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‘I did what I had to do’ says Pierre Kompany as Belgium's first black mayor resigns
Pierre Kompany (ProGanshoren) of the Brussels commune Ganshoren, who has the distinction of being Belgium’s first ever black mayor, has resigned.
Kompany, 74, is stepping down halfway through his term of office and will be replaced by Jean-Paul Van Laethem (CDH) in accordance with a pre-election agreement, Bruzz reports.
“Do I have a problem with this? No. I have done what I had to do in those three years,” Kompany said. “As mayor, you can tackle problems together with the people, like a good father. And that was fine.”
Belgium’s first black mayor
The VUB awarded an honorary doctorate to Kompany in November 2019, rewarding a long and atypical career, calling him “an example of integration without having disowned his origins”.
Kompany arrived in Belgium in 1975 after fleeing the Mobutu regime in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He quickly integrated in his adopted country and became Belgium’s first black mayor, though he said he is convinced the country will have “many more black mayors. I won't be the last black mayor in Belgium”.
But Kompany was quick to point out that he “was not elected only by black people. Otherwise, I would never have won in this municipality, I would never have become an alderman. My election was a heartfelt, international election”.
“Black people are not just people who have been colonised and enslaved,” Kompany said. “The history of blackness goes back thousands of years.”
Kompany also takes pride in two medals he received at the Brussels and Geneva Invention fairs for a wind turbine project. He has three children, all of whom are athletes. His footballer son Vincent is the former captain of the Belgian Red Devils and current manager of Belgian club RSC Anderlecht.
‘A mayor who listens’
Among his achievements, Kompany counts starting the development of a tourist zone around the Basilica of Koekelberg, which he hopes will attract more visitors, as well as supporting his commune throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
But above all, he wants to be remembered as a mayor who listened well. “I always listen,” Kompany said. “To everyone, even if they sometimes tell me it's no use. I also want to be remembered as a kind, friendly mayor.”
Kompany will remain active as a Brussels MP and councillor in Ganshoren, “out of respect for the people who voted for me,” he said, adding, “I owe them that”.
Successor Jean-Paul Van Laethem, who is currently second alderman, said it will be a “great honour to be able to serve my municipality and its inhabitants”.
“I have 22 years of experience and I will give my all. More efficiency and a greater quality of life for residents is our goal,” Van Laethem said.
Kompany’s resignation was submitted on Wednesday via a letter to the town clerk, after which Brussels Minister President Rudi Vervoort (PS) will spend two months examining the credentials of successor and party colleague Van Laethem.