US protests reignite Belgian colonialism debate

As anti-racism protests in the US spread worldwide, following the killing of black American George Floyd, Belgium is facing a racism debate of its own kind, with monuments of former colonial king Leopold II being defaced.

Read also: Belgium to exit lockdown, return to ‘new normal’

Several statues of Léopold II have been vandalized across the country amid a growing campaign to remove all monuments built to honour the former king, Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported.

Leopold II is criticized for his reign of terror in Belgium’s former colony Congo in the 19th century, which exploited the country for his personal gain.

This week, at least two petitions were launched to request the withdrawal of all the statues of the former King of the Belgians from the territory of the City of Brussels. One of them has already been signed more than 40,000 times, while the other attracted global attention after it was launched by a 14-year-old.

Speaking to the Belgian parliament, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès confirmed on Thursday (4 June) that Belgium’s inter-ministerial conference against racism will be relaunched after having been halted during the pandemic.

The process to set up such a conference had been initiated in February as the first step in a process that should lead to a national action plan against racism.

During Tuesday’s parliament debate, the only two political parties that did not speak out were the Flemish-nationalist N-VA and extreme-right Vlaams Belang.

“Choose your side,” Jessika Soors, MP for the Dutch-speaking Green party, told  N-VA representatives. “We cannot hear you in this debate.”

At the same time, many anti-racism protests are expected this weekend. However, due to COVID-19 measures still in place, none of them has yet been authorized by the security services, Flemish newspaper De Standaard reported.

(Alexandra Brzozowski | EURACTIV.com)

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