Another statue of King Leopold II, a 19th-century Belgian colonizing king, was demolished in Ghent when his descendant, the current King Philip of Belgium, expressed remorse at the role his ancestor played in the “acts of violence and cruelty” he had place in the Congo.
A bust of King Leopold II was removed from a park in Ghent on Tuesday on the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Belgium, a colonial government that is remembered as especially brutal.
The bust was removed a few hours after King Phillipe expressed regret for his ancestor’s actions on Tuesday in a letter to Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi, though he notably failed to issue a full apology, a move that could make Belgium a Vulnerable to reparations claims that the United Nations recommended in 2019.
“I would like to express my deepest regret for those wounds of the past, whose pain is revived today by the discrimination that is still very present in our societies. I will continue to fight against all forms of racism, ”wrote King Phillppe, a move that has been called unprecedented in Belgian history.
Leopold II, despite never having set foot in the country, was a private owner of the Congo for two decades and was criticized during his life for the cruel policies implemented there that, according to historians, caused the death of more than 10 million Congolese.
He became wealthy thanks to the rubber plantations established in the Congo, while the Congolese people were forced into slavery to work, and if they did not comply with the rubber quotas, they were punished with harsh methods, which included cutting limbs or including death.
Earlier this month, a figure of Leopold II in Antwerp was shot down after being severely damaged by anti-racist protesters who set her on fire and poured red paint on her; Since then, the king’s statues have also been removed from university campuses in Mons and Leuven and an online petition to remove the king’s statue in Ostend has garnered more than 80,000 signatures.
European countries face a retelling of their colonialist stories in the wake of global protests against racism after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last month. A statue of Edward Colston, a 17th century Royal African Company officer who became wealthy through the slave trade, was shot down in Bristol, UK, and thrown onto the same waterway where he once docked slave ships during protests against racism earlier this month. . Two weeks ago, Oriel College, part of the University of Oxford, voted to tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes. Rhodes was a British imperialist whose policies say the historians who set the stage for apartheid in South Africa and a great benefactor of the university. The Leopold II bust of Ghent has been sent to the warehouse of a museum in Ghent, while a city commission for decolonization projects determines the fate of the statue, according to the Associated Press. Statues honoring Confederate figures in the US have also been demolished in response to a new push to rethink the country’s history of racism and how it is portrayed today. Authorities have said that the downed statues are likely to be displayed in a museum with educational materials that provide an appropriate context with the effects that colonization and slavery had on Africans and their descendants.
This is what statues look like around the world after a week of reckoning (Photos) (Forbes)