A philosopher may point out that the troubles of the Congo began with the old Adam and consequently will never end .
But a historian might put his finger on a specific man and date , and hold out the hope that the troubles will sometime pass away .
The man was King Leopold 2 , of the Belgians , who in 1885 concluded that he had better grab a colony while the grabbing was still good .
By force , he took under his protection , or stole , 900,000 square miles of wilderness in Central Africa .
This is an area nearly as large as Western Europe ; ;
and it was filled then as now by quarreling tribes with no political or historical unity .
Its boundaries had nothing to do with geography or ethnic groupings ; ;
they were determined by the points at which Leopold's explorers and gunmen got tired of walking .
The population of the Congo is 13.5 million , divided into at least seven major `` culture clusters '' and innumerable tribes speaking 400 separate dialects .
The religions of the people include Christianity , Mohammedanism , paganism , ancestor worship and animism .
The climate ranges from the steamily equatorial to the temperate .
The hospitals contain patients trampled by elephants or run over by sports cars .
To make one nation out of these disparities would be a problem large enough in any case ; ;
it has been made far more difficult by what the Belgians have done , or failed to do , in the Congo since 1885 .
At first the Belgian royal family administered the Congo as its own private property .
But by 1908 its record of brutality had touched the national conscience .
The Belgian government itself took over administration , commencing a program of paternalism unmatched in the history of colonialism .
One definition of paternalism is `` The principle or practice , on the part of a government , of managing the affairs of a country in the manner of a father dealing with his children '' .
The honor of the Belgians in this matter is not to be questioned -- only their judgment .
Ordinarily a father permits his children to grow up in due time -- but when the colony received independence in 1960 the Congolese child , if one imagines him to have been born in 1908 , was 52 and had until then been treated as an infant .
The Belgians were interested primarily in the economic development of the Congo , which is rich in copper , tin , cobalt , manganese , zinc , and uranium , and cotton and palm oil .
The colony was administered from Brussels , with neither the Congolese nor the resident Belgians having any vote .
The beneficiaries of this administration were a number of huge cartels in which both individuals and the Belgian government itself held stock .
In Inside Africa , John Gunther describes one of these , the Societe Generale , as `` the kind of colossus that might be envisaged if , let us say , the House of Morgan , Anaconda Copper , the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York , the Pennsylvania Railroad , and various companies producing agricultural products were lumped together , with the United States government as a heavy partner '' .
Had they been truly ruthless , the Belgians might have exploited the Congolese without compassion .
But they were not .
They provided a social security system which covered all their African employes ; ;
their program of mass medical care was doubtless the best on the continent ; ;
they put much effort into public housing .
They also instituted a ration system under which all employers in the Congo were required to furnish their employes with clothing and adequate food .
But instead of delivering the ration -- either in actual commodities or in cash -- at intervals of perhaps two weeks or a month , the Belgians felt obliged to dole it out more often .
Would not the children , if they received all their food on the first day of the month , eat it up immediately , and later go hungry ? ?
The Belgians also placed great emphasis on education .
During the 1950s there were as many as 25,000 schools in the Congo .
But almost all the schools were primary .
The average Congolese can do little more than puzzle out the meaning of `` la chatte '' and `` le chien '' and write his name .
Some schools were technical -- the Belgians needed carpenters and mechanics to help exploit the land , and trained many .
But they did not believe in widespread secondary education , much less in college .
It was their conviction that the people should be `` brought up together '' , a grade at a time , until in some indefinite future some might be ready to tackle history , economics and political science .
Indeed , the Belgians discouraged higher education , fearing the creation of a native intellectual elite which might cause unrest .
When the Congo received its independence in 1960 there were , among its 13.5 million people , exactly 14 university graduates .
Why did the Belgians grant independence to a colony so manifestly unprepared to accept it ? ?
In one large oversimplification , it might be said that the Belgians felt , far too late , the gale of nationalism sweeping Africa .
They lacked time to prepare the Congo , as the British and French had prepared their colonies .
The Congolese were clamoring for their independence , even though most were unsure what it meant ; ;
and in Brussels , street crowds shouted , `` Pas une goutte de sang ! !
'' ( Not one drop of blood ! !
The Belgians would not fight for the privilege of being the detested pedagogue ; ;
rather than teach where teaching was not wanted , they would wash their hands of the mess .
It is hard to blame them for this .
Yet there were other motivations and actions which the Belgians took after independence for which history may not find them guiltless .
As the time for independence approached there were in the Congo no fewer than 120 political parties , or approximately eight for each university graduate .
There were four principal ones .
First , there were those Congolese ( among them Joseph Kasavubu ) who favored splitting the country into small independent states , Balkanizing it .
Second , there were those ( Moise Tshombe ) who favored near-Balkanization , a loose federalism having a central government of limited authority , with much power residing in the states .
Third , there were those ( notably Patrice Lumumba ) who favored a unified Congo with a very strong central government .
And fourth , there were moderates who were in no hurry for independence and wished to wait until the Congo grew up .
However , the positions of all parties and leaders were constantly shifting .
A final factor which contributed greatly to the fragmentation of the Congo , immediately after independence , was the provincial structure that had been established by the Belgians for convenience in administration .
They had divided the Congo into six provinces -- Leopoldville , Kasai , Kivu , Katanga , Equator and Eastern -- unfortunately with little regard for ethnic groupings .
Thus some provinces contained tribes which detested each other , and to them independence meant an opportunity for war .
The Belgian Congo was granted its independence with what seemed a workable Western-style form of government : there were to be a president and a premier , and a bicameral legislature elected by universal suffrage in the provinces .
Well-wishers around the world hoped that the Congo would quickly assume a respectable position in the society of nations .
If internal frictions arose , they could be handled by the 25,000-man Congolese army , the Force Publique , which had been trained and was still officered by white Belgians .
The president , Joseph Kasavubu , seemed an able administrator and the premier , Patrice Lumumba , a reasonable man .
Twenty-four hours after independence the wild tribesmen commenced fighting each other .
Presently the well-armed members of the Force Publique -- many of them drawn from savage and even cannibalistic tribes , erupted in mutiny , rioting , raping and looting .
Terror engulfed the thousands of Belgian civilians who had remained in the country .
The Belgian government decided to act , and on July 10 dispatched paratroops to the Congo .
On July 11 the head of the mineral-rich province of Katanga , Moise Tshombe , announced that his province had seceded from the country .
Confusion became chaos ; ;
each succeeding day brought new acts of violence .
Lumumba and Kasavubu blamed it all on the military intervention by the Belgians , and appealed to the United Nations to send troops to oust them .
On July 14 the Security Council -- with France and Great Britain abstaining -- voted the resolution which drew the U.N. into the Congo .
Vague in wording , it called for withdrawal of Belgian troops and authorized the Secretary-General `` to take the necessary steps to provide the ( Congolese ) Government with such military assistance as may be necessary , until , through the efforts of the Congolese Government with the technical assistance of the United Nations , the national security forces may be able , in the opinion of the Government , to meet fully their tasks .
Secretary-General Hammarskjold decided that it would be preferable if the U.N. troops sent into the Congo were to come from African , or at least nonwhite , nations -- certainly not from the U.S. , Russia , Great Britain or France .
He quickly called on Ghana , Tunisia , Morocco , Guinea and Mali , which dispatched troops within hours .
Ultimately the U.N. army in the Congo reached a top strength of 19,000 , including about 5,000 from India and a few soldiers from Eire and Sweden , who were the only whites .
It took the U.N. three months to bring a modest form of order to the Congo .
The Belgians were reluctant to withdraw their troops and often obstructed U.N. efforts .
The wildly erratic nature of Patrice Lumumba caused constant problems -- he frequently announced that he wanted the U.N. to get out of the Congo along with the Belgians , and appealed to Russia for help .
( However , there is little evidence that the late Lumumba was a Communist .
Before appealing to the U.N. or to Russia , he first appealed to the U.S. for military help , and was rejected .
) Lumumba further complicated the U.N.'s mission by initiating small `` wars '' with the secessionist province of Katanga and with South Kasai which , under Albert Kalonji , wanted to secede as well .
Meanwhile Russia took every opportunity to meddle in the Congo , sending Lumumba equipment for his `` wars '' , dispatching `` technicians '' and even threatening , on occasion , to intervene openly .
But by the end of the three-month period , in October 1960 , something approaching calm settled on the Congo .
President Kasavubu became exasperated with Lumumba and fired him .
Lumumba fired Kasavubu .
Control of the government -- such control as there was and such government as there was -- passed into the hands of Joseph Mobutu , chief of staff of the Congolese army .
Mobutu promptly flung out the Russians , who have not since played any significant part on the local scene , although they have redoubled their obstructionist efforts at U.N. headquarters in New York .
The Belgians -- at least officially -- departed from the Congo as well , withdrawing all of their uniformed troops .
But they left behind them large numbers of officers , variously called `` volunteers '' or `` mercenaries '' , who now staff the army of Moise Tshombe in Katanga , the seceded province which , according to Tshombe , holds 65% of the mineral wealth of the entire country .
From October 1960 to February 1961 , the U.N. forces in the Congo took little action .
There was no directive for it -- the Security Council's resolution had not mentioned political matters , and in any case the United Nations by the terms of its charter may not interfere in the political affairs of any nation , whether to unify it , federalize it or Balkanize it .
During the five-month lull , civil war smoldered and flickered throughout the Congo .
In February the murder of Patrice Lumumba , who had been kidnaped into Katanga and executed on order of Tshombe , again stirred the U.N. to action .
On Feb. 21 the council passed another resolution urging the taking of `` all appropriate measures to prevent the occurrence of civil war in the Congo , including the use of force , if necessary , in the last resort '' .
Although the resolution might have been far more specific , it was considerably tougher than the earlier one .
It also urged that the U.N. eject , and prevent the return of , all Belgian and other foreign military and political advisers ; ;
ordered an investigation of Lumumba's death ; ;
urged the reconvention of the Congolese Parliament and the reorganization of the army .