On February 5, 1885, Belgian King Leopold II established the Congo Free State as his personal possession. Rather than control the Congo as a colony, as other European powers did throughout Africa, Leopold privately owned the region. Leopold financed development projects with money loaned to him from the Belgian government.
 
The king’s stated goal was to bring civilization to the people of the Congo, an enormous region in Central Africa. Leopold’s reign over the Congo Free State, however, has become infamous for its brutality. Estimates vary, but about half the Congolese population died from punishment and malnutrition. Many more suffered from disease and torture
 
As the realities and suffering within the Congo Free State became more widely known, people became upset. Demonstrations and protests demanded that Leopold end human rights abuses in the Congo Free State. In 1908, international pressure forced the king to turn the Congo Free State over to the country of Belgium. The newly named “Belgian Congo” remained a colony until the Democratic Republic of Congo gained its independence in 1960.
brutal
Adjective

extreme, harsh, or cruel.

Noun

complex way of life that developed as humans began to develop urban settlements.

colony
Noun

people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.

development
Noun

construction or preparation of land for housing, industry, or agriculture.

disease
Noun

harmful condition of a body part or organ.

enormous
Adjective

very large.

establish
Verb

to form or officially organize.

finance
Verb

to fund or provide money to an organization or individual, usually for a specific purpose.

government
Noun

system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

human rights
Noun

basic freedoms belonging to every individual, including the rights to social and political expression, spirituality, and opportunity.

independence
Noun

state or situation of being free.

infamous
Adjective

having a very bad reputation.

malnutrition
Noun

lack of a balanced diet.

protest
noun, verb

demonstration against a policy or action.

Noun

any area on Earth with one or more common characteristics. Regions are the basic units of geography.

reign
Verb

to rule as a monarch.

torture
Noun

inflicting pain to force a victim to provide information.

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