Brussels Statue of Colonial King Should be Melted and Made into Memorial for Congo Victims, Experts Say

A bronze statue of 19th-century Belgian King Leopold II in the center of Brussels could be melted down and turned into a memorial for victims of colonialism, an expert group recommended.

The group, composed of historians, architects, and other specialists, also suggested creating an open-air statue park to house the equestrian figure in a historical context.

King Leopold II, known as “the butcher of the Congo,” was responsible for the deaths of millions in the former Belgian Congo between 1885 and 1908.

The group wrote a 256-page report of “decolonization” of public spaces in Brussels as commissioned by the Belgian capital’s regional government in the wake of Black Lives Matter movement in the city in 2020.

Belgian colonial past, including theft of natural resources, violent treatment against African populations, and racism, are “established historical facts that are not always recognized and fully acknowledged by Belgium,” the expert group said.

However, the group does not recommend pulling down all statues, but proposes a case-by-case approach for each monument.

According to the group, some monuments could be relocated to museums or statue parks while others could be renamed or given context with information plaques.

“A decolonized public space is not a space in which all colonial traces have been effaced, but free of material elements that promote then and now the asymmetric relation between the former white ‘civilizer’ and the former colonized black person, perpetuating a racist ideology and inequalities,” the group wrote in the report.

A number of King Leopold II monuments in the cities of Ghent and Antwerp have already been taken down while others remain.

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