The Congo was occupied by Belgium as its primary overseas empire. In fact, until it achieved independence in the early 1960's, the country was known as the Belgian Congo. Belgian King Leopold II once commented:
The Sea bathes our coast, the world lies before us. Steam and electricity have annihilated distance, and the non-appropriated lands on the surface of the globe can become the field of our operations and of our success.
Leopold sent Henry M. Stanley to explore the Congo; and Stanley signed a number of treaties with native chieftains. He was responsible for founding two cities: Stanleyville and Leopoldville. European attitudes toward the people of Africa is illustrated by a comment by Winston Churchill, then an officer in the British army when, under General H.H. Kitchener, a native force in Egypt was annihilated:
A pantomime scene. These extraordinary foreign figures…march up one by one from the darkness of Barbarism to the footlights of civilization…and their conquerors, taking their possessions, forget even their names. Nor will history record such trash.
It was anticipated that the Congo, as other European possessions in Africa, would be a market for manufactured goods. The Belgian Congo did prove a rich source of copper, rubber, gold and diamonds, however it proved too poor to purchase European goods. Even though it was not profitable, Belgium held to the Congo tenaciously and ruthlessly put down any attempts at independence or self government.
The population of Congo decreased 50% after the colonization of Congo. This was due to forced labor.