In 1876, as a result of an International Geographical Conference held in Brussels,
at the initiative of Léopold II, King of the Belgians, (1835-1909) the Association
Internationale Africaine - AIA charged with the "propagation of civilisation among
the peoples of the Congo region by means of scientific exploration, legal trade and
war against the "Arabic slavetraders" was established.
The actual work was entrusted to the different National Committees which were set
up soon afterwards. The Belgian National Committee started its activities in 1877.
At first these were restricted to the eastern parts of future Congo, but soon the
Committee also started showing interest for the Lower Congo region.
Taking advantage of these activities in the western parts, Leopold II founded in
1878 an "international commercial, scientific and humanitarian committee", known as
the Comité d'Études du Haut Congo - CEHC which, in 1879, started signing treaties
with the local peoples and establishing stations along the Congo river.
In 1882 the CÉHC was reorganized as the Association Internationale du Congo - AIC,
which in 1884 - 1885 was recognized as an independent policy, whose territories and
zones of influence were organized as the Congo Free State in 1885. (1)(1) It was only after the formation of the AIC - formally still an international
humanitarian association - that Leopold II started advancing the idea of a
He was supported in this by many trading-companies as they saw it as the
best way to protect their interests against Portuguese expansion in the
President of the CÉHC and the AIC
1878 - 1885 Maximilien Charles Ferdinand Strauch
(Belg.) (2) 1819 - 1911
(2) King Leopold II of the Belgians (s.a.) who had already been president of the
Executive Committee of the AIA was honorary president.
Strauch himself had been Secretary General of the AIA in succession to Jules
Xavier Charles Joseph Léonard, Baron Greindl (Belg. - 1835 - 1917) who held
the post from 1876 to 1878.
Like all independent countries the Congo Free State had its own ministers, who in
reality often were no more than civil servants, executing the orders of Léopold II.
Although residing in Brussels and being all Belgians, they may not be considered as
agents of the Belgian ministers : there are known cases of a total desagreement
between Congolese and Belgian ministers, for instance regarding the reglementation
of the arms trade, the Belgian government defending the interests of the - mainly
Walloon - weapon industry and the Congolese administration being mainly concerned
with the security of the territory.
1885 : Three Administrators General under the direct supervision of Léopold II, the
Administrator General of Home Affairs being a kind of Chief Administrator.
1891 : the Administrators General were renamed Secretaries of State.
1894 : Edmond, Baron (1897) van Eetvelde (1852 - 1925) became sole Secretary of
State and head of the administration, consisting of Secretaries General.
1900 : Léopold II resumed direct control over the administration, the nomination
of van Eetvelde as Minister of State (Ministre d'Etat) in 1901 being purely
The oldest Secretary General now acted as a kind of Chief Secretary General.
Heads of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Justice 1885 - 1894Administrator General for Foreign Affairs and JusticeAdministrateur-Général des Affaires Etrangères et de la Justice
1885 - 1891 Edmond van Eetvelde s.a.
Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs and JusticeSecrétaires-d'Etat des Affaires Etrangères et de la Justice
1891 - 1894 Édouard Émile Firmin, Comte de Grelle-Rogier 1842 - 1911
1894 Edmond van Eetvelde* s.a.
Heads of the Department of Home and Military Affairs 1885 - 1894
(A division of Military Affairs was added after the creation of the Congolese Army,
the "Force Publique" in 1886)
Administrators General of Home and Military AffairsAdministrateurs-Généraux des Affaires Intérieures et des Affaires Militaires
1885 - 1888 Maximilien Charles Ferdinand Strauch s.a.
1888 - 1890 Camille Aimé Coquilhat 1853 - 1891
1890 - 1891 Edmond van Eetvelde s.a.
Secretaries of State of Home and Military AffairsSecrétaires d'Etat des Affaires Intérieures et des Affaires Militaires
1891 - 1892 Edmond van Eetvelde s.a.
1892 - 1894 Charles Adolphe Marie Liebrechts 1858 - 1938
Heads of the Department of Finances 1885 - 1894Administrators General of FinancesAdministrateurs-Généraux des Finances
1885 - 1890 Hubert Jean Théodore Napoléon van Neuss 1839 - 1904
1890 - 1891 Camille Janssen 1837 - 1926
Secretaries of State of FinancesSecrétaires d'Etat des Finances
1891 - 1892 Camille Janssen s.a.
1892 - 1894 Edmond van Eetvelde s.a.
Secretaries of State 1894 - 1908
1894 - 1900 Edmond, Baron (1897) van Eetvelde s.a.
1900 - 1908 none
Secretary General for Foreign Affairs and JusticeSecrétaire-Général des Affaires Etrangères et de la Justice
1894 - 1908 Adolphe Édouard, Baron de
Cuvelier 1860 - 1931
Secretary General of Home and Military AffairsSecrétaire-Général des Affaires Intérieures et des Affaires Militaires
1894 - 1908 Charles Adolphe Marie
Secretary General of FinanceSecrétaire-Général des Finances
1894 - 1908 Hubert Droogmans 1858 - 1938
Plenipotentiary of the CÉHC and the AIC in Africa
Fondé de Pouvoirs du CÉHC et de l'AIC en Afrique
1879 - 1884 Henry Morton Stanley (John Rowlands) (3) 1841 - 1904
(3) Until 1883 Stanley was in fact only responsible for the western regions, the
stations in the East - which had been established by the Belgian National
Committee of the AIA since 1879 - acting independently till then.
Commandants of the station at Karema (leading station in the East)
1879 - 1880 Ernest François Cambier 1844 - 1909
1880 - 1882 Guillaume Jules Arthur Ramaeckers 1848 - 1882
1882 Jérôme Becker 1850 - 1912
1882 - 1884 Émile Pierre Joseph Storms 1846 - 1918
In 1884 the eastern expeditions of the Belgian Committee ceased and the posts
were taken over by missionaries.
1884 - 1886 Sir Francis Walter de Winton 1836 - 1901
1886 - 1887 Camille Janssen s.a.
1887 - 1890 Camille Janssen s.a.
1890 - 1891 Camille Aimé Coquilhat* s.a.
1891 - 1892 (4)
1892 - 1896 Théophile Théodore Joseph Antoine, Baron
Wahis 1844 - 1921
1896 - 1900 Émile Wangermée* 1855 - 1924
1900 - 1908 Théophile Théodore Joseph Antoine, Baron
(4) Most lists give Henri-Ernest Gondry as (acting) governor general 1891 - 1892.
However the Biography Coloniale Belge/Belgische Koloniale Biographie doesn't
list him as such and - what is more important - mentions he died in 1889 !
Commanders-in-Chief of the Force Publique
Commandants en Chef de la Force Publique
The Congolese Army - or the Force Publique - was founded in 1886.
Although its highest commanders were mostly Belgian officers (the others being of
Scandinavian origin) it formally was totally independent of the Belgian Army.
1886 - 1888 Cmd. Léon Roget 1858 -
1888 - 1889 Cmd. Henri Michel Eugène Avaert 1851 -
1890 - 1891 Cmd. Léon Frédéric van de Putte 1847 -
1891 - 1893 Cmd. Léopold Joseph Fourdin 1856 -
1893 - 1895 Cmd. Georges Charles Eugène Auguste
Dielman 1853 -
1895 - 1898 Cmd. Jules Léopold Van Dorpe 1856 - 1902
1898 - 1900 Cmd. Georges Charles Eugène Auguste
1900 - 1902 Cmd. Ernest Fernand Tonglet 1865 -
1903 Cmd. Gustave Émile Seghers 1863 -
1904 - 1906 LtCol. Erasme Joseph Warnant
1906 - 1907 Col. Joseph Hubert Arthur Gomine 1859 -
1907 Col. Joseph Paternoster
1908 - 1909 Col. Joseph Hubert Arthur Gomine (2x)
Among the different indigenous peoples who opposed a major resistance to Congolese
- and later Belgian - conquest the most important were the so-called Arabs in the
eastern parts of future Congo. (5)
Arab presence in this region went back to ca 1870 when East African traders founded
their first trading posts. In the course of the following years - through a network
of fortified trade-posts and alliances with indigenous leaders - they imposed their
power over large parts of Eastern Congo.
When the Congolese arrived they were powerfull enough to halt them and in 1884 an
agreement dividing the region between the two powers was reached.
Some years later, in 1887, Tippo Tip - the overlord of all Arab communities - was
recognised as "vali" (governor) of the Free State for these eastern regions.
An uneasy peace then lasted until 1892 when, following some local incidents, the
Congolese authorities decided to conquer the region. This was done by 1894, after
the so-called "Arab Campaign"
Congolese Residents at Stanley Falls ("capital" of Tippo - Tip)
1888 - 1889 Louis Albert Marie Joseph Haneuse 1853 - 1938
1889 - 1893 Nicholas Isidore Tobback 1859 - 1905
1887 - 1890 Hamed bin Mohammed "Tippo - Tip", overlord
of the community since 1874 (6)1837 - 1905
1890 - 1893 Rashid bin Mohammed, nephew (?) 1855 - 1...
Important "Vassals" of Rashid bin Mohammed
Subject to the Vali were numberous semi-independent local Arab and
At the eve of the Arab Campaign in 1892 the principal were :
- Bwana N'Zige ("brother" of Tippo-Tip) at Kabambare
- Gongo Lutete (1860 - 1892) at Ngandu
- Kibonga-Longo at Mawambe
- Kibonge at Kirundu
- Mohammed bin Hassan "Rumaliza" (1850 - 1...) at Ujiji
- Mserera at Riba-Riba
- Munia Muhara at Nyangwe
- Sefu ("son" of Tippo-Tip ; 1860 - 1893) at Kasongo
Commander of the Arab military Territory
(The Arab Military Territory was established for the duration of the Arab Campaign)
1892 - 1894 Francis Ernest Joseph Marie, Baron Dhanis 1862 - 1909
(5) Other peoples who opposed a major resistance were among others the Budja,
the Luba-Katanga, the Zande, etc.
The last serious revolt was that of the Pende in 1933.
The name Arab used in Belgian colonial historiography to designate these
eastern communities is not fully correct as, although there certainly were
some "real" Arabs among their members - and even some Indians - most were
of East African Swahili origin.
(6) Although he sometimes recognized the authority of Zanzibar - then using the
flag of the Sultanate - he acted mostly independently.
In 1908, in order to end the international criticism on Léopold's regime, Belgium
toke over the administration of the Free State and organized it as a Belgian Colony.
1908 - 1912 Théophile Théodore Joseph Antoine, Baron
1912 - 1916 Félix Alexandre Fuchs 1858 - 1928
1916 - 1921 Eugène Joseph Marie Henry 1862 - 1930
1921 - 1923 Maurice Eugène Auguste Lippens 1875 - 1956
1923 - 1927 Martin Joseph Marie René Rutten 1876 - 1944
1927 - 1934 Auguste Constant Tilkens 1869 - 1949
1934 - 1946 Pierre Marie Joseph Ryckmans 1891 - 1959
(7) After the take-over the Belgian linguistic laws were also introduced in the
colony and the administration formally became bilingual.
In fact, for political and practical reasons, it remained nearly excluvely
French, certainly in the period 1908 - 1945.