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Brussels forms committee to discuss decolonisation

18:05 13/07/2020

Brussels state secretary Pascal Smet (one.brussels) has called for applications for a special committee on Brussels’ colonial references, including monuments and names of streets and other infrastructure. The committee is being put together to decide how to deal with such references and create an action plan.

At the centre of the controversy are statues dedicated to Leopold II, who first colonised the Congo. The cruel atrocities that followed led to the deaths of millions of Congolese people. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protest movement, many believe such monuments should be removed from public space.

“It is high time that we come to grips with our colonial past,” said Smet, responsible for heritage and urban planning in the Capital-Region. “Brussels is a cosmopolitan city without a dominant culture. Many residents have a shared past, but above all a shared future.”

Applications being accepted

The committee will consist of between 10 and 20 people who have a background in the African diaspora, local heritage, colonisation and decolonisation or related academic and scientific studies. Applications are now being accepted for members of the committee.

“Apart from suggestions from this committee on how to proceed, I am exploring the possibility of a decolonisation monument in our capital,” said Smet.

Don’t expect that big statue of Leopold on Place Troon to come down right away, though. A preliminary report from the new committee will be due by the end of this year, and a final report sometime next year. The final plan should include actions that can be taken both in the short and long term.

Photo: Brussels’ most obvious ode to colonisation is the statue on Place Troon, now consistently vandalised
©Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw