The Long, Bloody Road: Henry Morton Stanley, King Leopold II and their Link to the Origin of AIDS in Africa
There have been a number of “Origin of AIDS” stories in the press. The most recent one appeared in Newsday, July 6, entitled “The Orphans of AIDS”. The reporter wrote, “It was in Kansensero and then in neighboring villages of the Rakai District of Uganda that the modern global AIDS pandemic took off, sometime around 1973. While the virus has probably been infecting human beings since the 1930s, scientists say it took four decades for the epidemic to explode.” The rest of the article reviews the current devastation and political turmoil in Central Africa. However, if we want to find the origins of AIDS, we need to take a trip into history, consult maps and read peer review literature on HIV transmission.
In Africa, as we look upon places like Lakes Albert, George, Edwards and Victoria and Stanley Pool and Livingstone Falls, we find that the banks of these waters have been drenched in blood. Seeing those names is comparable finding Adolph Hitler’s name on a village square in Poland. Only by invoking Hitler’s name, can you prepare for the level of human destruction that those British names on African soil represent. This becomes abundantly clear, while reading Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost “A story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa”.
In a novel-like fashion, this riveting text tells the story of how the African continent was invaded by bands of European terrorists, led by Henry Morton (Dr. Livingstone, I presume”) Stanley, a journalist and explorer. In this passage, Hochschild shows how Stanley and his men went about their work: “To those unfortunate enough to live in its path, the expedition felt like an invading army, for it sometimes held women and children hostage until local chiefs supplied food.” One of Stanley’s officers wrote in his diary, ‘We finished our last plantain today …the natives do not trade, or offer to, in the least. As a last resource we must catch some more of their women.’ When it seemed that they might be attacked, another recalled, “Stanley gave the order to burn all the villages round’. Another described the slaughter as casually as if it were a hunt:
“It was most interesting, lying in the bush watching the natives quietly at their day’s work. Some women were making banana flour by pounding up dried bananas. Men we could see building huts and engaged in other work, boys and girls running about, singing. . . I opened the game by shooting one chap through the chest. He fell like a stone… Immediately a volley was poured into the village.”
One member of the expedition packed the severed head of an African in a box of salt and sent it to London to be stuffed and mounted by his Piccadilly taxidermist.” This description, horrible as it sounds, was the regular course of conduct of the expeditions that crossed Africa through the years 1871-1887 and only the beginning of what was to come.
As Stanley blazed a path of terror across Central Africa, emptying villages and forcing people into the wild, he lead the way for Belgian’s King Leopold II and the rest of the Western world, to come and extract the ivory and then the rubber from the continent. As he prepared for one expedition, “Stanley was particularly delighted by the Maxim gun, which he tried out at its maker’s home, satisfying himself that it really could shoot the advertised six hundred rounds per minute. The new gun, Stanley said, would be “of valuable service in helping civilization to overcome barbarism.”
Hochschild shows us that as part of the process of supplying the world with the then “magic commodity”– rubber– the Europeans used Africans as recalcitrant beasts of burden and in their doing so, cut the population in half by killing, starvation, disease and a “plummeting birth rate”. When we spoke in the opening about banks awash in blood, that was not hyperbole, it was descriptive. Here is another passage from “King Leopold’s Ghost”: “The territory was awash in corpses, sometimes literally. Where a river flows into lake Tumba, wrote the Swedish missionary E. V. Sjoblom, “I saw dead bodies floating on the lake with the right hand cut off, and the officer told me when I came back why they had been killed. It was for the rubber when I crossed the stream I saw some dead bodies hanging down from the branches in the water. As I turned away my face at the horrible sight one of the native corporals who was following us down said, “Oh, that is nothing, a few days ago I returned from a fight, and I brought the white man 160 hands and they were thrown in the river'”.
In 1890, the Dunlop Company began making tires, and by the mid 1890s rubber was becoming a “must have” ingredient. Automobiles had arrived and rubber was needed for tires and fittings. Hochschild says, “Suddenly factories could not get enough of the magical commodity, and its price rose throughout the 1890s. Nowhere did the boom have a more drastic impact on people’s lives than in the equatorial rain forest, where wild rubber vines snaked high into the trees, that covered nearly half of King Leopold’s Congo.” It was around that time that the life-styles depicted on the ivory tusks of the period (See Figures 1-3 page 4), would be changed forever.
African-American Missionary and Explorer William Shephard was there. In a story appearing in 1908, he wrote about what happened in the Kasai region as the peaceful Kuba people were driven to rise in revolt against the rubber terror. “These great stalwart men and women, who have from time immemorial been free, cultivating large farms of Indian corn, peas, tobacco, potatoes, trapping elephants for their ivory tusks and leopard for their skins, who have always had their own king and a government not to be despised, officers of the law established in every town of the kingdom, these magnificent people, perhaps about 400,000 in number, have entered a new chapter in the history of their tribe. Only a few years ago, travelers through this country found them living in large homes, having from one to four rooms in each house, loving and living happily with their wives and children, one of the most prosperous and intelligent of all the African tribes
But within these last three years how changed they are! Their farms are growing up in weeds and jungle, their king is practically a slave, their houses now are mostly only half-built single rooms and are much neglected. The streets of their towns are not clean and well swept as they once were. Even their children cry for bread.
Why this change? You have it in a few words. There are armed sentries of chartered trading companies who force the men and women to spend most of their days and nights in the forests making rubber, and the price they receive is so meager that they cannot live upon it. In the majority of villages these people have not time to listen to the Gospel story, or give and answer concerning their soul’s salvation.” (From William Shephard’s writings in the American Presbyterians annual newsletter, the Kassai Herald, January, 1908)
These repeated invasions and forced labor, destroyed all normal systems of the Africans, including the food system and normally developing trade relationships. On the internet, we can see this in the art collection of the National Museum of African Art (http://www.si.edu/nmafa/exhibits/currexhb.htm). Here we find, By the 19th century, after several centuries of contact and trade with Europe, workshops specializing in carving export objects for the foreign trade were established along the Loango coast. These workshops produced objects in wood, soapstone, and ivory for sale to both Europeans and Africans. Export objects in ivory included cane handles and stamps for sealing wax. The most famous objects in ivory, however, were carved figurative tusks that ranged from 20 centimeters to one meter (eight inches to three feet) in length. Using iron tools, artists carved African and European figures engaged in activities of daily coastal life in relief on the tusks. The artists carved and arranged the figures to heighten the naturalism and expressive power for which Kongo art is famous, paying great attention to detail dress, hairstyles, gestures, and comportment. The scenes were carved and probably meant to be read starting at the base and ending at the top. This lively tradition of genre art in ivory lasted from about 1850 to 1900.” The Loango coast stretches along the west African Coast, centering at the mouth of the Congo River. (For a description of this area after 1900, see Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness”.)
The tusk carvings give indications of the African diet and relationship with animals. Regarding the scene of a man about to sacrifice an animal, the museum tells us, Animals are prominent in Kongo art, myths, and rituals. The scene of a man preparing to sacrifice a bovine (see below) may allude to an important event, such as a funeral or rite of passage. Animals are also an important part of Kongo daily life. Kongo peoples raise fowl, goats, pigs, and, in the southern part of the kingdom which is relatively free of the tse-tse fly, cattle. The elite ate pigs, chickens, goats, and sometimes beef; while the non-elite Kongolese often used animals to pay tributes to rulers and subsisted on vegetables, eggs, and herbs.” While there were slave caravans moving through the villages, these depictions are of stable societies. But that was before the arrival of Stanley, Leopold and white supremacy as big business.
As the Museum notes, the art tradition embodied in the carved ivory stopped around 1900, which would be during the ever-quickening rubber trade. The method used to harvest the sap from the rubber vines was forced labor, which continued through the First and Second World Wars. In 1916, by colonial officials’ count, one area in the eastern Congo, with a population of 83,518 adult men, supplied more than three million man-days of portage during the year; 1,359 of the porters were worked to death or died of disease. Famines rage. A Catholic missionary reported, “The father of the family is at the front, the mother is grinding flour for the soldiers, and the children are carrying the foodstuffs!'” There was no more time for carving ivory or raising fowl. This was a life-style of intense individual and social trauma. Trauma to the point where people were starved and desperate enough to eat what they would not normally consider food, fellow primates for example.
There are many African stories about monkeys, stories that involve them as mischievous spirits and companions. Searching the literature has turned up many, African food dishes, encompassing a wide variety of foods, but we have found no recipes suggesting monkey meat. (There is one South African dish with monkey glands” but it specifies that no monkeys are used.) Because recipes for monkeys are not easily found, it may indicate they were a eaten only out of desperation. This is something that African-Americans should easily recognize. Africans did not eat pig’s foot and chitlin’s until they were brought to America and had to eat whatever was left after the slaughter. Nowadays, there are many people who still enjoy a pig’s foot, long after the necessity has passed. Similarly, Africans were not regular eaters of monkey meat, until the slave labor system used to extract the rubber and ivory from the Congo and surrounding areas drove them from their homes, their fields and their gardens, into wild areas, a starving people.
The European invasions and system of forced labor had disrupted the social fabric of the Africans. Run from their villages, the Africans had to eat whatever could be caught and whatever the Europeans did not want. They did this under continual and extraordinary trauma, stress and fatigue which lowering their immune systems and increased the likelihood of viral infection at a time and in places when they were most likely to encounter new viruses. It is with that as a background that we turn to scientific, “peer review” literature.
In Nature magazine we find the following article, “An African HIV-1 Sequence from 1959 and Implications for the Origin of the Epidemic.” They report, Dr. Tuofu Zhu of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and colleagues report the amplification and characterization of viral sequences of an HIV-1-seropositive plasma sample taken from an adult Bantu male in 1959 living in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The researchers studied 1,213 plasma samples obtained from Africa between 1959 and 1982; the 1959 sample tested positive for HIV-1… The plasma sample is the oldest confirmed case of HIV-1…The sample taken from the Bantu man has a viral sequence that lies near the ancestral node of subtypes B and D in the major group, suggesting that these HIV-1 subtypes may stem from a single introduction into Africa soon before 1959. The team notes, however, that “given the large genetic differences between HIV-1 and HIV-2, the divergence of these viruses could not have occurred in the late 1940s; that branching point must have come considerably earlier.’ The findings highlight the need for continued surveillance, they assert, noting the diversification of HIV over the past 40 to 50 years.”*
In an article entitled “Peer review and the origin of AIDSC a case study in rejected ideas” appearing in BioScience, 1993, Brian Martin looks at the arguments for contaminated polio vaccines being the cause of the AIDS epidemic. Today’s standard theory of the origin of AIDS is that a simian immunodefinciency virus (SIV) carried by an African monkey was transmitted to and survived in a human to become human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This transmission could have happened in any of a number of ways: blood from a butchered monkey entering a human’s blood through a cut, monkey blood being injected into humans as part of sexual customs, a human eating undercooked African monkey meat, or a monkey biting a human (Gromek 1990, Hardy 1987, Karpas 1990). However, there are a large number of other theories, such as the manufacture of HIV by biological warfare laboratories (Lederer 1987, 1988).
In 1987, an independent scholar named Louis Pascal, based in New York City, developed the idea that AIDS originated from contaminated polio vaccines used in Africa in the late 1950s. After reflection and study of the medical literature, he developed some strong arguments and unearthed considerable evidence for this hypothesis. Here, in outline, is the argument:
There are two main types of HIV, called HIV-1 and HIV-2. Current variants of HIV-1 (linked with AIDS in most parts of the world) appear to have diverged from a common ancestor from central Africa a little before 1960, whereas current variants of HIV-2 appear to have diverged from a common ancestor from western Africa. The closest known relatives to HIV are SIVs found in monkeys and chimpanzees. An SIV very similar to HIV-2 is known, but no SIV has been conclusively shown to be highly similar to HIV-1; however, further SIVs continue to be discovered.
Pascal noted that polio vaccines are cultured on monkey kidneys and therefore that SIV from an infected monkey could have contaminated a batch of vaccine. An infected monkey could easily have been used, since monkeys with SIVs may show no sign of disease. Polio vaccines could not be screened for SIV contamination before 1985, the year SIVs were discovered.
Pascal identified a live polio vaccine developed by Hilary Koprowski, of the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, as the one most likely to have led to AIDS, and even named the batch most likely to be responsible. This vaccine was given to 325,000 people in central and west Africa in the years 1957-1960. Pascal (1991) says that it is no coincidence that the rate of HIV infection is extremely high in central Africa and in Kinshasa, Zaire.
AA point in immunology aids the argument. Pascal (1991) points out that in order for a virus to infect a different species, it is helpful to reduce the resistance of the new host’s immune system. Koprowski’s polio vaccine was given to many children less than one month old, before their immune systems were fully developed. Furthermore, these infants were given 15 times the adult dosage because they produce antibodies less easily.”
Contaminated Vaccines, Only Part of the Story
Pascal’s theory of contaminated polio vaccines may be true, but it does not account for the 1959 death of an adult Bantu man from HIV infection, or the time needed for viral mutation from HIV-1 to HIV-2 before 1940. It also does not explain the presence of Karposi’s Sarcoma, an AIDS marker, beginning in 1914. These are accounted for by the eating of contaminated monkey meat during the forced labor system in East, West and Central Africa, from the 1890s to the 1940s. This system, with its social disruption, would also have lowered the immune systems of the people.
How Did AIDS Spread?
Writing in The British Medical Journal in 1998, Juhani Leikola, in an article entitled Achieving self sufficiency in blood across Europe, says, “When the development of blood component therapy was in its infancy, countries were by and large self sufficient for whole blood. Large scale export and import of plasma started in the 1960s and early 1970s, when both albumin and coagulation factor VIII became commercially available.
The industry needed more and more plasma, and the development of plastic bags made plasmapheresis feasible. Large plasma donation centres were established, primarily in the United States but also in countries such as Nicaragua and Haiti. Exploitation of donors gained wide publicity, and the trade in red gold” became an important international media event.” Other blood collection sites were in Kinshasa, West African and Lesotha, South Africa.
At the conservative FreeRepublic.com, not a peer review site, we find this well-researched analysis of the spread of AIDS. We know of four primary routes of HIV transmission: sexual contact, transmission in utero from mother to offspring, intravenous administration of the virus with contaminated needles, and the use of infected blood products. Only the last two factors are relatively new. Could contaminated needles and the harvesting and administration of blood products be the critical new factors accounting for the AIDS pandemic?
AAll of the critical factors can be present in the process of plasmapheresis. This procedure involves the extraction of whole blood from human donors, the separating out of the plasma, and the re-injection of the remaining cells back into the donor. If not done properly and with sterile equipment, plasmapheresis represents a powerful vector of HIV transmission. Moreover, since factor concentrates involve the pooling of plasma from thousands of donors, an entire pool can be contaminated by the inclusion of a single unit from a donor infected with HIV. So plasma collection would have represented a great risk if present in the very same place and time as the first appearance of HIV.
The scenario is not merely hypothetical. Western equatorial Africa, where chimpanzees infected with the ancestral simian virus were being slaughtered and consumed, where AIDS was first endemic in the 1970s, was precisely the place where, at that same time, blood donor centers were harvesting the source product for a lucrative and quickly growing worldwide trade in blood plasma!
Was it just coincidental that the plasma brokers of Montreal and Zurich traded blood plasma at that time from the areas of central Africa near Kinshasa, Zaire? [Formerly Leopoldville, eds.] That this was the region of west central Africa we later found to have had the earliest and heaviest concentration of AIDS? That this was the very same place where we now know lived the chimpanzees that carried the virus ancestral to HIV? We know this: blood products from this particular region of Africa were being shipped to the United States at the same time that the first cases of AIDS were developing in Americans with hemophilia.”
By 1987 a few scientists like Matilde Krim publicly theorized that a biological accident could have initiated the AIDS epidemic in gay men. Krim postulates that gamma globulin in the early 1970s was made from pooled” human blood brought in from Africa and the Caribbean.
Dr. Peter Jones, director of the Haemophilia Center at the Royal Victoria Infirmary at Newcastle, in northeastern England, wrote a letter published by the British Medical Journal in 1985.
He said, “it may be pertinent” that blood products coming into the United States in the 1970s, when there was a shortage of home supplies, originated in “exactly the areas now known to be endemic for Kaposi’s sarcoma and other AIDS-related diseases.’
He identified the areas as Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire; Ghana, the Ivory Coast, and Senegal. A similar blood-donor center operated in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he said. The supply was organized by “international plasma brokers’ based mainly in Zurich, Switzerland, and Montreal. “These facts suggest that the disease was introduced into the United States, not by sexual transmission, but via plasma obtained in the endemic areas,’ Jones said.”
At latest report, the western governments through the International Monetary Fund, are offering African nations a loan of a billion dollars at 7% interest to pay for buying drugs from western pharmaceutical companies. After all they have taken and the genocide they have caused, an interest-bearing loan is the only bone they can throw. This is the behavior of despicable men. These people have no shame. They have no shame at all.
*An African HIV-1 Sequence from 1959 and Implications for the Origin of the Epidemic.
Zhu, Tuofu; Korber, Bette T.; Nahinias, Andre J.; et al. Nature (02/05/98) Vol. 391, No. 6667, P. 594 (The CDC National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention makes this information available as a public service only. Providing this information does not constitute endorsement by the CDC. Reproduction of this text is encouraged; however, copies may not be sold, and the CDC National AIDS Clearinghouse should be cited as the source. Copyright 1996, Information, Inc. Bethesda, MD)