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Brussels cancels homage to Leopold II amid protest
The City of Brussels has cancelled plans to hold an homage to King Leopold II on Thursday evening in front of the statue of the former Belgian king. Protest against the event was at the heart of the decision to cancel, due to the dubious role the king played in the colonial history of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
According to Brussels alderman Geoffroy Coomans de Brachène, the event was considered a “bad idea” by a number of organisations, even though the purpose of the meeting was to highlight the "important urban accomplishments" of Leopold II in Brussels, writes brusselnieuws.be.
The city has since cancelled the homage that was to be held tomorrow in front of the equestrian statue at Place du Trône. The accompanying conference at City Hall, however, will go ahead as planned, to commemorate 150 years since Belgium's second king took the throne.
The homage has drawn a lot of criticism from the public, human rights organisations and politicians. Brussels MP Bruno De Lille called the event "morally reprehensible", and likened it to "laughing at the suffering of the genocide victims and their families."
While King Leopold II may well have left a significant mark on the urban landscape in Brussels, including the Justice Palace and Park Cinquantenaire, he is better known as the man responsible for the brutal regime of the Congo Free State at the end of the 19th century, one of the most exploitative colonial regimes in modern history, which cost as many as 10 million lives.
photo: Writer and activist Théophile de Giraud in 2008