There will soon be a commemorative plaque in honour of Patrice Lumumba. He symbolises independence in the Congo, nowadays known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It will be affixed in a few weeks in the Square du Bastion, located on the boundary between the centre of Brussels for which Brussels City Council are responsible, and the commune of Ixelles. This was indicated on Monday evening by Philippe Close (PS), Mayor of Brussels City Council and indeed the City of Brussels. Aside of recent cultural initiatives, the city council has moreover scheduled as part of the last fortnight of international solidarity, the theatre production “Colonialoscopie” which deals with Belgium’s relationship with its colonial past.
Philippe Close explained, “The assassination of Mr Lumumba involves Belgium taking moral responsibility, in line with the conclusions of the parliamentary investigative committee, instituted for this purpose in 2002.” He was questioned by Zoubida Jellab (Ecolo) upon the Belgian colonial era and incidents around connected monuments, indeed erected, in the memory of King Léopold II. The Mayor said, “We can neither repair the damage of the past or remedy it. What we can do, however, is build a common future, around shared values.”
This evoked the denunciation by several perpetrators of abuses committed up to 1908 which were the personal responsibility of Léopold II, before he ceded the Congo to the Belgian state. Mr Close also cited the light shed, in 1998, by the American journalist Adam Hochschild, of the “horrors suffered by Congolese populations which endured forced labour in the independent state of the Congo.”
Philippe Close is clear that a cosmopolitan city with some 184 nationalities is the source of cultural wealth, “that we all together wish to derive benefit from.” He further said, “That naturally assumes that there are memories which are sometimes contradictory within our shared narrative.” Citizen movements have been demanding that a square located behind the Saint-Boniface church should bear the name of Patrice Lumumba for a long time now. The square is in the district known as “Matonge”, in Ixelles. The citizens now have the sense that they have been partially listened to.