Mr. Tree to
Brussels , February 5, 1886. (Received February 23.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have transmitted to you by this day’s mail, under separate cover, as printed matter, the first three numbers of the Bulletin Officiel of the Independent State of the Congo.
The first number of the first year is devoted entirely to the general act of the Conference of Berlin.
The first number of the second year publishes the royal decree, organizing a judicial system for the State. It institutes local tribunals “de première instance” in localities to be determined by the sovereign, and a court of appeal at Boma.
Each tribunal is composed of one judge, a clerk, and a sheriff’s officer. The sessions are public, and the judgments of the court are rendered publicly.
Offenses committed by natives to the prejudice of non-natives are punished conformably to the provisions of the code established by the royal decree; offenses committed by natives between themselves are adjudged according to the local customs of the country.
Those condemned to death suffer by hanging.
Those condemned to penal servitude are employed at the interior stations and on the public works. Fines are provided for in certain cases, ranging from not less than 1 franc to not more than 5,000 francs. Fines may be paid in silver, or its equivalent in kind.
Homicide committed with premeditation is punishable with death.
Robbery attended with violence is punished very severely—from five to twenty years’ penal servitude.
The second number of the first year published a decree organizing the Government of the Congo into three departments, to wit:
- The department of foreign affairs, which embraces, besides matters ordinarily incident to that department, also justice, commerce, and postal and telegraphic affairs.
- The department of finances, which embraces imposts, the regulation of lands, with reference to sales and acquiring of private title, recording of deeds, &c., the general accounts of the State, the public debt, and financial matters generally.
- The department of the interior, which embraces public instruction, police, roads, health, transport service by land and water, public works, industries, and agriculture.
The last-named bulletin also publishes an ordinance of the State requiring all non-natives who are in the actual occupancy of lands situated on territory of the State, to make an official declaration indicating these lands, and submitting to the examination and approval of the Government the contracts and titles by virtue of which they occupy them.
From and after the publication of this ordinance no contract or agreement with natives for the occupation of, or title to, land will be recognized by the Government or protected by it, unless done through the, intervention of a public officer charged by the State with this duty, and in accordance with the methods prescribed by the State.
It is declared that no right exists to occupy vacant lands, nor shall natives be dispossessed of lands which they occupy. Vacant lands are considered as belonging to the State. The same number also publishes [Page 16] a decree organizing the postal service. From the 1st of January last; post-offices are established at Boma, Banana, and Vivi.
Another decree in the same number organizes an “Êtat Civil,” for the legal authentication of the births and deaths which take place among the population of European origin in the Congo.
I simply call your attention to the leading features of these decrees. There is much detail in each of them which I will not undertake to give.
I have, &c.,