The city of Ghent has announced its decision to rename the avenue named for King Leopold II as part of its decolonisation strategy.
The city council set up a working group in 2019 to look into the sensitive question of the remnants in the city of the colonial era. The group came up with 30 recommendations, including the renaming of streets and the removal of commemorative plaques and statues.
The Koning Leopold II-laan runs alongside the Citadelpark in central Ghent, a short walk from the Sint-Pieters station. It has already been the object of demonstrations by anti-colonialists, and a statue of Leopold II in the park itself had to be removed permanently after being attack with paint several times.
“At the suggestion of the mayor, a new street name will be submitted to the college and city council that refers to local history and the nearby heritage site,” the working group said after a meeting on Thursday.
A new name for the avenue has still to be decided. The city has drawn up a list of suitable candidates for commemoration, but has stressed that the avenue will not be named after Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected prime minister of the independent Congo in June 1960, the 60th anniversary of whose murder – with the tacit approval of Belgian state security – was marked just last week.
“It remains the intention to assign this name to a suitable location for a new street or a new square in Ghent during this legislature,” said a spokesperson for Ghent mayor Matthias De Clercq (Open VLD).
Meanwhile the residents of the avenue, a street made up of a large number of apartment buildings in an area that includes the modern art museum SMAK and fine arts museum MSK, will be compensated for the administrative consequences of a change of street-name.