| Belgian Medals for the Congo|
The Congo Free State was a private kingdom owned by Leopold II of Belgium between 1877 and 1908. It was the scene of extraordinary European brutality, greed and genocide. Leopold built a native army, the Force Publique, led by European officers to protect his interests and enforce his personal rule over the Congo. In 1908, after Leopold's atrocities had finally been exposed in the Western press, the Congo became an actual colony of Belgium, and known as the Belgian Congo.
When the Congo Free State was formed in 1885, its flag was blue with a gold star in the center. Its symbolism was the light of civilization (i.e., the star) shining in the darkness of Africa. No change was made to the flag when the Free State became Belgian territory in 1908. It is interesting to note that the "light of civilization" spawned the novel Hearts of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.
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