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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 February, 2005, 10:18 GMT
DR Congo re-erects Belgian statue
King Leopold II's statue
King Leopold turned Congo into a private labour camp
A statue of former Belgian colonial king Leopold II has been re-erected in the centre of the Democratic Republic of Congo capital, Kinshasa.

The statue of Leopold riding his horse is still dirty after spending 40 years in an open-air dump.

The Congolese culture minister said DR Congo's history should be revived.

Leopold II set up the Congo Free State in 1885 as his personal possession and left arguably the worst legacy of all the European colonial regimes.

Holocaust

Former BBC Kinshasa correspondent Mark Dummett says King Leopold II turned the country into a massive labour camp, made a fortune for himself from the harvest of its wild rubber, and contributed in a large way to the death of perhaps 10 million innocent people.

A people without history is a people without a soul
Culture Minister Christophe Muzungu

In front of the statue outside the central station, one man told the BBC:

"He left us in poverty. He exploited our raw materials and left us with nothing."

Another said: "It's important for us to remember our past, like the Jewish people remember the Holocaust."

Former President Mobutu Sese Seko had the statue removed in 1967, saying it was a constant and unwelcome reminder of colonial rule.

Culture Minister Christophe Muzungu said people should not just see the negative side of the king - they should also look at the positive aspects.

"We are restoring the history of our country because a people without history is a people without a soul," he said.



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