Congo Reform Association

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Congo Reform Association
Typenon-governmental organization
FocusHuman Rights

The Congo Reform Association was a movement formed with the declared intention to aid the exploited and impoverished workforce of the Congo by drawing attention to their plight. The association was founded in March, 1904, by Dr. Henry Grattan Guinness (1861–1915),[1] Edmund Dene Morel, and Roger Casement.


The Congo Reform Association exposed gross and rampant abuses of labour and by public servants in King Leopold II of Belgium's Congo Free State, leading to the annexation of Congo by Belgium in 1908.

In the background, a Swedish missionary, Mr. Edvard Vilhelm Sjöblom [sv], and Rev. J. Murphy of the American Baptist Mission had reported on the abuses to Dr. Guinness in 1895, and they sent out the "Congo-Balolo Mission" to assist and gather information and photographs. Of 35 missionaries, by 1900 only six had survived the endemic disease. In 1890 Mrs. H. Grattan Guinness, Dr. Guinness's stepmother had written "The new world of Central Africa. With a history of the first Christian mission on the Congo."[2]

Casement, as British consul, was ordered in 1903 to prepare the Casement Report, and was honoured with an Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) decoration for it. Morel (a journalist) reported weekly in the West Africa Mail, and Guinness (a missionary doctor) gave lectures around Britain before mentioning the realities to President Theodore Roosevelt of the USA in 1907. Branches of the association were established in Europe and the United States.

In 1908 the Congo Free State passed out of the absolute rule of Leopold II of Belgium and was taken over by Belgium as the "Belgian Congo". The Congo Reform Association considered that its aim was accomplished and it dissolved itself in 1912. In 1924, Morel was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in large part for his work with the association.

The association gained the support of several famous writers such as Joseph Conrad, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, Herbert Ward and Mark Twain who contributed with their literary production to the cause. The novella Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was inspired by his journey as a ship's captain on the Congo River. Mark Twain wrote a political satire named King Leopold's Soliloquy, and Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Crime of the Congo.

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Further reading[edit]

  • Bourne, H. R. Fox. Civilisation in Congoland: A Story of International Wrong-Doing. London: P. S. King & Son, 1903. OCLC 470078771.
  • Guinness, Henry Grattan. The Congo Crisis, 1908. London: R.B.M.U. Publ. Dept., 1908. OCLC 251431509.
  • Guinness, Michele. The Guinness Spirit: Brewers and Bankers, Ministers and Missionaries. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1999. pp. 310–315, 395–398. ISBN 0-340-72165-0.


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