Ghent Leopold II statue being pulled down?.
A bust of former Belgian King Leopold II has been taken off public display in the city of Ghent as Belgium marked the 60th anniversary of the end of its colonial rule in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The removal of the monarch’s likeness on Tuesday took place only hours after Belgium’s King Philippe expressed his “deepest regrets” for the violence the one-time colonial power inflicted on Congo and its people during the late 19th century and early 20th century.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the world – sparked by the death of George Floyd – monuments to the Belgian king have been a focus of anger and calls for removal.
Who was King Leopold II?
Among a history of ruthless European colonialism and racism, few historical figures are more notorious than the Belgian king who ruled from 1865 to 1909.
He had an entirely separate role in this time as Sovereign of the Congo Free State – now the Democratic Republic of Congo – from 1885 to 1908.
In this time, experts believe the Belgian leader was responsible for the deaths of as many as 10 million Congolese people.
Leopold held the African state as his personal property, ruling it as a fiefdom and forcing many of its people into slavery to extract resources for his personal profit.
His reign was eventually deemed so cruel by fellow European leaders, it was condemned and Belgium took over the colony in 1908.
Why are there now calls for the removal of his statue?
Only as recently as 1960 was the Republic of the Congo established – finally gaining independence after a fight for its freedom.
Belgium had continued to hold power over the area – 75 times its size – for more than 40 years up until this point.
Despite his bloody reign in Congo, statues of Leopold remain in pride of place across Belgium – even as evidence of the atrocities committed in his name continue to pile up over the past century.
According to a crowd-sourced map compiled by activists calling for the removal of the monuments, at least 14 statues of King Leopold II remain in place across the country.
In the wake of Black Lives Matter protests across the globe, countries and their leaders have been forced to confront the controversial histories of the figures remembered with statues, street names, and monuments.
King Leopold II is just one of those names.