“Notes in the Case of V V, a Native of L L* in the Mantumba District, both of whose Hands Have Been Hacked or Beaten Off, and with Reference to Other Similar Cases of Mutilation in that District”

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0076 76
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Inclosure 4 in No. 3.

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Notes in the Case of V V, a Native of L L* in the Mantumba District, both of whose hands have been hacked or beaten off, and with reference to other similar cases of Mutilation in that District.

I FOUND this man in the . . . . . station at Q* on                        , and learned that he had been kept by the missionaries for some years, since the day when a party of native teachers had found him in his own town, situated in the forest some miles away from Q*.  In answer to my inquiry as to how he came to lose his hands, V V’s statement was as follows:—

State soldiers came from P*, and attacked the R R* towns, which they burned, killing people.  They then attacked a town called A B* and burned it, killing people there also.  From that they went on to L L*.  The L L* people fled into the forest, leaving some few of their number behind with food to offer to the soldiers—among whom was V V.  The soldiers came to L L*, under the command of a European officer, whose native name was T U.  The soldiers took prisoner all the men left in the town, and tied them up.  Their hands were tied very tight with native rope, and they were tied up outside in the open; and as it was raining very hard, and they were in the rain all the time and all the night, their hands swelled, because the thongs contracted.  His (V V’s) hands had swollen terribly in the morning, and the thongs had cut into the bone.  The soldiers, when they came to L L*, had only one native a prisoner with them; he was killed during the night.  At L L* itself eight people, including himself (V V) were taken prisoners; all were men; two were killed during the night.  Six only were taken down in the morning to Y Y*.  The white man ordered four of the prisoners to be released; the fifth was a Chief, named R R R.  This Chief had come back to L L* in the night to try secretly to get some fire to take back into the forest, where the fugitives were hiding.  His wife had become sick during the heavy rain in the forest, and the Chief wanted the fire for her; but the soldiers caught him, and he was taken along with the rest.  This Chief was taken to P*, but he believes that on the way, at Z Z*, he tried to escape, and was killed.  V V’s hands were so swollen that they were quite useless.  The soldiers seeing this, and that the thongs had cut into the bone, beat his hands against a tree with their rifles, and he was released.  He does not know why they beat his hands.  The white man, T U, was not far off, and could see what they were doing.   T U was drinking palm-wine while the soldiers beat his hands with their rifle-butts against the tree.  His hands subsequently fell off (or sloughed away).  When the soldiers left him by the waterside, he got back to L L*, and when his own people returned from the forest they found him there.  Afterwards some boys—one of whom was a relation—came to L L*, and they found him without his hands.”

There was some doubt in the translation of V V’s statement whether his hands had been
0077 77 cut with a knife; but later inquiry established that they fell off through the tightness of the native rope and the beating of them by the soldiers with their rifle-butts.

On the 14th August, I again visited the State camp at Irebu, where, in the course of con versation with the officer in command, I made passing but intentional reference to the fact that I had seen V V, and had heard his story from himself.  I added that from the boy’s statement it would seem that the loss of his hands was directly attributable to an officer who was apparently close at hand and in command of the soldiers at the time.  I added that I had heard of other cases in the neighbourhood.  The Commandant at once informed me that such things were impossible, but that in this specific case of V V he should cause inquiry to be instantly made.

On my return from the Lulongo River I found that this remark in passing conversation had borne instant fruit, although previous appeals on behalf of the boy had proved unsuccessful.   The Commissaire-Général of the Equator District had, learning of it, at once proceeded to Lake Mantumba, and a judicial investigation as to how V V lost his hands had been immediately instituted.  The boy was taken to Bikoro, and I have since been informed that provision has been made for him and a weekly allowance.

When at the village of B C*, I had found there a boy of not more than 12 years of age with the right hand gone.  This child, in answer to my inquiries, said that the hand had been cut off by the Government soldiers some years before.  He could not say how long before, but judging from the height he indicated he could not then have been more than 7 years of age if now 12.  His statement was fully confirmed by S S S and his relatives, who stood around him while I questioned him.  The soldiers had come to B C* from Coquilhatville by land through the forest.  They were led by an officer whose name was given as “U V.”  His father and mother were killed beside him.  He saw them killed, and a bullet hit him and he fell.  He here showed me a deep cicatrized scar at the back of the head, just at the nape of the neck, and said it was there the bullet had struck him.  He fell down, presumably insensible, but came to his senses while his hand was being hacked off at the wrist.  I asked him how it was he could possibly lie silent and give no sign.  He answered that he felt the cutting, but was afraid to move, knowing that he would be killed if he showed any sign of life.

I made some provision for this boy.

The names of six other persons mutilated in a similar way were given to me.  The last of these, an old woman, had died only a few months previously, and her niece stated that her aunt had often told her how she came to lose her hand.  The town had been attacked by Government troops and all had fled, pursued into the forest.  This old woman (whose name was V W) had fled with her son, when he fell shot dead, and she herself fell down beside him—she supposed she fainted.  She then felt her hand being cut off, but had made no sign.  When all was quiet and the soldiers had gone, she found her son’s dead body beside her with one hand cut off and her own also taken away.

Of acts of persistent mutilation by Government soldiers of this nature I had many statements made to me, some of them specifically, others in a general way.  Of the fact of this mutilation and the causes inducing it there can be no shadow of doubt.  It was not a native custom prior to the coming of the white man; it was not the outcome of the primitive instincts of savages in their fights between village and village; it was the deliberate act of the soldiers of a European Administration, and these men themselves never made any concealment that in committing these acts they were but obeying the positive orders of their superiors.  I obtained several specific instances of this practice of mutilation having been carried out in the town of Q* itself, when the Government soldiers had come across from P* to raid it or compel its inhabitants to work.

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Item Details

Author(s) & contributor(s): Roger Casement; V V

Date(s): [1903]; 1904

Form & transmission history: Statement by an unnamed individual from the Congo Free State, as conveyed by at least one unnamed translator from the Congo Free State to a British government officer and as edited for and published among official British government documents.

Original publication details: In “Report on Visit to Interior of Congo State and on Condition of the Natives,” Correspondence and Report from His Majesty’s Consul at Boma Respecting the Administration of the Independent State of the Congo, Africa, 1:76-77. House of Commons. Accounts and Papers. London: Harrison and Sons for His Majesty’s Stationary Office, 1904.

Digital edition & date: One More Voice, 2020

Critical editing & encoding: Caitlin Matheis, Adrian S. Wisnicki

Cite this digital edition (MLA): Casement, Roger; V V. “‘Notes in the Case of V V, a Native of L L* in the Mantumba District, both of whose Hands Have Been Hacked or Beaten Off, and with Reference to Other Similar Cases of Mutilation in that District’” ([1903]; 1904). Caitlin Matheis, Adrian S. Wisnicki, eds. One More Voice, site launch edition, 2020, https://onemorevoice.org/html/transcriptions/liv_020059_TEI.html.

Rights: Critically-edited text copyright One More Voice. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International

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