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The Traders are Kidnapping Our people-2 - King Leopold's Ghost

The river where he had landed would be known by Europeans for most of the next five hundred years as the Congo. It flowed into the sea at the northern end of a thriving African kingdom, an imperial federation of two to three million people. Ever since then, geographers have usually spelled the name of the river and the eventual European colony on its banks one way, and that of the people living around its mouth and their indegenous kingdom another.The river where he had landed would be known by Europeans for most of the next five hundred years as the Congo. It flowed into the sea at the northern end of a thriving African kingdom, an imperial federation of two to three million people. Ever since then, geographers have usually spelled the name of the river and the eventual European colony on its banks one way, and that of the people living around its mouth and their indegenous kingdom another.

The Kingdom of the kongo was roughly three hundred miles square,comprising territory that today lies in several countries. It s capital was the town of Mbanza Kongo- mbanza means "court" - on a commanding hilltop some ten days' walk inland from the coast and today just on the Angolian side of the Angola-Congo border. In 1491, nine years and several voyages after Diogo Cao's landfall, an expidition of awed Portuguese priests and emissaries made this ten-day trek and set up housekeeping as permanent representatives of their country in the court of the Kongo king.

Their arrival marked the beginning of the first sustained encounter between Europeans and a black African nation.The Kingdom of the kongo was roughly three hundred miles square,comprising territory that today lies in several countries. It s capital was the town of Mbanza Kongo- mbanza means "court" - on a commanding hilltop some ten days' walk inland from the coast and today just on the Angolian side of the Angola-Congo border. In 1491, nine years and several voyages after Diogo Cao's landfall, an expidition of awed Portuguese priests and emissaries made this ten-day trek and set up housekeeping as permanent representatives of their country in the court of the Kongo king. Their arrival marked the beginning of the first sustained encounter between Europeans and a black African nation.

The Kingdom of the Kongo had been in place for at least a hundred years  before the Portuguese arrived . Its monarch , the maniKongo, was chosen by an assembly of clan leaders. Like the European counterparts, he sat on a throne, in his case made of wood inlaid with ivory. As a symbols of royal authority, the ManiKongo carried a zebra-tail whip, had the skins and heads of baby animals suspended from his belt, and wore a small cap.The Kingdom of the Kongo had been in place for at least a hundred years  before the Portuguese arrived. Its monarch, the maniKongo, was chosen by an assembly of clan leaders. Like the European counterparts, he sat on a throne, in his case made of wood inlaid with ivory. As a symbols of royal authority, the ManiKongo carried a zebra-tail whip, had the skins and heads of baby animals suspended from his belt, and wore a small cap.

In the capital, the king dispensed justice, received homage, and reviewed his troops under a fig tree in a large public square. Whoever approached him haad to do so on all fours. On pain of death, no one was allowed to watch him eat or drink. Before he did either, an attendant struck two iron poles together, and anyone in sight had to lie face down on the ground.The ManiKongo who was then on the throne  greeted the portuguese warmly. His enthusiasm was probably due less to the Savior his unexpected guests told him about than to help their magical fire-spouting weapons promised in suppressing a troublesome provincial rebellion. The Portuguese were glad to oblige.

The newcomers built churches and mission schools. Like many white evangelists who followed them, they were horrified by polgamy; they thought it was the spices in the African food that provoked the dreadful practice. But despite their contempt for KOngo culture, the Portuguese grudgingly recognized in the kingdom a sophisticated and well-developed state- the leading one on the west coast of central Africa.The newcomers built churches and mission schools. Like many white evangelists who followed them, they were horrified by polgamy; they thought it was the spices in the African food that provoked the dreadful practice. But despite their contempt for Kongo culture, the Portuguese grudgingly recognized in the kingdom a sophisticated and well-developed state- the leading one on the west coast of central Africa.

The Manikongo appointed govenors for each of some half-dozen provinces, and his rule was carried out  by an elaborate civil service that included such specialized positions as mani vangu vangu, or first judge in cases of adultery. Although they were without writing or the wheel, the inhabitants forges copper into jewelry and iron into weapons, and wove clothing out of fibres stripped from leaves of the raffia palm tree.The Manikongo appointed govenors for each of some half-dozen provinces, and his rule was carried out  by an elaborate civil service that included such specialized positions as mani vangu vangu, or first judge in cases of adultery. Although they were without writing or the wheel, the inhabitants forges copper into jewelry and iron into weapons, and wove clothing out of fibres stripped from leaves of the raffia palm tree.

According to myth, the founder of the Kongo  state was a blacksmith King, so ironwork was an occupation of the nobility. People cultivated yams, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables, and raised pigs, cattle, and goats. They measured distance by marching days, and marked time by the lunar month and by a four-day week, the first day of which was a holiday. The king collected taxes from his subjects and, like many a ruler, controlled the currency supply: cowrie shells found on a coastal island under royal authority.According to myth, the founder of the Kongo  state was a blacksmith King, so ironwork was an occupation of the nobility. People cultivated yams, bananas, and other fruits and vegetables, and raised pigs, cattle, and goats. They measured distance by marching days, and marked time by the lunar month and by a four-day week, the first day of which was a holiday. The king collected taxes from his subjects and, like many a ruler, controlled the currency supply: cowrie shells found on a coastal island under royal authority.

As in much of Africa, the kingdom had slavery. The nature of African slavery from area to another and changed over time, but most slaves were people captured in warfare. Others had been criminals or debtors, or were given away by their families as part of a dowry settlement. Like any system that gives some human beings total power over others, slavery in Africa could be vicious. Some Congo basin people sacrificed slaves on special occasions, such as ratification of a treaty between chiefdoms; the slow death of an abandoned slave, his bones broken, symbolized the fate of anyone who violated the treaty. Some slaves might also be sacrificed to give a dead chief's soul some company on its journey into the next world.As in much of Africa, the kingdom had slavery.

The nature of African slavery from area to another and changed over time, but most slaves were people captured in warfare. Others had been criminals or debtors, or were given away by their families as part of a dowry settlement. Like any system that gives some human beings total power over others, slavery in Africa could be vicious. Some Congo basin people sacrificed slaves on special occasions, such as ratification of a treaty between chiefdoms; the slow death of an abandoned slave, his bones broken, symbolized the fate of anyone who violated the treaty. Some slaves might also be sacrificed to give a dead chief's soul some company on its journey into the next world.

Reference: King Leopold's Ghost: Adam Hochschild

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