Berlin Conference

For three long months, 14 countries from Western Europe and the United States attended the Berlin Conference. This important conference is also known as Congo Conference or Berlin West Africa Conference. The countries that attended include Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden-Norway, Turkey, and US.
Interesting enough, not a single country of Africa attended even though the conference was entirely about the division of land on the African continent. The major players at this conference were the great and mighty countries of France, Germany, Great Britain, and Portugal. This conference that started on November 15, 1884 and ended on February 26, 1885 was called for by Portugal and organized by Otto von Bismarck, chancellor of Germany and minister of Prussia.
The original goal of this lengthy conference was to agree that the Congo River and Niger River mouths and basins are neutral and are open to free trade. Before the conference, 80% of Africa remained to be traditionally and locally ruled. The Europeans only controlled the coastal areas. This all changed because King Leopold II wanted glory for Portugal and organized a secret mission to form Congo Free State. King Leopold and other countries wanted to take advantage of its gold, timber, land, timber, and labor power.

When France discovered King Leopold II’s scheme, she got mad which eventually resulted in this conference. The final result of this conference culminated in the General Act of BerlinConference. This document prohibited international slave trade, made Congo Free State a private property of Congo Society (although Leopold still uses it as his private property), permit free trade in Congo Basin and Lake Niassa, and allow free ship traffic on the Niger and Congo river.
A new map of the African continent was created. It divided the vast continent into 50 geometric countries with no regards for cultural and linguistic boundaries of the native Africans. The only countries remaining free are Ethiopia and Liberia (US’s country to return slaves to their “homeland”. All in all, the Berlin Conference caused Africans to lose their autonomy and ushered in heightened colonial activity.


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