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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 15:26 GMT
DR Congo's Leopold statue removed
King Leopold II's statue
The re-appearance of the statue proved controversial
Confusion surrounds the brief return of a statue of Belgian colonial king Leopold II in the Democratic Republic of Congo capital, Kinshasa.

It was taken down just hours after being re-erected on Thursday.

The culture minister said the statue had been put up as "a trial to see if the concrete could support the weight".

But correspondents say other ministers fiercely opposed having a memorial to a man who exploited Congo's resources and contributed to up to 10 million deaths.

Leopold II set up the Congo Free State in 1885 as his private colony and made a personal fortune from the harvest of its wild rubber.

He left arguably the worst legacy of all the European colonial regimes in Africa.

Wrong plinth

Congolese Culture Minister Christophe Muzungu said on Wednesday he had personally made the decision to reinstate the statue, arguing people should see the positive aspects of the king as well as the negative.

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

But just hours after the six-metre (20 foot) statue was erected in the middle of a roundabout near Kinshasa's central station, it was taken down again.

"We are going to put it up again later, in a grand ceremony," Mr Muzungu said on Friday.

But correspondents say that the state was actually re-erected on the plinth where a statue to another Belgian king used to stand.

The bronze King Leopold used to ride his horse on a site now occupied by former Congolese President Laurent Kabila, who was assassinated in 2001.

His son Joseph Kabila is the current president and would be unlikely to agree to its removal.

Mixed feelings

The reappearance of Leopold's statue - still dirty after spending 38 years in an open-air dump - prompted fierce debate on Wednesday.

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."

The statue was first removed in 1967 on the orders of former President Mobutu Sese Seko, who said it was a constant and unwelcome reminder of colonial rule.

But for Mr Muzungu, restoring the statue meant restoring history. "A people without history is a people without a soul," he said on Wednesday.


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