Some institutions in Belgium have taken bold steps to rename monuments in the country named after King Leopold II. Leopold II was King of Belgium from 1865 to 1909; he succeeded his father to the Belgian throne in 1865 and reigned for 44 years until his death – the longest reign of any Belgian monarch.
In the last years of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, King Leopold II of Belgium ruled the Congo Free State. It is on record that he ruled what is now present-day Democratic Republic of Congo with a tyranny that is compared to none in the entire dark ages of the continents colonial history.
Renowned writer and columnist, Richard Stockton states that; “at the peak of European imperialism in Africa, when Belgium’s King Leopold II ran a personal empire so vast and cruel, it rivaled – and even exceeded – the crimes of even the worst 20th century dictators.”
The traces of his evil leadership are still evident in the Democratic Republic of Congo today. History recalls that he ‘was peculiarly brutal even by the cruel and deeply racist standards of European colonialism in Africa.’
He ran the country as a personal fiefdom and treated the citizens in a manner not deserving of beasts of the wild. He looted ivory and rubber, and murdered millions of people, forcing the international community to intervene and demand that he bequeath the country to the Belgian state.
King Leopold II was so cruel and heartless that amputation was frequently used as punishment in the Congo Free State under his control. He even ordered the amputation f children for the slightest offenses and if they didn’t work hard enough on the fields.
Despite the legacy of King Leopold II, there remain monuments to his honor till this day. Hundreds of roads and memorials in Belgium are still dedicated to the tyrant, sadly so.
However, in response to the international uproar, museums are beginning to showcase the activities of King Leopold II while he ruled the Congo Free States.
Interestingly, some cities in Congo have started to remove street signs commemorating Leopold II and openly denounce his legacy.
The council of Kortrijk, in West Flanders, has said it is renaming its Leopold II Laan [avenue] on the grounds the monarch was a “mass murderer”.
The mayor of Bruges, Dirk de Fauw, said he was assessing the situation. “If other cities start with it, it could trigger a chain reaction, but there are no plans yet,” he told the Het Nieuwsblad newspaper.
While this is commendable, many critics have maintained that the actions are not enough. They claim that Belgium should issue an open apology, renounce the legacy of King Leopold and begin repatriation of the funds and artifacts looted from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
What are your views on this?
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