Practically all statues of Leopold II in Flanders have been adorned with plaques explaining the role the late Belgian king played in the colonisation of Congo, newspapers of the Mediahuis group reported on Friday, noting that this was contrary to the situation in Brussels-Capital and Wallonia. The latest commune to take such an initiative is Ekeren in suburban Antwerp. “From a local standpoint this problem is not serious but as the communal administration, we had to take up our responsibilities,” explained Mayor Koen Palinckx, himself a historian.
Contrary to most of the statues of Leopold II scattered around the country, the one that graces the Grand-Place in Ekeren dates back to 1873, long before the monarch obtained sovereignty over Congo.
Effigies of the late king have often been defaced by activists to denounce the honour paid to Leopold despite the reprehensible acts perpetrated under his authority in Congo.
“That’s the work of organisations active nationally, not local initiatives,” said Palinckx. “We met with the Museum of Central Africa in Tervuren and at first we thought of mounting a project involving the schools in the commune, but they declined the offer.
“Since we felt it was our responsibility as the administration to give explanations on Leopold II, we placed an informative plaque there. It explains who Leopold II was because many passers-by don’t know that nor why there is a controversy surrounding him.”