Statues of the second King of the Belgians, Leopold II, belong in a museum and not in any public space. That any still exist and that streets are named for the King is a disgrace. So writes the Belgium jurist from a Congolese background Sandrine Efoko in Knack magazine.
“The King was responsible for a barbaric rule in Congo for over twenty years. This policy of terror by Leopold II only had one purpose: to build a racist and profitable system and keep it going with forced labour. During the bloody colonial period millions of Congolese people died”, Sandrine Efoko wrote.
Sarah Limanya, a Congolese Belgian, recently also said, “It’s a murderer! It’s like placing Adolf Hitler on a pedestal!”
King Leopold II was King of the Belgians from 1865 until his death in 1909. He was the founder and sole owner of the Congo Free State, a private project. Henry Morton Stanley helped him to lay claim to Congo, and the Berlin Conference authorised his claim to improve the lives of the native inhabitants. However, Leopold ignored the conditions set out by the Berlin Conference and millions of Congolese inhabitants, including children, were mutilated and killed. The death toll is estimated to be between one million and 15 million. This is such a broad guess as there were no records kept of the inhabitants before Leopold acquired the land. He used a mercenary force for his personal enrichment and used the profits for private and public construction projects in Belgium. He made a fortune in Congo from ivory and rubber. He was eventually forced by the Belgian government to relinquish control of the colony in 1908. This cost Belgium 215,5 million Francs and this money was used to discharge the debt of the Congo free state and for the payment of its bond holders. Around 45,5 million Frans was paid for Leopold’s building projects in Belgium, and he was personally paid 50 million Francs.
The state then became a Belgian colony known as the Belgian Congo. Entire archives were burned to conceal any potential evidence of Leopold’s wrongdoing. Congo gained its independence in the mid-20th century and was renamed three times. First, it was called the Republic of Congo, then it was named Zaire, and it is now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.