Belgian King ‘Regrets’ Atrocities of Ancestor, the ‘Snake of the Congo”

Belgian King Apologizes for Ancestor, the 'Snake of the Congo

Image: “King Leopold II of Belgium, Snake of the Congo,” Edward Linley Sambourne, Punch, 1906

On Tuesday, the 60th anniversary of the independence of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Belgian King Philippe expressed his regrets to DRC President Félix Tshisekedi for the atrocities commited by King Leopold II, who held the Congo as a personal fiefdom from 1885 to 1908 and killed approximately 10 million of its people, many of whom were maimed and tortured. King Philippe didn’t actually apologize.

The atrocities comitted under King Leopold II were documented by African American missionary William Henry Sheppard, who brought a Kodak camera to the Congo in 1900. The “regrets” of King Philippe were motivated by Belgium’s ongoing Black Lives Matter protests which targeted the country’s many monuments to King Leopold II and his generals.

“Beside Leopold, Nero, Caligula, Attilo, Torquemada, Genghis Khan and such killers of men are mere amateurs.” Mark Twain, New York World, December 3, 1905.


“Belgium’s King Sends Letter of Regret Over Colonial Past in Congo,” Monika Pronczuk and Megan Specia, New York Times

“Belgian king expresses ‘deepest regrets’ for brutal colonial rule,” Jennifer Rankin and Jason Burke, The Guardian


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