Swedes (200) and Italians (197) came next in numbers. The British numbered 145.
Towns.—There are no large towns in the European sense, but a number of government stations have been established. At none of these stations is the total population over 5000. Boma (q.v.) is the headquarters of the local administration and the residence of a British consul. It is situated on the right bank of the lower Congo, about 60 m. from its mouth, is one of the principal ports of call for steamers, and the centre of a considerable trade. Banana, close to the mouth of the Congo and Banana Point, possesses one of the best natural harbours on the west coast of Africa, and is capable of sheltering vessels of the largest tonnage. There are a number of European factories, some of them dating from the 16th century, and the place is the centre of a considerable commerce. Matadi is situated on the left bank of the Congo, at the highest point of the lower river which can be reached by sea-going vessels. It is the point of departure of the Congo railway. The railway company has constructed jetties at which steamers can discharge their cargo. Lukungu, situated on the banks of the river of that name, a southern tributary of the Congo, about half-way between Matadi and Stanley Pool, was formerly the capital of the Falls district, and the chief recruiting station for porters on the lower Congo. Tumba, the present capital of the district, is a station on the Congo railway, the half-way house between Matadi and Stanley Pool. It is about 117 m. from Matadi and 143 from Dolo, the terminus of the railway on Stanley Pool. Dolo is situated a short distance from the pool, and has two channels by which vessels can enter and leave the port. Quays and a slip for launching vessels have been constructed. Leopoldville is the capital of the Stanley Pool district. It is situated about 7 m. from Dolo on the flanks of Mount Leopold. Other places of importance are Luluaburg, on the Lulua river; Lusambo, the capital of the Lualaba-Kasai district, on the Sankuru river; Coquilhatville, the capital of the equatorial district, at the mouth of the Ruki; Stanleyville, the principal station of Stanley Falls district; New Antwerp, a thriving little town, the capital of the Bangala district, situated on the right bank of the Congo close to 19° E.; Banzyville, the capital of the Ubangi district, on the river of that name; and Basoko, at the junction of the Aruwimi and the Congo. Jabir is the capital of the Welle district, and in the Lado Enclave (q.v.) on the upper Nile the principal places are Rejaf, Lado and Dufile. Nyangwe, on the Lualaba, a little south of 4° S., was a large native town which, about the middle of the 19th century, came under the dominion of the Zanzibar Arabs. It was visited by David Livingstone in 1871, and from it in 1876 H. M. Stanley began his descent of the Congo. In 1892 the town was taken from the Arabs by the Congo State troops and destroyed. It has since regained considerable importance as a trading centre.
Communications.—There is a regular mail service between Antwerp and the ports of the lower Congo, which are also served by steamers from Liverpool, Hamburg, Rotterdam and Lisbon. The Congo and its affluents afford over 6000 m. of navigable waters (see Congo). A public transport service on the rivers is maintained by the state. From its mouth to Matadi (85 m.) the Congo is navigable by ocean-going vessels. From Matadi a railway, completed in 1898 at a cost of £2,720,000, and 260 m. long, goes past the cataract region and ends at Stanley Pool, whence the Congo is navigable to Stanley Falls, a distance of 980 m. From Stanley Falls a railway runs towards the Nile. An agreement with Great Britain, concluded in May 1906, provided for the continuation of this line from the Congo State frontier through the Lado Enclave to the navigable channel of the Nile near the station of Lado, a steamboat and railway service across Africa from the Congo mouth to the Red Sea being thus arranged. Another railway (79 m. long), completed in 1906, follows the left bank of the Congo from Stanley Falls, past the rapids to Ponthierville, whence there is a navigable waterway of 300 m. to Nyangwe. From Nyangwe a railway goes towards Lake Tanganyika. Above Nyangwe, on the main stream, another railway is built around the next series of cataracts, thus opening to through communication the upper Lualaba. The total length of steam communication by this route, from Katanga to the mouth of the Congo, is about 2150 m.—1548 by water and 596 by rail. The Katanga region is also served by lines forming a continuation of the Northern Rhodesia railway system. Besides these main lines a railway (about 90 m. long), having its river terminus at Boma, serves the Mayumbe district. The principal stations are connected by telegraph lines, and, by way of Libreville in French Congo, cable communication with Europe was established in 1905. The colony is included in the Postal Union.
Agriculture.—Until the advent of Europeans the natives, except in the immediate neighbourhood of some of the Arab settlements, did little more than cultivate small patches of land close to their villages. They grew bananas, manioc, the sweet potato, the sugarcane, maize, sorghum, rice, millet, eleusine and other fruits and vegetables, as well as tobacco, but the constant state of fear in which they lived, either of their neighbours or of the Arabs, offered small inducement to industry. Nor can it be said that under their white masters the natives have become great agriculturists, though plantations have been established both by the state and private companies, and coffee, cocoa, tobacco, rice and maize are grown for export. Of domestic animals, sheep and goats are common. Oxen have been introduced from Europe. Horses, asses and mules are comparatively rare.
Minerals.—Gold mines are worked at Kilo in the upper basin of the Ituri river, and some 30 m. W. of the Mboga district, Albert Nyanza, where gold has also been found (in British territory). The Ruwe gold mine is in the Katanga district in the south of the colony. It lies west of the Lualaba on the Mitumba range, in about 11° S., 25° 45′ E. Iron is widely distributed, and worked in a primitive fashion. It has been found in the Manyanga country, the Manyema country on the upper Congo, in the Urua country, in the basins of the Kasai and the Lualaba, and in Katanga. Ironstone hills, estimated to contain millions of tons of ironstone of superior quality, have been reported in the south-eastern region. The wealth of Katanga in copper is great, the richest deposits being in the southern districts, adjacent to the Northern Rhodesia border. In this region, watered by the Lualaba, Lufira and other head-streams of the Congo, immense copper ore deposits are found in hills and spurs of rising ground extending over 150 m. east to west. Tin is found on the western edge of the Katanga copper belt and extends north along the banks of the Lualaba. Copper is also reported in other districts, such as Mpala and Uvira on Lake Tanganyika. Lead ore, tin (Ubangi basin), sulphur and mercury have been discovered.
Industries and Trade.—The principal industry is the collection of caoutchouc (see Rubber) from the rubber vines, which exist in seemingly inexhaustible quantities. The value of the rubber exported, which in 1886 was only £6000, had risen in 1900 to £1,158,000. In 1907 the value was £1,758,000. When the state was founded elephant and hippopotamus ivory formed for some years the most important article of export. When Europeans first entered the Congo basin the natives were found to have large stores of “dead ivory” in their possession. Palm oil, palm nuts, white copal, coffee, cocoa, rice, earth-nuts and timber are next in importance among the exports. The trade of the state was of slow growth until after the completion, in 1898, of the railway between the lower and middle Congo, which greatly reduced the cost of the transport of goods. In 1887 the value of goods exported of native origin was £79,000. In 1898 it had risen to £886,000. In the following year (with the railway open) the native produce exported was valued at £1,442,000. In 1905 the total was £2,120,000. More than 75 % of the native produce, known as “special exports,” go to Belgium. The neighbouring Portuguese possessions are the next best customers of the colony. Holland and Great Britain take most of the remainder of the trade. The principal imports are textiles and clothing, foods and drinks, machinery and metals, steamers and arms and ammunition. Two-thirds of the imports are from Belgium; the remainder came from Germany, Great Britain (chiefly cottons), France and Holland. It should be noted that the importation of alcohol, for the use of the natives, is prohibited. Exports greatly exceed the imports in value. Out of a total trade to the value of £3,000,000 in 1905 only £800,000 represented imports. This is due in large measure to the system of forced labour instituted by the state.
Shipping.—As with the trade the largest share of the shipping is Belgian, but it is under 50 % of the whole tonnage. The ports of entry are Banana, Boma and Matadi. In 1904 there entered and cleared these ports 205 sea-going vessels of 421,072 tons. Of the tonnage entered 193,202 was Belgian, 85,934 British, 74,536 French, and 67,400 German. In addition about 500 smaller vessels engaged in the coasting trade enter and clear from Boma and Banana every year.
Constitution.—The Free State, under King Leopold of Belgium, was organized as an absolute monarchy. Civil and criminal codes were promulgated by decrees, and in both cases the laws of Belgium were adopted as the basis of legislation, and “modified to suit the special requirements” of the state; e.g. forced labour (prestations) was legalized (law of the 18th of November 1903). This forced labour was to be remunerated and was regarded as in the nature of a tax. Besides the prestations, a system of corvées, for public works, was enforced. The sovereign was assisted in the task of government by a secretary of state and other high officials, with headquarters at Brussels. The state was represented in Africa by a governor-general, placed at the head both of the civil and military authorities. Under Belgian rule a colonial minister replaced the former secretary of state. The minister has the advice of a colonial council, while the power of legislating for the colony is vested in parliament.
For administrative purposes the colony is divided into thirteen districts and one province, each being governed by a commissary. The districts are Banana, Boma, Matadi, Falls, Stanley Pool, Kwango Oriental, Ubangi, Lualaba-Kasai, Lake Leopold II., Equator, Aruwimi, Bangala and Welle. The region between
- Forced labour had, however, been authorized in 1891 and exacted in practice since the foundation of the state.