Louis Michel, the Belgian former EU development commissioner and current prominent Liberal MEP has shocked his home nation and its one-time central African subjects by calling King Leopold II, the Congo’s colonial master responsible for between 3 million and 10 million deaths, a “visionary hero.”
“Leopold II was a true visionary for his time, a hero,” he told P-Magazine, a local publication, in an interview on Tuesday. “And even if there were horrible events in the Congo, should we now condemn them?”
In the late 19th Century, the Belgian colony of the Congo Free State, effectively the personal property of Leopold II, became infamous for the enslavement and brutal treatment of the Congolese people.
Estimates of the number killed while the region was plundered for its rich resources vary substantially, but researchers believe between 5 million and 20 million died.
“Leopold II does not deserve these accusations,” continued Mr Michel, himself a descendent of the Belgian king and a “Knight, Officer and Commander” in the Order of Leopold, Belgium’s highest honour. Full Article.