement Report, Page 30. the Governor-General in a Circular addressed to the local authorities at Manyuema, Lake Leopold II, Lualaha-Kasai, Aruwimi, and Ruzizi-Kivu, dated the 26th May 1902.
  • I am responsible each week for 600 rations of fish which must he delivered at Bikoro. If it fails I am held responsible and will be punished. I have been flogged more than once for a failure in the fish supply, and will not run any risks. If these men go I shall be short-handed, therefore they must stay to help in getting the weekly tax.
  • It was not a native custom prior to the coming of the white man; it was not the outcome of the primitive instincts of savages in then: fights between village and village; it was the deliberate act of soldiers of a European Administration, and these men themselves never made any concealment that in committing these acts they were but obeying the positive orders of their superiors.
  • The Ba-Unga (Awemba district), inhabitants of the swamps in the Chambezi delta, gave some trouble on being snmmoned to pay taxes. Although in many cases whole villages retired into the swamps on being called upon for the hut tax, the general result was satisfactory for the first year (Luapula district). Milala's people have succeeded in evading taxes. A few natives bordering on the Portuguese territory, who, owing to the great distance they reside from the Native Commissioners 5 stations, are not under the direct supervision of the Native Commissioners, have so far evaded paying hut tax, and refused to submit themselves to the authority of the Government. The rebel Chief, Mapondera, has upon three occasions successfully eluded punitive expeditions sent against him. Captain Gilson, of the British South Africa Police, was successful in coming upon him and a large following of natives, and inflicting heavy losses upon them His kraal and all his crops were destroyed. He is now reported to be in Portuguese territory... Siji M'Kota, another powerful Chief, living in the northern parts of the M'toko district, bordering on Portuguese territory, has also been successful in evading the payment of hut tax, and generally pursuing the adoption of an attitude which is not acceptable to the Government. I am pleased to report that a patrol is at present on its way to these parts to deal with this Chief, and to endeavour to obtain his submission. It wT be noted that the above remarks relate solely to those natives who reside along the borders of ou territories, and whose defiant attitude is materially assisted by reason of this proximity to the Portuguese border, across which they are well able to proceed whenever they consider that any meeting or contact with the Native Commissioner will interfere in any way with their indolent and lazy li? They possess no movable property which might be attached with a view to the recovery of hut tax unpaid for many years, and travel backwards and forwards with considerable freedom, always placin themselves totally beyond the reach of the Native Commissioner.

Quotes related to alleged genocide in the Casement Report[edit]

The Mongo people suffered during the active slave capture, trade and export in the 18th and 19th centuries, where "thousands of Mongo people as captured slaves passed through the Zanzibar route by the Arabs.
  • The people (slaves) are for the most part originally prisoners of war. Since the Decree of Emancipation they have simply returned to their own distant homes, knowing their owners have no power to recapture them. This is one reason why some think the population is decreasing, and another is the vast exodus up and down river. So long as the Slave Trade flourished, the Bobangi nourished, but with its abolition they are tending to disappear, for then towns were replenished by slaves.
  • The main difficulty has been the shifting of the population. It appears that the population, when the station was founded in 1865, was between 5,000 and 6,000 in the riverine Colonies. About two years later, the Chief, Mpuki, did not agree with his neighbours or they with him. When the tension became acute, Mpuki crossed over with his people to the opposite (French) side of the river. This exodus took away a large number of people. In 1890 or 1891, a Chief from one of the lower towns was compelled by the majority of his people to leave the State side, and several went with him. About 1893, the rest of the people at the lower towns either went across to the same place as the deposed Chief, or took up their residence inland. Towards the end of 1894, a soldier who had been sent to cut firewood for the State steamers on an island off the towns, left his work to make an evil request in one of the towns. He shot the man who refused him. The rascal of a soldier was properly dealt with by the State officer in charge ; but this outrage combined, with other smaller difficulties, to produce a panic, and nearly all the people left for the French side, or hid awayjinland. So the fine township has broken up

Quotes alleging atrocities in the Casement Report[edit]

'La revue' of the Force Publique, Boma, capital city of the Congo Free State, 1899
A missionary points to the severed hand of a Congolese villager.
  • M. P. called on us to get out of the rain, and in conversation with M. Q. in presence of myself and R said: 'The only way to get rubber is to fight for it. The natives are paid 35 centimes per kilog", it is claimed, but that includes a large profit on the cloth; the amount of rubber is controlled by the number of guns, and not the number of bales oF cloth. The S. A. B. on the Bussira, with 150 guns, get only 10 tons (rubber) a-month; we, the State, at Momhoyo, with 130 guns, get 13 tons per month. So you count by guns? I asked him. Partout, M. P. said, Each time the corporal goes out to get rubber cartridges are given to him. He must bring back all not used; and for every one used, he must bring baek a right hand. M. P. told me that sometimes they shot a cartridge at an animal in hunting; they then cut off a hand from a living man. As to the extent to which this is carried on, he informed me that in six months they, the State, on the Momhoyo River, had used 6,000 cartridges, which means that 6,000 people are killed or mutilated. It means more than 6,000, for the people have told me repeatedly that the soldiers kill children with the butt of their guns.
    • Casement Report, Page 43. Casement quoting a diary he received in the region of the Upper Congo. M. P. referred to was an officer in the Government service, who, at the date in question, had come down from the Momboyo River.
  • When I asked if it was a woman's work to collect india-rubber, he said, " No; that, of course, it was man's work" Then why do you catch the women and not the men? I asked. Don't you see, was the answer, if I caught and kept the men, who would work the rubber? But it I catch their wives, the husbands are anxious to have them home again, and so the rubber is brought in quickly and quite up to the mark.
  • Four months ago I was arrested for not having got meat, and was kept one and a-half months in prison on that account. H. who killed V, and shot me here in the thigh, is a free man, as all men know; but I, who am wounded, have to hunt meat.
    • Casement Report, Page 50. In the Bongandanga Territory, Casement is approached by a men called T, stating that a sentry of the A.B.I.R. a man named U, had shot him.
  • It is rare indeed for Bolobo, with its 30,000 or 40,000 people, divided into some dozen elans, to be at peace for any length of time together. The loss of life from these petty wars, the number of those killed for witcheraft, and of those who are buried alive with the dead, involve, even within our narrow limits here at Bolobo, an almost daily drain upon the vitality of the country, and an incalculable amount of sorrow and suffering. The Government was not indifferent to these murderous ways In 1890 the District Commissioner called the people together, and warned them against the burying of slaves alive in the graves of free people, and the reckless killing of slaves which then obtained. The natives did not like the rising power of the State. Our own settlement among them was not unattended with difficulty. There was a feeling against white men generally, and especially so against the State. The people became insolent and haughty... Just at this time... As a force of soldiers steamed past the Moye towns, the steamers were fired upon. The soldiers landed, and burned and looted the towns. The natives ran away into the grass, and great numbers crossed to the French side of the river. They awoke to the fact that Bula Matadi, the State, was not the helpless thing they had so long thought. This happened early in 1891.
  • The case has been brought before the House of Commons, The grievances include forced labour on the roads, and restrictions which practically amount to slavery; natives have been flogged without trial by Magistrate's orders and are constantly subject to imprisonment for frivolous causes. Petitions lodged with the local Colonial Secretary have been disregarded. Mr. Chamberlain, in reply to the questions asked in Parliament, threw doubt upon the information received, but stated that the recently appointed Governor is; conducting an inquiry into the whole situation in the Fiji Islands, in the course of which the matter will be fully investigated.

Casement Quotes decrees enacted by the government of the Congo Free State[edit]

Palace of Laeken, then Residence of the King Leopold II and headquarters of the Congo Free State in Brussels.
Residence of the Governor-General of the Congo Free State in Boma.
Map of Congo Free State with territorial subdivisions of concessionaires, end of 19th begin of 20th century
  • No one has the right to occupy vacant lands without a title; vacant lands are to be considered as belonging to the State.
  • No one has the right to dispossess natives of the lands which they occupy.
  • The lands occupied by the native, population under the authority of their Chiefs, shall continue to be governed by the local customs and usages.
  • All Acts or Agreements which would tend to drive the natives from the territories they occupy, or to deprive them directly or indirectly of their liberty or means of livelihood, are prohibited.
  • In cases where the lands which form the subject of application are occupied in part by natives, the Governor-General, or his Delegate, shall intervene in order, if possible, to effect an arrangement with them, securing to the applicant the lands so occupied either by cession or by lease, but the State is not to be put to any expense in the matter.
  • When native villages are inclosed in lands which have either been disposed of m leased, the natives may, so long as the land has not been officially measured, take into cultivation, without the consent of either the owner or the lessor, the vacant lands surrounding their villages.
  • The members of the Land Commission shall examine with special care the question whether the lands applied for ought not to be reserved either for the public use or with a view to allow oi the extension of cultivation by the natives.
  • Non-natives who desire to found commercial or agricultural establishments in the districts above Stanley Pool, or in others to be eventually designated by the Governor-General of the Congo, shall be at liberty to take possession with this view of an area, the maximum size of which shall be fixed by the Governor-General; provided that they fulfil such conditions as he shall lay down, they shall enjoy a preferential right to the eventual acquisition of property in such lands at a price which shall be fixed by him beforehand.
  • The non-natives who, in the same regions, shall desire to occupy lands, of which the area shall exceed the maximum referred to in the preceding Article, may occupy them provisionally on such conditions as the Governor-General shall determine. He shall further decide whether the preferential right alluded to in the preceding Article shall be given to them in regard to this larger extent of land.
  • The exploitation is carried out by the management officers, under the direction of the District Commissairo.
  • Everything relating to the exploitation of the private domain must be clearly separated from other government services.
  • The agents proposed for the exploitation of the private domain devote all their care to the development of the harvest of rubber and other forest products.
  • Whatever mode of operation adopted for this purpose, they are bound to grant; to the natives a remuneration which shall in no case be less than the amount of the price of the labor necessary for the harvesting of the product; this remuneration is fixed by the District Commissioner, who sets his tariff for the approval of the Governor-General.
  • The Inspector of State on mission checks if this tariff is in relation to the price of! &. workforce ; it ensures its strict application, and it examines whether the general operating conditions do not give rise to any justified complaints.

Quotes about the Report[edit]

Edmund Dene Morel
  • The committee is to travel throughout the country into all the districts covered by Mr Casement in his recent tour of inspection, besides visiting many places Mr Casement never saw. In brief, the committee is to hold inquiry wherever evidence can be obtained. Where native witnesses give evidence of a nature prejudicial to white men, the committee will see that such witnesses are protected from the possibility of suffering at the hands of officials against whom they may bear witness. The Government of the Congo holds itself responsible for the safety and well-being of such witnesses. On the latter point King Leopold has expressed himself in the strongest possible terms.
  • Tackling Leopold in Africa has set in motion a big movement – it must be a movement of human liberation all the world over.

See Also[edit]

External links[edit]

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