Why king Leopold II became objectionable in Belgium

More recently, the white statue of king Leopold II in Antwerp were removed quietly and carefully. Drenched in red paint and then set on fire, it first took on the repair, but the place has not returned. The portrait of the king disappeared from the city hall of Mons, the bust is from the University of Mons. Students and professors require you to do the same and at the Catholic University of Leuven. But there remain streets, museums, palaces, in Brussels about 7 dozen reminders of the colonial era.

a Giant statue of Leopold II is on the coast in Oostende. The king looks down upon his most expensive architectural project. This city according to his idea had to compete with the British Brighton. Here was built the Venetian galleries, the thermal Palace, casino, Golf course, Hippodrome, theater. It was the Golden age of the city. And today the statue you want to remove. The mayor of Ostend decided that it will remain in place, but the explanatory signs about where the king took the construction money.

Buy or conquer a colony, the exploitation of which promised industrial growth, were trying to have the father of the monarch, since the formation of an independent Belgium in 1830. Nearly fifty attempts on different continents without success. The son of Leopold the Second was trying to gain a foothold on Crete, the Philippines, New Guinea, in Fiji. Under the guise of humanitarian projects went to Africa in 1884, the quarrel between the Portuguese and the British, at the conference in Berlin were entitled to the Congo basin. A territory 80 times the size of Belgium, for 18 years became his personal property.

“In the early twentieth century has developed a tire, and Leopold the Second was to plant entire plantations of rubber in the Congo. But as the population did not want to work force, they began to chop off hands, burned the village, who did not want to send men to work. It was the same in British and French colonies. Was a massacre that cannot be attributed to the fact that the era was so. Today happens the same.first, Africa are exploited, not allowed to develop democracy. This is the same mentality, the same racism,” says moiz Esso, the representative of the collective “Colonial memory”.

Orders were given to white officers, served their 16 th recruited from the local army. Ammunition was short, for every shot demanded the report in the form of cut brush killed, they were smoked on the fires and carried in buckets. In case of missing limbs were cut alive for reporting. If rubber brought little beaten, chiseled whips. Equatorial province such control is called “territory of terror”, but Governor – “the devil of the equator”. From the same village there could get 25 tons of rubber per month.

“the more it was collected and the cheaper, the higher the bonus payable to officers. Hence the atrocities and brutality against the local population. The capitalist logic is to obtain maximum income at minimum cost. The officers had a free hand, orders from Brussels to the Congo was 3 weeks, in remote places — for 4 months, hence, complete impunity. They were doing what they wanted, turned themselves into little tyrants, into the ground,” — said the historian Pierre-Luc Plasman.

the King found out about it from the press, the provincial administration was handed over to private concession companies that were hired to work with tribes of the same suspended officers. The terror lasted for two years, the attempt of the king to prevent it turned into a drop in rubber production by 70%. And then Leopold the Second closed his eyes. In 1904 in the Congo was sent by the international Commission on results of work which the Governor-General of the territory Paul Costermans committed suicide. Two years later the colony the king has bought the Belgian government, and the monarch a few years later died.

He ruled the country for a record 44 years, besides the terror remembered for large-scale construction, create a network of free secular schools, the law against detsogo labor, the creation of trade unions, the introduction of universal suffrage and the attempt to make the referendum legitimate practice. When it was the industrial boom, the urbanization of the country.

Until recently, about the king say either good or nothing. But events in the United States launched a debate in Belgian society on the subject of their own history, which has caused many confusion.

“don’t the Americans have to teach us in Europe, what is justice and peaceful protest, because it is the state of violence. They Indians were driven into reservations, camp. I have not seen the demonstrations on the theme of dead in Iraq, Palestine, drowned in the sea the natives of the Western Sahara,” said one of the residents of Brussels.

“In Belgium, no Federal government, hence the government is very fragile, very strong Flemish movement for independence and the Belgian identity in contrast to Russia, which is fragmented and weak. In such circumstances, the government can not ban the demonstration, despite the sanitary situation, they run the risk of being branded a racist,” said Pierre-Luc Plasman.

So has converged that in this year the 60 anniversary of the independence of the Congo is spurred numerous organizations.

One does not miss the moment, the second is ready to do anything to calm the excitement. Of the latest proposals is to create a memorial of decolonization and to take back all unwanted monuments of the king.

Text: “News of the week”