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Belgium Removes Bust Of King Leopold II, Who Was Responsible For Up To 10 Million Congolese Deaths

by : Emma Rosemurgey on : 01 Jul 2020 16:42
Belgium Removes Bust Of King Leopold II, Who Was Responsible For Up To 10 Million Congolese DeathsPA Images

Belgium has removed a bust of King Leopold II, who is believed to be responsible for the death of millions of Africans while the country ruled over what is now Congo.

It comes after current reigning monarch King Philippe expressed regret for the violence carried out during that time, making him the first monarch to show remorse for the events.

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Marking 60 years since the end of Belgium’s colonial rule in Congo, Philippe penned an open letter to the Congolese president, Felix Tshisekedi, in which he wrote of his ‘deepest regrets’ for the ‘acts of violence and cruelty’ and ‘the suffering and humiliation’ forced upon Belgian Congo.

Belgium Removes Statue Of King Leopold II Responsible For Up To 10 Million Congolese DeathsPA Images

Without specifically naming Leopold, King Philippe said, as per the Guardian:

During the time of the Congo Free State [1885-1908], acts of violence and brutality were committed that weigh still on our collective memory. The colonial period that followed also caused suffering and humiliations. I would like to express my deepest regrets for the wounds of the past, the pain of today, which is rekindled by the discrimination all too present in our society.

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Hours later, the bust of King Leopold II, who ruled Belgium between 1865 and 1909, was removed from a park in Ghent.

Belgium Removes Statue Of King Leopold II Responsible For Up To 10 Million Congolese DeathsPA Images

During his time as monarch, King Leopold II forced many Congolese people into slavery, making them extract resources that he would use for his own profit. In his earlier years ruling over the country, he was famed for killing, forcing people into labour and other brutal acts, which are believed to have left 10 million people dead.

A small crowd clapped when the statue was pulled down by a crane during a short ceremony featuring several readings. The statue will now be moved to a warehouse of a Ghent city museum while officials make a decision regarding what to do it.

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Belgium Removes Statue Of King Leopold II Responsible For Up To 10 Million Congolese DeathsPA Images

Mathieu Charles, an activist from the Belgian Network for Black Lives, said as per ABC:

Removing statues does not erase history, it rectifies history and makes new history that rightly calls into question dominant narratives.

Previously, Belgium has tried to focus on the so-called positives of colonialism, however the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has put a spotlight on the awful plight endured by those who were enslaved by Leopold and many other leaders.

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The Leopold statue had already been vandalised several times during the protests, with many calling upon officials to take it down for good.

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Emma Rosemurgey

Emma Rosemurgey is an NCTJ trained Journalist who started her career by producing The Royal Rosemurgey newspaper in 2004, which kept her family up to date with the goings on of her sleepy north east village. She graduated from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston and started her career in regional newspapers before joining Tyla (formerly Pretty 52) in 2017, and progressing onto UNILAD in 2019.

Topics: News, Belgium, Black Lives Matter, Now

Credits

ABC and 1 other
  1. ABC

    Belgium removes statue of King Leopold II in wake of Black Lives Matter movement

  2. Guardian

    Belgian king expresses 'deepest regrets' for brutal colonial rule