Thursday, October 20, 2011

Officers in the Congo Free State

This summer the website "Nobility" posted an article on Captain Leopold Louis Joubert, a real hero of Belgium. He was one of the volunteers of the Papal Zouaves who fought to defend the estates of Pope Pius IX from the Italian nationalist movement. With other veterans of the zouaves in 1880 he went to the Congo Free State of King Leopold II doing missionary work but he and his comrades had to revert to their military role to defend the poor natives from the cruelty of the Arab slave traders. This is not much talked about today but was a big part of the Belgian involvement in central Africa as King Leopold II pursued the war against the Arab slave trade. He built mission-forts to defend the area, showing great courage, and was later supported with men and arms by the Congo Free State government of King Leopold II. Certainly not a racist, Captain Joubert married the daughter of a local African chief by whom he had ten children. He was knighted by the Pope for his actions defending the Church and was also knighted by King Leopold II for his actions defending the Africans of the Congo.

Also, on a different tone, there is the case of Finn Kjelstrup, a Norwegian officer in the service of King Leopold II in the Congo Free State. I do not read Norwegian but can tell this webzone, from the University of Oslo, takes the more typical negative view of the Congo Free State as they relate the long career of this officer there. However, the photos and letters of the officer are interesting and how he tells what changes were made in attitude and why. This also I have commented on, that in the early days of the Congo Free State, and even much later in the era of the Belgian Congo, the officers of the Force Publique included more Scandinavians than Belgians, as they had many military officers in need of employment. Norway, for example, as related in the site, had to downsize the military after parting from the royal union with the Kingdom of Sweden and so many veteran military men needed work and were employed by King Leopold II in the Congo after a short training period to make them familiar with the unique circumstances of service in central Africa.


  1. I kinda created that coat of arms together with someone who goed by the nickname 'MS05L'. You're supposed to attribute files to their creator, even if they're used on Wikipedia. :-)

  2. I have no knowledge of legalities, so I have changed the image. I hope you will be satisfied with that.