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Word Count: 816
Thirty years after its birth as an independent state Zaire still bears the imprint of its colonial past Behind the omnipresent mechanism of control forged by President Mobutu Sese Seko lurked the shadow of King Leopold II of Belgium whose absolute and arbitrary sovereignty found symbolic expression in cultural aspects of the people of Zaire From 1840 to 1872 the Scottish missionary David Livingstone engaged in a series of explorations that brought the Congo to the attention of the Western world During these travels Livingstone was out of touch with Europe for two years Henry Morton Stanley a journalist was commissioned to conduct a search for him The two met at Ujiji on the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika in 1871 Three years later Stanley was commissioned to continue the explorations begun by Livingstone With three British companions Stanley began the descent of the Congo completing his journey in 1877 Upon his return to Europe he tried to interest the British government in further exploration and development of the Congo but he met with no success However his expeditions attracted another European monarch Stanleys adventures brought the Congo to the attention of Belgiums King Leopold II The European occupation of Africa was well under way but the Congo River basin remained unknown to Europeans With no great powers contesting its control the area appeared to pose an ideal opportunity for Belgian expansion Recruiting Stanley to help him Leopold founded the International Association of the Congo Under the means of this association Stanley arrived at the mouth of the Congo in 1879 and began the journey upriver He founded the first capital Vivi across the river from present-day Matadi and then moved upriver reaching a widening he named Stanley Pool There he founded a trading station and the settlement of Leopoldville on the south bank The north bank of the river had been claimed by France which ultimately led to the creation of the colony
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