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Black activist movement pledges to remove statue of Leopold II in Brussels

Egountchi Behanzin, the leader of the Black African Defence League (LDNA) , appears in the 15-minute-long video filmed at the base of the statue of Leopold II in Place de Trône, Brussels (© LDNA/Facebook)
14:44 21/10/2020

The Black African Defence League (LDNA) has announced that it will go ahead with the removal of the statue of Leopold II on Place du Trône in Brussels. The announcement was made by Egountchi Behanzin, the leader of the France-based movement, in a 15-minute-long video which was filmed at the base of the statue commemorating Leopold, the architect of the colonisation of Congo.

An event notification was posted on the League’s Facebook page but was soon taken down. However, screenshots of the post, stating that the mobilisation to take down the “statute of the genocidist”, as Behanzin calls it, would take place on 28 November at 15.30, have been circulated by supporters of the movement.

In the video Behanzin, wearing a black beret and an LDNA badge, says he had handed over a manifesto to the Belgian authorities "regarding this statue of this genocidal king.”

“We have to make them understand that it is time to proceed with the removal” of the statue, which has been located on the Place du Trône since 1926. But according to the leader of the LDNA, he has yet to receive a satisfactory answer.

In June of this year, in the midst of the upsurge in protests around the world inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the Belgian parliament decided to set up a commission to address the history of colonialism in Congo. In addition, the government of the Brussels Capital Region announced it would create a working group to address the issue of the decolonisation of public space. The renaming of the Leopold II tunnel, one of the measures considered, would be part of this action.

However, according to the LDNA leader, “the suffering of black people has not sufficiently been taken into account.”

“Compared to what we have gone through with colonization and slavery, the suffering of blacks is not taken into account enough,” Behanzin says in the video. “If, for them, it is a matter of safeguarding history, why are there no statues of criminals and genocidists like Hitler or Pétain? Belgium does not take the issue of its past in Africa and Congo seriously.”

“Belgium had the same practice as ISIS,” he continues. “They beheaded men, women and even new-borns during colonisation. Both Belgium and ISIS are terrorist states.”

Behanzin goes on to lament the lack of black leaders in Belgium’s governing and decision-making bodies and claims that the black population has been forced into living in ghettos across the country.

He goes on to say in the video that colonisation, the “pillage” of Congo, “lung of the African continent” is currently continuing under the cover of “multinationals”. He calls for compensation, “reparations” for the descendants of the victims, and for the “crimes of Leopold II” to be taught in schools.

The LDNA leader says he believes that the Belgian authorities “can still make up for history”, by "closing the book" on these “indescribable crimes.” If they fail to do so, Behanzin says, the Black African Defence League will act.

He concludes: “Not all blacks are our brothers, not all whites are our enemies. We fight an ideology; we don't fight a colour." The message aims to recontextualise the mission of the LDNA, a movement that is the subject of many controversies in France. The French right and far-right, led by the National Front, accuses the LDNA of racism, anti-Semitism and violence.

Created in 2017, the League defines itself as a “Movement for the Defence of the Rights of Afro Descendants and Africans Conducting Social and Humanitarian Actions.” It is followed by 234,000 people on Facebook and 57,000 on Instagram.

Written by Nick Amies