Despite the tenants of a flaunted but contextualized story, different versions of repentance infuse the local dismemberments of former settlers, just as much as the awakened spirit diffuses into public opinion. On the Belgian side, the authorities of Ixelles – one of the 19 bilingual municipalities of the Brussels-capital region – unbolted, Friday June 30, the commemorative monument dedicated to General Émile Storms. Located on the border of the African district of Matongé and the European district, the marble copy of the bust of initial in stolen bronze indicates on its base: “He founded M’Pala (1883) and extended civilization to Tanganyika”…
DRC-Belgium: Is Philippe of Belgium “awakened”?
Died in 1918, the sulphurous Émile Pierre Joseph Storms was one of the Belgians commissioned by King Leopold II to colonize the Congo in the 19th century. Renowned for his brutality, “Bwana Boma” (“Mister Fortress”) will commit numerous lootings and atrocities, notably cutting off the head of a Congolese chief, Lusinga Iwa Ngombe, whose skull he will send to Belgium. Since 2018 and a journalistic investigation into the human remains present in the collections of the Royal Museum for Central Africa, in the Flemish city of Tervuren, voices from civil society have been calling for the unbolting of the statue of Ixelles which was, on the 13 June 2000, sprayed with red paint.
Third rank personality
The removal from public space of the monument dedicated to Émile Storms is a strong symbol, because in 1972 it had been classified as a title historical monuments. Determined to unbolt the bust from 2020, the municipality of Ixelles will have to wait for a decision from the Royal Commission for Monuments and Sites and negotiate a reception of the sculpture at the Tervuren museum, in order to calm those most nostalgic for the colonial era who tolerate a displacement of the work better than its destruction.
If the dismantling of the monument was possible, it is because, unlike other historical figures whose certain acts can be valued, the liege man of Leopold II did not bequeath a luminous face to History. The mayor of Ixelles, Christos Doulkeridis, insists: “He is a really second, third rank personality, a lieutenant-general who was only known for his barbaric acts”. There are still, on Belgian soil, hundreds of statues of people who played a role in the colonial past…
DRC: in Kinshasa, King Philippe of Belgium presents his “regrets for the wounds of the past”
While waiting for other battles in the memorial war, the realization of the removal of the bust from Ixelles is timely, King Philippe of Belgium having reiterated, on June 8 in Kinshasa, his “deepest regrets for the injuries” canceled to the former Belgian Congo during the period colonial.