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The colonization of and intervention in the Congo region by Europeans has been an unnecessary evil in the lives of the Congolese people Beginning with the Portuguese in the late 1400s and continuing with King Leopold II and the Belgians in the 18th and 19th centuries the greed-stricken nations of Europe have brought such earth-shattering destruction to the region and its people that the tremors are still being felt today The arrival of the Portuguese in 1483 signaled the beginning of a new era in the Congo At first relations between the existing African kingdoms and the Portuguese were friendly The Portuguese for example acknowledged the leader of the kingdom of Kongo as a brother king to their own ruler1 But because the Portuguese had begun overseas colonization and wanted slave labor to work their new world plantations they became greedy and betrayed the friendship of their African hosts Their greed begat the slave trade which was later joined by other European nations and which continued long after Portugal lost its grip on the African continent The slave trade devastated the people of the Congo region for more than 300 years2 Because the European slavers couldnt run the trade alone they employed the help of Congolese natives pitting African against fellow African and forcing tribal leaders to assist in the enslaving of their own people When the slave trade began about 2000 Africans were enslaved every year By the time it reached its peak in the 1780s the number of African men and women that were sold into slavery yearly had reached almost 80000 So many Africans were enslaved in fact that for a century and a half from 1650 to 1800 AD the population of the continent did not increase3 Because much of the slave trade was based in the Congo region its population was particularly devastated Once the era of slavery was over the nightmare of colonization
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