Leopold II statues in Brussels could be removed, says minister

Leopold II statues in Brussels could be removed, says minister
Credit: EmDee (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Brussels State Secretary for Urbanism and Culture Pascal Smet is willing to remove the statues of former Belgian King Leopold II from Brussels, if a working group considers it the best course of action.

The worldwide protests against police violence and racism sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, in the United States, have revived the debate about the monuments of Leopold II in Belgium.

"We are going to have that debate with the Congolese people of Brussels, with Belgians and with experts," said Smet on Radio 1 on Tuesday, adding that "a quick decision is necessary."

Smet said he is going to propose to the Brussels government to set up a working group. "If the result is that it should be removed, I will issue the permit to remove the statue," he said.

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However, a memorial for the decolonisation should be built in Brussels, according to Smet. "Because if you remove those statues, every memory of them will disappear," he added.

Under Leopold's colonial regime, millions of Congolese people died. Lack of reliable sources have made it difficult to form an accurate estimation, but modern estimates range from 1 million to 15 million. In recent years, a consensus of around 10 million deaths has been reached among historians.

At least two petitions have been launched to remove the monuments, with one gathering over 30,000 signatures in two days’ time and the other attracting global attention after it was launched by a 14-year-old teen.

Maïthé Chini

The Brussels Times

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