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The kidnapping (also referred to as ) of women, especially the beautiful ones, is a recurring theme in the archives.
At least two women (Jema and Bonyonoto) complained about how they were taken from their homes and made mistress to the white man or a sentry.
The exploitation of rubber was assured by State officials and through a network of African auxiliaries (also known as sentries, sentinels or capitas), who were put into a certain area or village by the State or one of the concession companies.
Based on missionaries’ reports and extensive campaigning by the Congo Reform Association (CRA), one of the first and largest human rights movements of the early 20th century, a Commission of inquiry (1904-1905) came into being to investigate the specific charges of atrocities and abuses alleged to be prevalent in the Congo Free State.Dormant in the archive but reactivated and brought in relation to the present, they firebomb arguments that make the case for colonialism.In the reading room of the Belgian Africa archives, visitors are greeted by King Leopold II’s painting.When people in privileged positions speak out in favour of colonialism, this cannot be ignored.
Much has been written on colonialism’s racialisation, its impunity and inhumanity, its dismantling of indigenous structures, its violence and suffering (including by Ami V Shah and Swati Parashar.
As apologists for colonialism gain prominence, Charlotte Mertens reports how the Congolese voices resting in the Africa archives of Brussels reveal the use of rape, sexual exploitation and torture as punishment, extortion and a display of colonial power.