NOTE I—THE CHICOTTE
Chicotting is alluded to in Congo annals as a minor punishment, freely inflicted upon women and children. It is really a terrible torture, which leaves the victim flayed and fainting. There is a science in the administration of it. Félicien Challaye tells of a Belgian officer who became communicative upon the subject. “One can hardly believe,” said the brute, “how difficult it is to administer the chicotte properly. One should spread out the blows so that each shall give a fresh pang. Then we have a law which forbids us to give more than twenty-five blows in one day, and to stop when the blood flows. One should, therefore, give twenty-four of the blows vigorously, but without risking to stop; then at the twenty-fifth, with a dexterous twist, one should make the blood spurt.” (“Le Congo Français,” Challaye.) The twenty-five lash law, like all other laws, has no relation at all to the proceedings in the Upper Congo.
Monsieur Stanislas Lefranc, Judge on the Congo, and one of the few men whose humanity seems to have survived such an experience, says:
“Every day, at six in the morning and two in the afternoon, at each State post can be seen, to-day, as five or even ten years ago, the savoury sight which I am going to try to depict, and to which new recruits are specially invited.
“The chief of the post points out the victims; they leave the ranks and come forward, for at the least attempt at flight they would be brutally seized by the soldiers, struck in the face by the representative of the Free State and the punishment would be doubled. Trembling and terrified, they stretch themselves face down before the captain and his colleagues; two of their companions, sometimes four, seize them by their hands and feet and take off their waistcloth. Then, armed with a lash of hippopotamus hide, similar to what we call a cow-hide, but more flexible, a black soldier, who is only required to be energetic and pitiless, flogs the victims.
“Every time the executioner draws away the chicotte a reddish streak appears upon the skin of the wretched victims who, although strongly built, gasp in terrible contortions.
“Often the blood trickles, more rarely fainting ensues. Regularly and without cessation the chicotte winds round the flesh of these martyrs of the most relentless and loathsome tyrants who have ever disgraced humanity. At the first blows the unhappy victims utter terrible shrieks which soon die down to low groans. In addition, when the officer who orders the punishment is in a bad humour, he kicks those who cry or struggle. Some (I have witnessed the thing), by a refinement of brutality, require that, at the moment when they get up gasping, the slaves should graciously give the military salute. This formality, not required by the regulations, is really a part of the design of the vile institution which aims at debasing the black in order to be able to use him and abuse him without fear.”—“Le Régime Congolais,” Liége, Lefranc.