A member of Belgium’s royal family has defended the role played by King Leopold II in the exploitation of the colony that became the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Prince Laurent – brother of the present King Philippe – acknowledged in an interview with the Sudpresse newspaper that abuses were committed in the Congo colony but not by his ancestor.
He said King Leopold could not have hurt people there because he never went to Congo, though he owned it as his personal estate.
The royal palace has not commented on the current debate about Belgium’s colonial past which saw severe atrocities committed.
These included mass punishments, including the amputation of limbs of children while forcing their parents to work.
Men who failed to tap enough rubber, then a key economic export for the colonial rulers, were killed.
King Leopold unilaterally established the Congo colony in 1885 but it was taken over by the Belgium state in 1908 following diplomatic pressure to rein in the brutality of the monarch’s rule.
Several statues of Leopold II have been defaced during Black Lives Matter protests in Belgium.