A report on Force Publique

Force Publique soldiers on parade with their Belgian officer in the late 1940s
Force Publique soldiers photographed in 1900
Two Force Publique soldiers at Fort Shinkakasa. Shown are the blue and red uniforms worn until 1915
Force Publique soldiers sometime after 1910
The Force Publique, 1928
Map of the 1916 campaign by the Force Publique during the East African campaign
The Force Publique in German East Africa during the First World War.
Congolese enlisting in the Force Publique during the Second World War, c. 1943.
Gendarmerie unit in Léopoldville, 1959
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Map showing distribution of the Force Publique, 1956
His Excellency Pierre Ryckmans, Governor-General of the Belgian Congo, reviews FP troops at the inauguration of the monument to King Albert I in Léopoldville, 1938

Gendarmerie and military force in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo from 1885 (when the territory was known as the Congo Free State), through the period of Belgian colonial rule (Belgian Congo – 1908 to 1960).

- Force Publique
Force Publique soldiers on parade with their Belgian officer in the late 1940s

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Belgian Congo

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Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960.

Belgian colony in Central Africa from 1908 until independence in 1960.

The Belgian Congo (dark green) shown alongside Ruanda-Urundi (light green), 1935
Leopold II, King of the Belgians and de facto owner of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908
The Belgian Congo (dark green) shown alongside Ruanda-Urundi (light green), 1935
Children mutilated during King Leopold II's rule
Former residence of the Governor-General of the Belgian Congo (1908–1923) located in Boma
On the left hand side, the former Ministry of the Colonies, adjacent to the Constitutional Court, Brussels
Map of the Belgian Congo
The Force Publique in German East Africa during World War I
A steam boat arriving at Boma on the Congo River in 1912
Belgo-Congolese troops of the Force Publique after the Battle of Tabora, 19 September 1916
Ruandan migrant workers at the Kisanga mine in Katanga, ca. 1920
Railways (grey/black) and navigable waterways (purple) in the Belgian Congo
Propaganda leaflet produced by the Ministry of the Colonies in the early 1920s
The majority of the uranium used in the Manhattan Project came from the Shinkolobwe mine.
Students in the Teaching laboratory, Medical School, Yakusu, c. undefined 1930–1950
Scheutist missionary on tour in the neighbourhood of Léopoldville around 1920
Education by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (c. undefined 1930)
Nurses of the Union Minière du Haut-Katanga and their Congolese assistants, Élisabethville, 1918
A female missionary is pulled in a rickshaw by Congolese men, c. undefined 1920–1930
King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth inspecting the military camp of Léopoldville during their visit to the Belgian Congo, 1928
Joseph Kasa-Vubu, leader of ABAKO and the first democratically elected President of the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
Patrice Lumumba, first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo (Léopoldville)
Opening meeting of the Belgo-Congolese Round Table Conference in Brussels on 20 January 1960
Lumumba and Eyskens sign the document granting independence to the Congo
Belgian soldier lying in front of dead hostages, November 1964, in Stanleyville during Operation Dragon Rouge. Belgian paratroopers freed over 1,800 European and American hostages held by Congolese rebels.
Equestrian statue of Leopold II in Kinshasa

Leopold's Force Publique, a private army that terrorized natives to work as forced labour for resource extraction, disrupted local societies and killed and abused natives indiscriminately.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

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Country in Central Africa.

Country in Central Africa.

View of Leopoldville Station and Port in 1884
1908 photograph of a married Christian couple.
Force Publique soldiers in the Belgian Congo in 1918. At its peak, the Force Publique had around 19,000 Congolese soldiers, led by 420 Belgian officers.
The leader of ABAKO, Joseph Kasa-Vubu, first democratically elected President of Congo-Léopoldville
Patrice Lumumba, first democratically elected Prime Minister of the Congo-Léopoldville, was murdered by Belgian-supported Katangan separatists in 1961
Mobutu Sese Seko and Richard Nixon in Washington, D.C., 1973.
Mobutu with the Dutch Prince Bernhard in Kinshasa in 1973
Belligerents of the Second Congo War
Refugees in the Congo
People fleeing their villages due to fighting between FARDC and rebel groups, North Kivu, 2012
Government troops near Goma during the M23 rebellion in May 2013
DR Congo's President Félix Tshisekedi with neighbouring Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso in 2020; both wear face masks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The map of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Democratic Republic of the Congo map of Köppen climate classification
Ituri Rainforest
Mount Nyiragongo, which last erupted in 2021.
Salonga National Park.
Masisi Territory
Lake Kivu in North Kivu province
Bas-Congo landscape
An Okapi
A male western gorilla
Hippopotami
Joseph Kabila was President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from January 2001 to January 2019.
President Joseph Kabila with U.S. President Barack Obama in August 2014
FARDC soldiers on patrol in Ituri province
A group of demobilized child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
A proportional representation of Democratic Republic of the Congo exports, 2019
Change in per capita GDP of Congo, 1950–2018. Figures are inflation-adjusted to 2011 International dollars.
Rough diamonds ≈1 to 1.5 mm in size from DR Congo.
DR Congo's Human Development Index scores, 1970–2010.
Collecting firewood in Basankusu.
Train from Lubumbashi arriving in Kindu on a newly refurbished line.
Map of rail network
Major Bantu languages in the Congo
Kongo youth and adults in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Amani festival in Goma
Family in Rutshuru, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo
The population pyramid of the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Our Lady of Peace Cathedral in Bukavu
A classroom in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Development of life expectancy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Population fleeing their villages due to fighting between FARDC and rebels groups, Sake North Kivu 30 April 2012
A Hemba male statue
Stade des Martyrs in Kinshasa.
The Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, Lubumbashi

From 1885 to 1908, his colonial military forced the local population to produce rubber and committed widespread atrocities.

Royal portrait, c. 1900

Leopold II of Belgium

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The second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 and the self-made autocratic ruler of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908.

The second King of the Belgians from 1865 to 1909 and the self-made autocratic ruler of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908.

Royal portrait, c. 1900
Leopold as a younger man in the uniform of the Grenadiers (Portrait by Nicaise de Keyser)
Leopold II at his accession to the throne
The Cinquantenaire/Jubelpark memorial arcade and museums in Brussels, commissioned by Leopold II
Cartoon depicting Leopold II laying the first stone of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Brussels
Map of the Congo Free State, c. 1890
Cartoon depicting Leopold II and other imperial powers at the Berlin conference of 1884
A father stares at the hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter, severed as a punishment for having harvested too little rubber.
A 1906 Punch cartoon by Edward Linley Sambourne depicting Leopold II as a rubber snake entangling a Congolese rubber collector.
Leopold II's funeral procession passes the unfinished Royal Palace of Brussels, 22 December 1909
Statue in Kinshasa, which is no longer on display.
Leopold and Marie Henriette

Leopold ran the Congo by using the mercenary Force Publique for his personal gain.

An Askari company ready to march in German East Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika)

East African campaign (World War I)

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Series of battles and guerrilla actions, which started in German East Africa and spread to portions of Mozambique, Rhodesia, British East Africa, the Uganda, and the Belgian Congo.

Series of battles and guerrilla actions, which started in German East Africa and spread to portions of Mozambique, Rhodesia, British East Africa, the Uganda, and the Belgian Congo.

An Askari company ready to march in German East Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika)
An Askari company ready to march in German East Africa (Deutsch-Ostafrika)

The Force Publique was constrained to adopt a defensive strategy until 15 August 1914, when German ships on Lake Tanganyika bombarded the port of Mokolobu and then the Lukuga post a week later.

Belgian officers with captured Italian artillery, following the battle

Siege of Saïo

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The siege of Saïo or battle of Saïo took place during the East African Campaign of World War II.

The siege of Saïo or battle of Saïo took place during the East African Campaign of World War II.

Belgian officers with captured Italian artillery, following the battle
Belgian officers with captured Italian artillery, following the battle
Force Publique soldiers leaving the Congo for Italian East Africa
Map of the Belgo-Congolese expedition to Ethiopia

In the first months of 1941, British and Belgian colonial forces attacked Italian East Africa from the colony of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

Congo Free State

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Large state and absolute monarchy in Central Africa from 1885 to 1908.

Large state and absolute monarchy in Central Africa from 1885 to 1908.

Leopold II, King of the Belgians and de facto owner of the Congo Free State from 1885 to 1908
Henry Morton Stanley, whose exploration of the Congo region at Leopold's invitation led to the establishment of the Congo Free State under personal sovereignty
Cartoon depicting Leopold II and other imperial powers at Berlin conference 1884
Map of the Congo Free State in 1892
Steamboat in the Congo Free State, 1899
'La revue' of the Force Publique, Boma, capital city of the Congo Free State, 1899
The concessions and the Domaine de la Couronne. The infamous A.B.I.R. company is shown in dark red.
Cecil Rhodes attempted to expand the territory of the British South Africa Company northward into the Congo basin, presenting a problem for Leopold II.
Francis Dhanis, ca. 1900
Clearing tropical forests ate away at profit margins. However, ample plots of cleared land were already available. Above, a Congolese farming village (Baringa, Equateur) is emptied and leveled to make way for a rubber plantation.
Congolese labourers tapping rubber near Lusambo in Kasai.
A typical Force Publique regiment, circa 1900
A Congolese man, Nsala, looking at the severed hand and foot of his five-year-old daughter who was killed and allegedly cannibalized by members of the Force Publique in 1904.
Mutilated Congolese children, image from King Leopold's Soliloquy, Mark Twain's political satire, where the aging king complains that the incorruptible camera was the only witness he had encountered in his long experience that he could not bribe. The book was illustrated with photographs by John Hobbis Harris.
Cartoon by British caricaturist 'Francis Carruthers Gould' depicting King Leopold II, and the Congo Free State.
A 1906 Punch cartoon by Edward Linley Sambourne, depicting Leopold II as a snake entangling a Congolese man
Roger Casement
E.D. Morel
Proclamation from Inspector-general Ghislain to the population of the Congo, announcing the annexation of the territory by Belgium in 1908
Equestrian statue of Leopold II at the Regent place in Brussels, Belgium
The Monument to General Storms in Brussels daubed in red paint, symbol of the blood of the Congolese people.
Congolese people working at the port of Leopoldville
Construction of a railroad by Congolese workers
Melting latex of rubber in the forest of Lusambo

The Force Publique (FP), Leopold's private army, was used to enforce the rubber quotas.

Three men of Dugumbé ben Habib raiding the market of Nyangwe, July 15th, 1871

Congo–Arab War

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Fought in Central Africa between the forces of Belgian King Leopold II's Congo Free State and various Zanzibari Arab slave traders led by Sefu bin Hamid, Tippu Tip's son.

Fought in Central Africa between the forces of Belgian King Leopold II's Congo Free State and various Zanzibari Arab slave traders led by Sefu bin Hamid, Tippu Tip's son.

Three men of Dugumbé ben Habib raiding the market of Nyangwe, July 15th, 1871
A photograph of an enslaved child in Zanzibar c. 1890
Arab East African slave routes c. 1890
Francis Dhanis in the Congo. His better-armed forces defeated Rumaliza, c. 1900
The steamer Ville-de-Bruxelles on the Congo River, 1890
Attack on Rumaliza's fort, 1893
German East Africa, 1894. Albertville, Marungu (and Mpala) are to the west of the southern portion of Lake Tanganyika.
"Belgian military heroism wipes out the (Arab) slave trader", (modified) inscription on the Monument to the Belgian Pioneers in Congo in Cinquantenaire park, Brussels.

The war ended in January 1894 with a victory of Leopold's Force Publique.

Lumumba in 1960

Patrice Lumumba

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Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as the Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960.

Congolese politician and independence leader who served as the first prime minister of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as the Republic of the Congo) from June until September 1960.

Lumumba in 1960
Patrice Lumumba in 1960
Photo of Lumumba, c. 1950s
Lumumba, in 1958
Lumumba pictured in Brussels at the Round Table Conference of 1960 with other members of the MNC-L delegation
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The independence ceremony for the Congo, 30 June 1960, at which Lumumba delivered his independence speech
Official portrait of Prime Minister Lumumba, 1960
Lumumba arriving in New York on 24 July 1960
Lumumba (center) before transport to Thysville
Protests in Maribor, Yugoslavia, against the death of Lumumba, 1961.
Statue of Lumumba in Kinshasa, erected in January 2002 after the fall of the Mobutu regime
USSR commemorative stamp, 1961
Lumumba waving to supporters, c. 1960
Map of the Congo in 1961 with South Kasai highlighted in red, bordered to the south by the State of Katanga
President Joseph Kasa-Vubu, c. 1960
Colonel Mobutu, c. 1960

On the morning of 5 July 1960, General Émile Janssens, commander of the Force Publique, in response to increasing excitement among the Congolese ranks, summoned all troops on duty at Camp Léopold II.

Auguste Gilliaert (second from right) with Force Publique personnel in Italian East Africa, 1941

Auguste Gilliaert

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Auguste Gilliaert (second from right) with Force Publique personnel in Italian East Africa, 1941

Auguste-Édouard Gilliaert (7 March 1894 – 10 May 1973) was a Belgian colonial soldier who served in both world wars, and a commander of the Force Publique in the Belgian Congo.

Portrait photograph of Tombeur

Charles Tombeur

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Belgian military officer and colonial civil servant.

Belgian military officer and colonial civil servant.

Portrait photograph of Tombeur

As well as holding several major administrative positions in the Belgian Congo, he is particularly known for his role as commander of the Belgian colonial military, the Force Publique, during the first years of World War I.